While on a business flight, a CEO reads in an airline magazine about an information technology innovation that promises fabulous returns to the adopting corporation. Returning home, the CEO demands immediate action from the senior information systems executive. So goes a story current among systems practitioners. This tale of “Airline Magazine Syndrome” is analyzed here as an instance of narrative, through research informed by innovation theory and field interviews with business executives and systems practitioners. The analysis considers both how the story depends for its meaning on the sociotechnical context of innovation, and how that context is illuminated by the listener’s engagement with the story. “Airline Magazine Syndrome” is a kind of moral drama, in which misdeeds portend crisis and failure. As such, there are also lessons for a happier ending, in the domain of real practice, in which organizational innovation with information technology can have better prospects for success.
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