Learn and Develop

OD Specialisms

Though relatively difficult to define, the term ‘OD specialism’ may be understood in two ways: 

First, OD has various specializations in a way similar to medicine or engineering, in which there is a core discipline of medical science/engineering where the foundational basics are what all medical or engineering students need to know before deciding what specialism they want to focus on. In medicine those could be general medicine, surgery, renal medicine, internal medicine, and so on. In engineering there is civil, mechanical, software, aerospace, and many others. Similarly, after establishing a foundation in core OD competences, many OD practitioners go on to develop specialized knowledge and skills.

Second, given the very wide remit and loose boundaries of the field of OD, many other fields of applied behavioural science share common roots and interests with OD. Like close cousins, they stimulate each other’s continuous development by cross-fertilizing their knowledge base. The field of OD has been enhanced by this overlap of diverse perspectives, providing OD practitioners with additional dimensions in theory and practice to support of organizations and people.

One critical distinction between OD and adjacent fields of practice is that those with expertise in related fields do not require OD knowledge and skills to effectively practice their specialisms, especially if they operate from an expert role, in which their technical advice to clients is sufficient. There are many fantastic evaluation specialists, effective coaches,  design thinkers, and similar expert professionals who command great respect from their clients and yet know very little about OD. 

However, many of these professionals are gracious enough to declare that by embracing OD into their portfolio of expertise, their practice and work has been enhanced, especially in their consultancy processes and the work they do with multiple groups in complex settings.

On the other hand, those who started off as OD practitioners have often found that, while the foundational competences stand them in good stead for many types of roles and jobs, increasing organizational complexity and other challenges faced by clients have required increasingly deep expertise in specific areas of service delivery. Needing, for example, to help leaders think about restructuring, adjusting operation models and processes, helping leaders evaluate their relationships with partners, sorting out the quality of relationship between key staff and third parties—these and many other kinds of challenges have prompted OD practitioners to add different areas of expertise to their OD practice.

Through these journeys, most OD practitioners are grateful for the foundational OD knowledge and values they have embraced and accumulated. And they know their default orientation will always be using applied behavioural science to work with dynamic living systems.  But they also know it is important to develop expertise in other overlapping fields of interest in support of their clients. Their OD developmental journey can perhaps be likened to a group of behavioural scientists setting out to travel. As they depart, they are well-trained and equipped to undertake any journey. But, as they meet changing terrain on their journey, they wisely acquire additional tools, clothing and other resources that will ensure they are equipped to reach their destination.

So, this Specialism section is set up—by a number of individual contributors—to help you get to know some of the most common specialized fields of knowledge in which OD practitioners tend to work. There are three categories of specialism:

  1. Areas that are part of foundational OD competences, but require a much deeper dive in order for a practitioner to claim specialist expertise. These include, for example, ‘inclusion, equality and equity’, facilitation, virtual facilitation, group process consultation, and human interaction laboratory facilitation.
  2. Areas that are seen as key aspects of OD practitioner roles, tasks and activities. These include, for example, working with change, organisation design, large scale intervention, coaching, and team effectiveness coaching.
  3. Key theories that inform OD design and intervention work, such as design thinking, appreciative inquiry, dialogic OD, Gestalt, and human systems dynamics.

Four important notes: 

  1. The list of specialisms in this app are by no means exhaustive.  Even the 27 types of OD specialisms listed in this article are not exhaustive. There are at least two reasons for not aiming to be comprehensive in listing specialisms. First of all, it is almost impossible to write about every other field of expertise that has a close relationship with OD practice.   Secondly, this app is a community platform. So, the hope is that users will feel encouraged to suggest additional OD specialisms that they believe should be added to the app. 
  2. Please bear in mind that, while most OD professionals are—and should be—able to talk about many specialisms to their clients, very few will have more than 3-4 areas of deep knowledge. And, of course, the choice of the subject areas will depend on your own motivation and drive. For a long time, I was only interested in large group complex change and very little else. That’s OK, but there needs to be working knowledge of some of the other interrelated specialism fields.   The point is to set realistic expectations for yourself, and see your own development in ‘bite-size’ chunks. Choosing 3 or 4 OD specialisms as areas you want to develop over the next few years will often lead to growing interest in other areas of specialism. It is a gradual development process and not a once-and-for-all journey. 
  3. There are many overlapping competences between the Foundational OD Competences section and the Specialisms section. Rather than seeing that overlapping as messy, you are invited to see them as mutually enabling. After you chose which OD specialisms are important to you, read what the contributor shared, pulling out the specific standards they have associated with the specialism. As you do this, you may discover that you already possess some of those requirements, which you can confirm when you go to the Foundational OD Competences section.  The interaction between the specialisms and the competence sections will become obvious to you. 
  4. Finally, all the OD specialism contributors have followed this pattern:
    a) They share their journey of getting into the specialism. It is very interesting to find out how others end up specialising in what they love doing.

    b) They define what their specialism is, giving a mini-introduction to the subject.

    c) They share what are the required standards for practitioners who specialise in this area.

    d) They share how you may develop in this area – if you chose to do so.

    e) They kindly share profile and contact information.

