In Memory of Ed Schein:

From Accessing Your Ignorance to Accessing Your Love




Edgar Schein, Theory U, organizational development, organizational culture, process consultation, leadership, systems change, helping


Edgar H. Schein, Sloan Fellow professor of management emeritus at MIT, passed away on January 26, 2023, at the age of 94. Ed had an enormous impact on organizational development (OD), on Theory U, and on my life. Schein wrote dozens of books on social science subjects, including career dynamics, organizational culture, leadership, process consulting, and group dynamics. He is one of the most important founding fathers of organizational development (OD). Ed’s insights on how to engage in any kind of helping relationship made him my most important teacher in terms of how to advise clients and engage with stakeholder groups on how to approach challenges facing their organizations and communities. He is not only a founding father of OD but also of Theory U and we can see the Schein influence on at least three levels: addressing the invisible as well as the visible (the iceberg model of systems thinking), emphasizing psychological safety in the change process and ‘always being helpful’ in the context of organizational change, consulting, and leadership. In this piece I outline the most important principles Ed embodied in his work that have shaped my own. The piece ends with a call for collective action on addressing the challenges facing our planet in Ed’s own words.


Bartunek, J. M. (Ed.). (2022). Social scientists confronting global crises. Routledge.

Schein, E. H. (2017). Organizational culture and leadership (5th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Schein, E. H. (2016). Career anchors: The changing nature of careers (4th ed.). Wiley.

Schein, E. H. (2014). Process consultation revisited: Building the helping relationship. Addison-Wesley.

Schein, E. H. (2013). Humble inquiry: The gentle art of asking instead of telling. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Schein, E. H. (2010). Helping: How to offer, give, and receive help. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.




How to Cite

Scharmer, O. (2023). In Memory of Ed Schein: : From Accessing Your Ignorance to Accessing Your Love. Journal of Awareness-Based Systems Change, 3(1), 9–16.