LAWST Origins

Much of the inspiration for LAWST came from the Lake Ontario Visual Establishment, a meeting place for cognitive and perceptual psychologists that was relatively informal and went very deep into current research.

At that time (1970’s – 1980’s), several universities in Ontario, New York, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania were doing state-of-the-art work on perceptual measurement and the application of measurement theory to qualitative, subjective phenomena, on heuristics as drivers of subjective experience, on illusions and the roles of bias (aka heuristics) in illusions, and on neurophysiological underpinnings of many of the interesting perceptual experiences. There was a lot of controversy. LOVE helped that community maintain collegiality in the presence of fundamental disagreements. I was a graduate student in that world and came to California with a sense of the value of looking in detail at experiences and data as a way of grounding discussions and of getting past ideology in disagreements.

Sam Kaner was a co-founder of Psylomar, an organization development consulting firm in California that served the high tech industries and (mainly for free) several of the nonprofits in the San Francisco area that faced really difficult, contentious issues.

Cem Kaner did part-time work with this largish group of psychological consultants, serving as their pet computer geek. (When you do organizational consulting to computer companies in Sili Valley, it is good to have someone around who knows something about what the companies make and how they make it). I coached them on computing; they coached me on organizational analysis and meeting management.

So, LOVE taught Cem the value of meetings like LAWST (by the way, mainly in Europe, IFIP was having (still has) much larger meetings with the same kind of deep, collegial discussion that respects disagreement during this time). Psylomar (later reorganized into Community At Work) taught Cem some of the meeting management technology to pull it off.

As LAWST evolved, Sam agreed to scholarship some of the LAWST facitator-trainees into his courses, so his influence came into the meetings through several sources.

Brian Lawrence helped Cem organize LAWST 1. He brought a meeting-management and organizational-dynamics perspective developed by Virginia Satir and Jerry Weinberg. The LAWSTs have always had slightly-divergent visions about how to set goals for these meetings, how to run them, and what to expect as work-products (I think reflecting slightly divergent Community At Work versus WeinBorg traditions.)

For the Community At Work perspective, see the Faciltitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making