    Have fun, click any that are important to you. Read about them and see whether they are the areas you in which you want to achieve mastery. 

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is the cooperative co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It is the art and practice of asking unconditional positive questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten its potential

Learn More

Change Management

Change management addresses the people-side of change. Three levels can be described: For individuals, it involves supporting each person’s change journey. For organizational initiatives, it’s about equipping people to adopt and use solutions. For enterprise change, it’s about embedding change into the fabric of the organization.

Learn More


Coaching is a learning conversation with the client at the centre—enabling learning by identifying new perspectives, unlocking ideas, and building confidence, while unlearning outdated mindsets, behaviours, and strategies so the client can be effective and live a life that feels truly meaningful within an ethical and value-driven framework

Learn More

Design Thinking

Design thinking is at least an iterative process for problem solving, centred around human needs. It is an approach to creative problem solving, often addressing ‘wicked problems’ that involve multiple interconnected stakeholders and systems, with no distinct solution pathways

Learn More

Dialogic OD

Dialogic OD represents a return to OD’s original spirit of inquiry, reflecting an appreciation that today’s organizational problems are more complex, ambiguous and uncertain, with Dialogic OD being especially suited to complex, adaptive challenges.

Learn More

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

DEI work has evolved over the past 30+ years. Today the conversation includes Black, Indigenous, People of Color, people identifying as LGBTQI. We are sensitive also to factors like social class and religious differences

Learn More

Gestalt OD

Gestalt OD allows us to make a real difference with our presence. We can heighten our clients’ awareness of what is happening in the moment. We can craft more powerful (and often simpler) interventions. It keeps the focus on the client and helps us to facilitate closure

Learn More

Group Process Consultation

Group Process Consultation is ‘the reasoned and intentional interventions by the consultant, into the ongoing events and dynamics of a group, with the purpose of helping the group effectively attain its agreed-upon objectives

Learn More

Human Interaction Labs

HI labs bring small groups together for a period of time to learn about themselves and their interactions with others via an experience-based learning environment, giving and receiving feedback, assessing the impact of their actions and behaviours, and observing how roles, norms, decisions and power emerge

Learn More

Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) 

Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) is rooted in complexity science and chaos theory. The core Pattern of Professional Performance in HSD is Adaptive Capacity—the agility to engage with change as it happens and to help others do the same, expressed via three process disciplines: Inquiry, Adaptive Action, and Pattern Logic

Learn More

Large Group Intervention (LGI)

LGIs are methods by which all the stakeholders in a system may contribute their voices to change processes, designed to ensure that voices and perspectives are heard and integrated, and new understandings can emerge—processes that involve the whole system in a journey of discovery and co-creation

Learn More

Organisational Agility 

Organisational agility has become a strategic imperative for many CEOs as organisations struggle to keep up with, and adapt to, the rapidly shifting business context

Learn More

Organization Design

Organizational Design views organizations as systems with interdependent elements collectively working to deliver a purpose. Not mechanical systems and pyramid hierarchies that can be manipulated, but rather networks, collaborations, and complex adaptive systems that ‘emerge’ – and can only, perhaps, be shaped

Learn More

Team Effectiveness Coaching

Team Effectiveness Coaching creates a safe space with a foundation of support and challenge for team members to reflect on how they work and learn together and, through dialogue, to identify and act upon what is needed to enhance team performance and impact

Learn More

The Practice of Facilitation

Facilitation is a process mastery by which meetings/workshop procedures are conducted, creating an inclusive space for a group to do its best work together, in which decisions are made more easily, efficiently and effectively, with outcomes being accepted and embraced by the group

Learn More

Virtual OD Facilitation

Virtual OD Facilitation is the ability to design and implement constructive group conversations entirely online using a virtual digital platform. These could be workshops, meetings, ideation sessions, events, or any other name given to a container that gets created and facilitated

Learn More

Dear OD App user

We are pleased to welcome you to this ‘field test’ of The OD App. We hope you find it to be a useful resource for you as an OD practitioner.

Please take time to watch the short instruction video on the home page.

We warmly encourage you to provide any feedback, observations, and/or suggestions that you might have for improving the app. This can be done via the ‘Feedback’ form at the bottom of the ‘Your Journey’ tab on the app. 

Once you have opened that tab, you can click on the ‘Feedback’ button and follow the instructions that appear, sharing about your experience and any comments that you think may be helpful.

Thank you! As we note, this is a community resource. Your input is welcome and important.

The OD App Team