Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) is known as the father of social psychology. His thinking gave rise to so many processes we take for granted today such as action research, change process theory and sensitivity training. He coined the term ‘group dynamics’, did ground-breaking work in analysing organisational culture and gave us the psychological equation B = ƒ(P, E), meaning that human behaviour is a function of the person in their environment. That seems obvious now, but it took Lewin to make it clear.
Perhaps the most useful thing Lewin came up with for mentoring is his ‘Force Field Analysis’, a tool that I use all the time in mentoring sessions in an informal, unstructured way and occasionally as a formal exercise. The FFA provides a framework for identifying the factors that influence a situation:
- factors that drive movement toward a goal – ‘helping forces’
- factors that block movement toward a goal – ‘hindering forces’