65 Years of Success
Proven Success: For 65 years, NTL has transformed the field of Applied Behavioral Science and has contributed to the professional advancement of tens of thousands of individuals and organizations. NTL's programs are the most popular, the most replicated, and simply the most effective programs for changing human attitudes and behaviors.
The Vision: NTL's history began with the vision of Kurt Lewin, founder of modern social psychology. In 1946, Lewin, then Director of MIT's Research Center for Group Dynamics, concluded from his experiences that increased awareness of self and others could be accomplished through facilitated group dialogue in Training Groups (or T-Groups) that advocates open-minded appreciation and inclusion of differences. Lewin also concluded that T-Groups who learned by experience, rather than lecture and reading, provided high potential for diagnostic study, evaluation and, most important, for changing behaviors. His conclusions formed the basis for the NTL Learning Experience.
The Beginnings of NTL: In 1946, the United States Office of Naval Research and the National Education Association (NEA) funded a planning group named the National Training Laboratory for Group Development (which was later changed to NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science).
Believing that change could more readily occur if the learning took place some distance from the participant's home environment, Lewin chose Bethel, Maine as the site or "cultural island" for the first NTL experiential human relations conference in 1947. The success of this first 1947 conference and the potential of the new methodology drew some of the best and brightest in social psychology to NTL, including Paul Sheats, R. Freed Bales, Kurt Back, Morton Deutsch, Henry Reicken, and Stanley Schacter.
From this early success, NTL grew and received a major grant from the Carnegie Foundation and numerous in-kind services from several major universities. By 1949, NTL expanded its staff to include scientists and educators from a wide variety of groups and occupations. Similarly, research around the T-Groups was conducted at multiple levels, paralleling this variety of disciplines. The concept of sensitivity training emerged as a version of the T-Group, and NTL became a quasi-independent organization operating under the aegis of NEA, eventually offering many different program offerings beyond the T-Group.
T-Group Technology Expands and Gains Credibility: A 1949 meeting of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, a division of the American Psychological Association, included a demonstration in the use of role playing in the T-Groups. The presentation was attended by numerous well-known scientists, including Margaret Mead, friend and former collaborator of Lewin, and drew the attention of a broader community of social scientists to NTL's work.
During the 1950's, NTL continued to promote the creation and development of "change agent" skills as they came to be called. For organizational leaders, particularly those in corporate America, the new mechanisms of problem-solving arising from T-Group methodology presented new opportunities for addressing growing confrontations in various sectors of society.
Continued Growth: Complementing programs at Bethel and the regional sites, programs were condensed on a consulting basis with such organizations like the American Red Cross, Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon), the National Council of Churches, and the Department of Health in Puerto Rico. The work also fit well with NTL's growing work with strategic constituencies, such as the Key Executive Conference in 1957 for presidents and vice presidents (now the Senior Executive's Challenge), and programs dealing with significant conflicts. Indeed, NTL's cadre of leading social scientists strongly contributed to the evolving field of Organizational Development (OD), and had a dynamic effect on administration and management in organizational America.
During the 1960's, NTL experienced phenomenal growth. More specialized labs were developed for industry, religious and community leaders, as well as for college youth and executives.
Creation of The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science: In 1965, NTL began publishing The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, which has become a renowned publication contributing a body of knowledge to the field that increases our understanding of change processes and outcomes.
Incorporation of NTL: In 1967, after having been part of National Education Association for many years, the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science was incorporated.
Embracing Diversity and Inclusion: In 1975, NTL announced its institutional commitment to racial and gender diversity for its Board, committees, program staff, and member recruitment. By recognizing and embracing the diversity of its members, NTL not only learned the value that differences can bring to an organization's internal workings, but studied and shared these practices in its approach to individual, group, and organization change.
Customized Solutions Group: In 2000, NTL Institute began offering custom programs to customers and clients in business, education, government, NGOs and not-for-profits.
Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa: In 2008, NTL Institute partnered with the prestigious Telfer School of Management in Ottawa, Canada to offer a Certificate in Organization Development to practitioners and change agents working in Canada's government and private sector.