Attention, Cooperation, Purpose: An Approach to Working in Groups Using Insights from Wilfred Bion

Author(s) : Robert French, Author(s) : Peter Simpson

Attention, Cooperation, Purpose: An Approach to Working in Groups Using Insights from Wilfred Bion

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : November 2014
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 176
  • Category :
    Group Psychotherapy
  • Catalogue No : 35224
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782201311
  • ISBN 10 : 1782201319

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This book describes an approach based on attention that can help individuals and groups to cooperate more effectively. It presents the first book-length reassessment of Wilfred Bion’s ideas on groups. Every group has a purpose or purposes - or, as Bion put it, “every group, however casual, meets to ‘do’ something.” The approach described here shows how individual group members’ use of attention – both broad or “evenly suspended” and focused – can promote a better understanding of purpose, making it possible for them to do what they have met to do. This work of attention enables group members to maintain a clear sense of their purpose and also to recognise how easily they can become distracted, losing focus and dispersing their energies into activities that are off task.

The approach builds on the authors’ experience of using Bion’s insights into group dynamics over twenty-five years in different contexts, formal and informal, as group members, managers, leaders, teachers, consultants, researchers, family members, and friends. The book aims to introduce Wilfred Bion’s ideas to those who may never have encountered them, but it also develops those ideas in a way that offers fresh insights for those already familiar with his work. Throughout the book the authors use stories from their own experience to make the ideas accessible to anyone who is seeking to enhance their contributions to group life, to find the truth behind their experience, or simply to make things less confusing.

Reviews and Endorsements

'In this short work, French and Simpson explore group dynamics, and the components that are most important for practical group work. The book goes through each of the major elements of group behaviour, partly represented in the wording of the title. Each chapter has a healthy sprinkling of case studies, offering the reader a varied writing style, which is both engaging and clarifying. Overall, this book is inviting and accessible for anyone interested in identifying times when teamwork can effectively advance business aims.’
— Howard Weller, in The St Catharine’s College Society Magazine

'This is a wonderful introduction to Bion’s work on group dynamics. The book’s prose has the merit of transparency and directness, and its purpose is eminently practical: to help individuals in a wide range of settings become more effective in groups, and to help work groups become more effective.’
—Larry Hirschhorn, author of The Workplace Within, Reworking Authority, and Managing in the New Team Environment

‘This is a book of rich insights and new perspectives. Robert French and Peter Simpson excel as educators. They make complex ideas understandable, taking Bion’s often-challenging ideas and applying them to everyday group situations. Through a process of storytelling, they make theory come alive and engage readers in a thought-provoking narrative. This book will help many to work more effectively in groups.’
—Professor Susan Long, organisational consultant, educator, and author

‘At once erudite, scholarly, and accessible, this volume contains many illustrative anecdotes that add vitality and relevance to the theoretical investigations. A must-read for anyone interested in deepening their understanding of group dynamics.’
—Professor Peter Case, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England

‘In over three decades of work with groups, I am repeatedly struck by how deceptively simple and profoundly complex they actually are. This book is a terrific guide to the rich complexity of working with groups and the joy of open-mindedness.’
—Professor Michael A. Diamond, Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri

‘This excellent book seeks to ask and answer the question, “How can we improve the natural human motivation to work in groups – and make the result a better and more fulfilling proposition for everyone concerned?” This is a profound text. A well-written and essential part of educating our next generation of thoughtful leaders.’
—Dr Stephen Fear, businessman, philanthropist, and Entrepreneur in Residence & Ambassador for the British Library, London

About the Author(s)

Robert French is a writer and organisational consultant and Visiting Research Fellow at Bristol Business School, University of the West of England.

More titles by Robert French

Peter Simpson is Associate Professor in Organisation Studies at Bristol Business School. He co-edited Worldly Leadership: Alternative Wisdoms for a Complex World with Sharon Turnbull, Peter Case, Gareth Edwards and Doris Schedlitzki. He has also published widely in international journals on leadership, change management, organisational complexity, group dynamics, and workplace spirituality.

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