jean cooper

Jean is an organisational psychologist, consultant, husband, father, runner, writer, motorcyclist and backyard chicken farmer. He is fascinated by the way in which we unconsciously contribute to the things that frustrate or scare us most. In his PhD (Industrial and Organisational Psychology) from the University of Pretoria, he made use of contributions from psychoanalysis, general systems theory, group relations and field theory to make sense of the forces involved in being a member of a human system (team or organisation). He founded and heads up The Institute for Leadership and Transformation (TILT), through which he consults on organisational and leadership dynamics and assists other organisational consultants and coaches to enable themselves to work with the unconscious dynamics affecting their clients. He has lectured to postgraduate students of psychology and management at the University of Pretoria and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and has been involved as member or staff in Group Relations Conferences (GRC) in the UK, USA, France and the Netherlands. He directed two GRC's in South Africa in 2016 and 2017, in collaboration with the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.


Life is uncertain.

Sometimes this scares us, so we try to set up bulwarks against the unknown: Illusions of control to keep our fears at bay and this uncertain thing called life outside. For a while.

Imagine you're a motorcyclist approaching a turn. If, for fear of falling over, you try to keep the bike upright in the turn, you will either not make the turn, or go so slow that cars will start squeezing past you. Not only will the joy be gone, but your imagined danger will suddenly be the real danger of being pushed off the road. Not in spite of, but because of your efforts to resist leaning into the turn.

Isn't it ironic how our most frantic efforts to protect ourselves and others from that which scares us, often sets in motion the exact thing we tried to avoid in the first place? Does clinging to our children really protect them from the risks of navigating life? Does watching over our employees' shoulders really increase the trust between us? Did apartheid really result in 'good neighbourliness'?

In order to make the scariness of this uncertain life more tolerable, it may help to, bit by bit, start replacing our bulwarks with channels. A channel doesn't try to block the flow of life completely. It contains the flow and prevents flooding.

By leaning into the turn whilst pushing slightly against the handlebars and keeping your eyes far upfront where you wish to go, you can safely channel the bike's movement around the corner. And experience the thrill of navigating this uncertain life.

jean's contributions