Hawthorne Experiments Online Exhibition

1 December 2007 at 1:16 pm 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

As part of its 100th anniversary HBS is featuring a number of online exhibitions, including this one on the famous Hawthorne Experiments from 1924 to 1933. A nice set of photos, documents, and commentary.

Here is Jeffrey Sonnenfeld’s 1985 article on the Hawthorne studies (JSTOR), emphasizing their role in challenging the Taylorite “scientific management” paradigm and laying the groundwork for the modern discipline of organizational behavior. “The prevailing notions of the time of the Hawthorne studies were that individual human behavior was to be corrected for and controlled. The study of purely formal static social structures all but disappeared with the publication of the Hawthorne research. . . . [T]he Hawthorne researchers were the first to emphasize the social complexities of organization life and what came to be called a systems approach (p. 115).”

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the Hawthorne effect, the phenomenon of subjects in a behavioral experiment changing their behavior in response to being observed (or, more generally, anyone behaving differently in response to attention). The section of the exhibit on the Hawthorne effect is slicker but less detailed.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Management Theory.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. spostrel  |  4 December 2007 at 5:56 pm

    As Paul Adler has shown, this move by the OB field was a huge blunder. For repetitive assemly operations, lean manufacturing, a kind of enhanced Taylorism, actually works much better (in terms of productivity) than the “humanistic” systems pushed by the theory Y types. Wasted motion, time, and resources are not redeemed by high morale, whether induced by Hawthorne effects or not.

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