Special issue on "The use and abuse of storytelling in organizations"
Special issue call for papers from Journal of Management Development
The Use and Abuse of Storytelling in Organizations
Adrian Carr, Principal Research Fellow, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Cheryl Lapp, President, Labyrinth Consulting, British Columbia, Canada
In 2003, it was estimated that there were some 15,000 full-time and part-time management or leadership coaches world-wide; and growing at a rate of about 40 per cent per year (Arnaud, 2003, p.1133). As a process of adult education in the workplace, the mere need for coaching can be taken to infer that the learner or protégé is somehow deficient: “Subordinates must be advised on how to do their jobs better and to be coached to better performance. Coaching problems are usually caused by lack of ability, insufficient information or understanding, or incompetence on the part of the subordinates” (Whetton and Cameron, 1998/2002, p.222). More and more we can note that workplace adult educators such as coaches use storytelling as learning and development tools to identify these eficiencies. “ ‘The shortest route between two people is a story”, says Dianna Carr, a senior storyteller at Envisioning + Storytelling, one of the world’s most successful story management consultancies (Taylor, 2006, p. 2).
Whilst some are very sceptical about the idea that individual and group performance can be improved through coaching, others have viewed coaching as a panacea for much that causes organizations to fail. Some have even suggested that coaching is a pragmatic way of filling the void that has been created by the failure of management and organization theory to provide managers with unambiguous advice about how to manage. The stories that the coaches draw upon to assist leaders and managers to improve their performance, in our view, is not really storytelling as such, but storyselling (Carr and Lapp, 2005a, b, 2006, 2007; Lapp and Carr, 2007). Much of the management literature about stories and storytelling treats stories as though they are simply “neutral” objects rather than exploring the manner in which the story and dialogue are constructed to persuade the “listener” to accept the story. The crisis of confidence that may be generated by the perceived need to engage a coach, in our view, creates some of the psychological conditions for stories to be effectively “sold” to the listener.
Others have carried cautionary notes and pleas to understand the motivation and psychodynamic processes that are engaged in the telling of stories, in the literature on storytelling. Gabriel (2004), for example, suggests: “Instead of accepting all voices of experience as equally valid and equally worthy of attention, I would argue that it is the job of researchers to interrogate experiences, seeking to examine not only their origins, but also those blind spots, illusions, and selfdeceptions that crucially and legitimately make them up. Far from being an unqualified source of knowledge, experience must be treated with the same skepticism and suspicion with which we approach all other sources of authoritative knowledge” (p. 29).
At the present time, what eludes us is breadth and depth of analysis of how coaches use stories and for what reasons. The purpose of this call is to identify and analyse the instrumentality of storytelling in organizations. In so doing, the invitation for contributors is to explore connections among and including but not limited to: storytelling; storyselling; critical theory and psychodynamics as they pertain to leadership and management development in organizations.
It is intended that this special issue of the Journal of Management Development will be published in 2010. This is an early call for papers with the Guest Editors requiring submissions no later than April 30, 2009. Contributors should send their manuscripts by e-mail to both Adrian Carr ([email protected] ) and Cheryl Lapp ([email protected]).
Contributors should consult the web page for JMD at the Notes for Contributors (which also show how the references should be formatted as required by the publisher). This can be found at:
Arnaud, G. (2003), “A coach or a couch? A Lacanian perspective on executive coaching and consulting”, Human Relations, Vol. 56, pp. 1131-1154.
Carr, A. N. and Lapp, C. A. (2005a), “Wanted for breaking and entering organisational systems in complexity: Eros and Thanatos”, Emergence: A Journal of Complexity Issues in Organisations and Management, Vol. 7 Nos 3 & 4, pp. 43-52.
Carr, A. N. and Lapp, C. A. (2005b), “Wanted for breaking and entering organisational systems in complexity: Eros and Thanatos”, in Richardson, K. Snowden, D., Goldstein, J.A. and Allen P. M. (Eds), Emergence: Complexity & Organisation (2005 Annual), ISCE Publishing, Mansfield, MA, pp. 89-104.
Carr, A. N. and Lapp, C. A. (2006), Leadership Is a Matter of Life and Death: The Psychodynamics of Eros and Thanatos Working in Organisations, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.
Carr, A. N. and Lapp, C. A. (2007), “The ontology of emergent stories of leadership in organisations: understanding the significance of the ‘third man’ (beyond the I-We dialectic of George Herbert Mead)”, EJROT – The Electronic Journal of Radical Organizational Theory, 5th Biannual International Critical Management Studies Conference Publications, Manchester, July 11-13, 2007, available at: www.mngt.waikato.ac.nz/ejrot/cmsconference/2007/proceedings/emergentstory/proceedings_ emergentstory.asp
Gabriel, Y. (2004), “Introduction”, in Gabriel, Y. (Ed.), Myths, Stories, and Organizations, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, pp. 1-9.
Lapp, C. A. and Carr, A. N. (2007), “The dialectics of storytelling and storyselling: sometimes the facts get in the way of the story”, EJROT – The Electronic Journal of Radical Organizational Theory, 5th Biannual International Critical Management Studies Conference Publications, Manchester, July 11-13,
2007, available at: www.mngt.waikato.ac.nz/ejrot/cmsconference/2007/proceedings/emergentstory/proceedings_emergentstory.asp
Taylor, T. (2006), “Individually wrapped: what we consume brands each of us as the ultimate product: a boutique individual”, enRoute, June, pp. 1-3, available at: http://enroutemag.com/e/june06/essay_a.html
Whetton, D. A. and Cameron, K. S. (2002), Developing Management Skills, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ (originally published in 1998)