The Advances In The History of Psychology blog pointed me toward a new online exhibit by the Harvard Business School (HBS) about the “Hawthorne Experiments.” Run between 1924 and 1933, the Hawthorne experiments were one of the first industrial/organizational psychology experiments which recognized the complex interactions among workers that influenced their productivity. In an essay introducing the exhibit, HBS professors Michel Anteby and Rakesh Khurana explain the importance of the experiments:
Through examining the everyday realities of organizational life, Fritz Roethlisberger and his colleagues found that the “person” and the “organization” could not be compartmentalized. Beneath the formalities of the organization chart was not chaos but a robust, informal organization, constituted by the activities, sentiments, interactions, norms, and personal and professional connections of individuals and groups that had developed over extended periods of time.
The existence of the informal organization, argued the Hawthorne researchers, meant that shaping human behavior was much more complicated than the then-dominant paradigm of scientific management had led managers to believe. The social system, which defined a worker’s relation to her work and to her companions, was not the product of rational engineering but of actual, deep-rooted human associations and sentiments.
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