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The poetics of organizational design: How words may inspire worlds

Designing Information and Organizations with a Positive Lens

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1287-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-398-3

ISSN: 1475-9152

Publication date: 18 December 2007


This chapter discusses how the special qualities of poetic language can inform new principles for organizational design. Appreciative inquiry makes extensive use of poetic language – of stories, metaphors, and imagery – to facilitate the discovery of high-point experiences and the articulation of desired future states. It is commonly believed that through this narrative mode of knowing, appreciative dialogue awakens the imaginative and relational possibilities for successful transformation of organizational systems. In a critique of current practice, the chapter suggests that the unleashed generative capacity for change is not fully utilized because of appreciative inquiry's reliance on logico-scientific discourse during its design conversations. This return to modernist managerial practice is unfortunate, if we accept the need for alternative ways of knowing and talking in our efforts to create more just and sustainable forms of organizing. In an attempt to renew existing thinking, the chapter explores the question of what becomes possible when we embrace the poetics, rather than the pragmatics, of organizational design. It describes four qualities of poetic language – imaginative, ambiguous, touching, and holistic – which may inspire the design of organizations that are both more daring and caring in character.


Zandee, D.P. (2007), "The poetics of organizational design: How words may inspire worlds", Avital, M., Boland, R.J. and Cooperrider, D.L. (Ed.) Designing Information and Organizations with a Positive Lens (Advances in Appreciative Inquiry, Vol. 2), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 131-146.



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