A development day with the Think Tank ‘Dynamics of Groups and Societies’

Helsinki, Finland, 3.5.2019. Organized by the web magazine National Dynamics.

Dr Mannie Sher of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations consulted the event, intended to focus on developing new understandings of corruption seen as: ‘something that goes against the nature of human beings, attacking truth, honesty, relationships and acknowledgement of dependence and valuation of those who support one.’ (Sher, 2013)

Finland, it was said, is mainly free from the foremost officially known forms of corruption (including those recognised in the Transparency International “Corruption Perceptions Index”, https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018), but still some sectors of the Finnish society work against the good of the country by turning the blind eye to corruption, stated MD/psychiatrist Anja Salmi, Chair, of the Think Tank and chief editor of National Dynamics

Finland has an ageing population, contributing amongst other dynamics, it was said, to restraint as a national characteristic. The group felt that Finland does not have appropriate national spaces to discuss important national issues, and as a consequence, it is believed, Finland has created an artificial surface superficiality beneath which lie deeper truths of which little is spoken. For example, the senior military member of the Think Tank wondered why Finns rely heavily on security products despite Finland being one of the safest countries in the world. There is little violence in the country, so what could the Finns be afraid of? Finns appear to live in a bubble and the Think Tank wondered if the fear relates to a collective sense of the bubble bursting.  What group unconscious dynamics may be operating to create a nameless dread at national level?

The programme included the use of the/a social dreaming matrix. One of the dreams presented was about a polonaise: Farewell to the Fatherland, a song composed by a political prisoner using his own blood. The Think Tank referred to the national mood of helplessness in tension with a powerful neighbour and Finland’s identification with the West (Europe). At times the feeling was about being trapped and being forced to abandon ideas of the ‘Fatherland’ and confront new political and social realities and mourning that which has been lost.

What shapes national identity?

Finland’s identity, it was suggested, was a ‘cut and paste’ one, copying the national norms and behaviours of other societies, suggesting that a factor in Finnish identity is based less on what its history and culture have determined ‘what we are’, and more on how our comparisons with other societies inform us of ‘what we are not’. The ‘bubble’ is also associated with Finnish identity and is influenced by the repeated movement of its borders and the loss of territory. Now, it seems, the desire is to remain static; to keep things as they are and enjoy life without upheavals. It is believed that this type of lack-lustre existence is responsible for driving many of the young generation to emigrate and not return.

What roles should public institutions play?

Generally, the role of certain public institutions is to expose corruption, dishonesty and secrets. But what happens when the institutions whose role is to challenge the status quo, like the media, the Church, Universities, fail in their task?  These institutions ought to be challenging society to think about the important issues of society, but they seem to be more concerned about promoting and protecting themselves. The Think Tank reflected on whether this was its own corruption – not using its prestige and status to exercise its authority in speaking up about Finnish society for fear of being criticised and attacked.

The Think Tank, it was felt, did not want to be seen as upsetting the comfortable atmosphere of the nation; to engage in the struggle between ‘niceness’ and ‘nastiness’. The Think Tank’s own corruption was about anxiety of putting individual status and power at risk that comes from speaking out.

The admired leader’s corruptive statement is: The rules don’t apply to us. The statement: “This is the way we do things here” suggests that corruption is setting in. Society, through is organizations and its citizens, need to ask continually what do we need to do better in order to keep up with changes taking place in the environment/world. By insisting that we do not have to change, the people are being deceived and that is the core of national corruption.

The Think Tank’s Alertness to National Dynamics – resisting corruption

The Think Tank worked on its ‘Primary Task’, asking the question:Are we doing what we are set out to do? The potential for corruption at a national level and in the Think Tank is a constant factor and we need to keep asking ourselves: why are we doing what we are doing?’ instead, it should be turning blame into learning; to bring corruption to the surface, making it visible so that it can be studied.

This article has also been published in ‘News’ on Tavistock Institute of Human Relations’ homepage:

Consulting to Countries

Link to:

Sher, M. (2013). The Dynamics of Change: Tavistock approaches to improving social systems. Pg. 169-182. London: Karnac  Chapter 10 Corruption.
Neumann, J. E. (1989). Why don’t People Participate in the Organizational Change. Research In Organizational Change and Development, Vol.3, pages 181-212.

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