Holistic Embodied OD: Integrating Head, Heart, Hands, and Whole Body for Change

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date

Summer 2023


This past decade has been filled with significant volatility and disruption for virtually every individual, group, organization, and society on Earth. The COVID-19 pandemic has been perhaps the most significant disruptor to day-to-day life globally since the age of world wars in the mid-20th century. Although OD scholar-practitioners may have seamlessly pivoted in response to COVID-19 and embraced the shift to interacting in a “virtual” world, the challenge of how to maintain an embodied use of self during relentless disruption and constant uncertainty remained. In this article, we discuss developing an enhanced use of self and propose the practice of Holistic Embodied OD as a method of integrating our entire selves—head, heart, hands, and whole body—for effective change practice through retrospective analysis of two case studies, one pre-COVID and one during COVID-19. “Holistic Embodied OD is grounded in the development of an enhanced use of self that integrates and equally values several different elements of our lived selfexperience and relationships with others: Thinking (Head), Feeling (Heart), Doing (Hands), and Being (Whole Body)” (Matthews & Szelwach, 2021, p. 7). Practicing in this way acknowledges that the body is our way of showing up and being in the world as scholar-practitioners who engage with others as embodied social beings. Through Holistic Embodied OD, we resist disembodied OD practice by staying fully present in each situation and flexibly adjusting ourselves and our methods to help organizations and communities facilitate effective and timely change