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Stories from the end of the world: in search of plots for a failing system

Jerzy Kociatkiewicz (The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Monika Kostera (Institute of Culture, Faculty of Management and Social Communication, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland) (Södertörn University, Huddinge, Sweden)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 13 November 2019

Issue publication date: 29 January 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to consider three types of stories: media, personal accounts and fiction, and look for plots depicting situations of fundamental shift in the framing and basic definitions of reality. The authors examine them from the point of view of their usefulness for developing creative responses to systemic change.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a narrative study in three stages, aimed at identifying strong plots pertaining to systemic change. The analyzed material came from three different sources of narratives (fiction, media and creative stories) and was approached by the use of two different narrative methods: symbolic interpretation and narrative collage.

Findings

Currently many voices are being raised that the authors are living in times of interregnum, a period in between working systems. There is also a mounting critique of the business school as an institution perpetuating dysfunctional ideologies, rather than enhancing critical and creative thinking. The authors propose that the humanities, and, in particular, learning from fiction (and science fiction) can offer a language to talk about major (systemic) change help and support learning about alternative organizational realities.

Research limitations/implications

The study pertains to discourse and narratives, not to material aspects of culture construction.

Practical implications

Today, there is a mounting critique of business schools and their role in society. Following Martin Parker’s call to transform them into schools of organizing, helping to develop and discuss different alternatives instead of reproducing the dominant model, the authors suggest that education should be based, to much larger extent than until now, on the humanities. The authors propose educational programmes including the study of fiction and film.

Social implications

The authors propose that the humanities (and the study of fiction) can equip society with a suitable language to discuss and problematize systemic change.

Originality/value

This paper adds to narrative social studies through providing an analysis of strong plots showing ways of coping with systemic collapse, and through an examination of these plots’ significance for organizational education, learning, and planning. The authors present an argument for the broader use of fiction as a sensemaking, teaching, and learning tool for managing organizations in volatile environments.

Keywords

Citation

Kociatkiewicz, J. and Kostera, M. (2020), "Stories from the end of the world: in search of plots for a failing system", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 66-82. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-02-2019-0050

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited