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Our organizations were never disenchanted: Enchantment by design narratives vs enchantment by emergence

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Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to propose a typology of enchantment approaches that are related to storytelling practices in organizations: enchantment by design and enchantment by emergence. Design/methodology/approach The authors explore this enchantment framework in a storytelling drawing on examples of living storied spaces and narratives from hospital studies. Findings This essay asserts three aspects about enchantment: that mainstream organizational narrative, rooted in classical structuralism and modernity, seems intent on disenchanting life within them. Second, despite such narratives, organizations, such as hospitals the authors studied, were never disenchanted because enchantment resides in many living storied spaces. Finally, many forms of “enchantment” and “disenchantment” are taking place in organization action and its storytelling. Practical implications The paper equips managers with a deeper understanding of how storytelling in organizations can encourage enchantment or disenchantment within the organization and in its relations with their environments (community, nature, humanity). Originality/value The value of the paper lies in its theoretical contributions, integrating enchantment‐disenchantment perspectives with a theory of storytelling.
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Our Organizations Were Never Disenchanted:
Enchantment By Design Narratives vs. Enchantment By Emergence
Accepted for Publication in Journal of Organization Change Management 7/4/2010
David Boje and Ken Baskin
Abstract
Purpose We propose a typology of enchantment approaches that are
related to storytelling practices in organizations: enchantment by design
and enchantment by emergence.
Design/methodology/approach The authors explore this enchantment
framework in a storytelling drawing on examples of living storied spaces
and narratives from hospital studies.
Findings This essay asserts three aspects about enchantment: that
mainstream organizational narrative, rooted in classical structuralism and
modernity, seems intend on disenchanting life within them. Second,
despite such narratives, organizations, such as hospitals we studied, were
never disenchanted because enchantment resides in many living storied
spaces. Finally, many forms of „enchantment‟ and „disenchantment‟ are
taking place in organization action and its storytelling.
Practical implications - The article equips managers with a deeper
understanding of how storytelling in organizations can encourage
enchantment or disenchantment within the organization and in its relations
with their environments (community, nature, humanity).
Originality/value The value of the essay lies in its theoretical
contributions, integrating enchantment-disenchantment perspectives with a
theory of storytelling.
Introduction
We contrast design-oriented approaches to enchantment with what we are calling
“enchantment by emergence.” In this article, we take a posthumanist approach to
enchantment that balances these two.
Enchantment by design,” which assumes that enchantment is imposed by a social
narrative, has two themes: (1) the recovery of some lost paradise of enchantment, as
humans distanced themselves from spirituality/religion; (2) some spectacle to evoke
enchantment for the purpose of attracting consumers to return when novelty wears off.
Enchantment by emergence,” where the sense of enchantment arises as each person
lives in a specific context opens our understanding of a special relationship between
organizational complexity and storytelling.
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Our presentation begins with a review of work on enchantment by design and
enchantment by emergence, followed by our theory of storytelling. Then we explore the
issue of enchantment/disenchantment in organizations as storied spaces, illustrating with
examples from a hospital study where we explore the storytelling propositions.
For organizational managers and consultants, the issue here is whether people
experience their workplaces as enchanted places of wonder in which they are full
participants or disenchanted, as well as what that means for their organizations.
Enchantment by Design
Enchantment, to use Bennett‟s words (2001: 156), “is a feeling of being
connected in an affirmative way to existence; it is to be under the momentary impression
that the natural and cultural worlds offer gifts” (author‟s italics). The experience of
enchantment is characterized, as Berman (1981: 77-78) notes, by full participation in
one‟s life: one is neither separated subject nor object, but a part of the larger whole of
life. As a participant, one has power to affect the surroundings. In a disenchanted world,
control is mechanical, the act of an observer from the outside; in an enchanted world,
control is affected as an organic participant.
The literature suggests two basic approaches to the question of enchantment,
design and emergence. What we call “enchantment by design” reflects a view of stable
social entities in which the individual‟s experience is shaped by the group‟s dominant
narratives. In this way, Nietzsche (1996) and Weber (2009), who first commented on
disenchantment, celebrated the way it freed humanity from the dead hand of the past, a
time of superstition and unreasonable fear. More recently, writers such as Berman and
Moore (see below) have lamented the way that the Enlightenment, the Industrial
Revolution, Science and Capitalism, eliminated wonder and meaning from the world,
leading to the alienation, psychosis, McDonaldization, and self-destruction of the
Modernist era. All these writers “make enchantment dependent on a divine creator,
Providence, or, at the very least, a physical world with some original connection to a
divine will” (Bennett, 2001: 12). For them, modern life is radically changed because
society‟s dominant narrative no longer holds forth the wonder of an enchanted world.
Among the lamenters, Morris Berman, Thomas Moore, and George Ritzer seek
ways to reenchant forms of modern capitalism that have separated people form nature,
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through the Cartesian/Newtonian worldview. Berman‟s (1981: 16) thesis is that “the view
of nature which predominated in the West down to the eve of the Scientific Revolution
was that of an enchanted world. Rocks, trees, rivers and clouds were all seen as
wondrous, alive and human beings felt at home in this environment.” “For more than 99
percent of human history,” he later adds, “the world was enchanted and man saw himself
as an integral part of it” (p. 23).
Berman‟s approach to reenchantment advances a post-Cartesian worldview that
encourages participating consciousness, and draws on the quantum mechanics of Werner
Heisenberg‟s Uncertainty Principle, such that our observing consciousness has material
consequences. In quantum physics, Berman contends, enchantment is in the embodied
consciousness of every material phenomenon (not just humans, but stone, earth, water,
etc.). Berman (p. 146-7) adopts Gregory Bateson‟s theory of “Mind with a capital M”:
“The falling stone, the earth, and the Mind that participates [in] this event [form] a
relationship, and this, not some „spirit‟ in the stone or some „rate of acceleration,‟ would
be the subject of scientific inquiry” (p. 149). Berman locates „Mind,‟ in neither animism
nor in a „God, but, rather, in the cybernetic „system‟, which moves out of
nonparticipating consciousness into a more participative one (p. 183). For Berman, the
whole system is alive: “Mind is abstracted from its traditionally religious context and
shown to be a concrete, active scientific element (process) in the real world‟ and that in
this way, participation exists, but not in its original, animistic sense” (1981: 270).
Unlike Berman, Moore looks at enchantment as a “holy imagination,” a
“mystery” that has “some kind of transcendent vision” (1996: x). Moore does agree that
humans have separated themselves form nature, and then obliterated nature. His thesis is
that enchantment is still available, despite Newtonian Physics and Cartesian mind-body
dualism, but we have forgotten to notice it. He wants to restore enchantment to life by
“returning to its sense of time and space, its extraordinary cosmology, and its creative
physics…” (p. xvi), all situated in nature and its natural rhythms: “Enchantment is to a
large extent founded in the spirituality inherent in earthly nature” (p. 3). For Moore, the
entire world is enchanted; however, in the industrial age, business contributed to a
disenchanted world. According to him, “it is enchantment that is a story‟s greatest gift”
(p. 246), and he worries that commercialism has destroyed that gift:
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Stories themselves are often deprived of enchantment, as when, on
television and in the movies, they follow a proven formula, a zigzag
pattern in which first the good characters succeed, then the evil ones
dominate, than the good characters thrive, and then the evil ones return,
and so on (p. 242).
In a world where society endlessly repeats such disenchanted, formulaic narratives, he
seems to ask, how can individuals even hope to lives of wonder and enchantment?
Moore‟s Re-enchantment Project has business rediscovering its role within nature: “An
enchanted life is good for business, even though it requires a considerable turnabout in
values and vision” (p. 11).
A different approach to enchantment by design is that of George Ritzer (2005:
93), whose thesis is that cathedrals of consumption must be continually reenchanted. Like
Berman and Moore, Ritzer sees enchantment as part of the normal human condition (p.
60). Attempts to disenchant the work place are part of a conscious management strategy,
less a matter of rationality replacing wonder than the attempt to control employee
behavior. At the same time, organizations are trying to design enchantment, by emulating
„cathedrals of consumption,‟ such as Disneyland, Las Vegas, and McDonalds. However,
the cathedrals of consumers become disenchanted “to the jaded consumers they have
been designed to attract” (p. xi). Disneyland was once a novelty, but the exhibits began to
look dated. Disneyfication over time does not attract consumers. The same is true of Las
Vegasization and McDonaldization. “Such cold, mechanical systems are usually the
antitheses of the dream worlds associated with enchantment” (p. 89). In sum, Ritzer
concludes that cathedrals of consumption continue to expand in an increasingly
spectacular Schumpeterian process of „creative destruction” (p. 207). Each creative
destruction of the spectacle machine is more spectacular than the last.
An alternative approach, to which we now turn, is what we call “enchantment by
emergence; for thinkers such as Jane Bennett and Karen Barad, rather than being imposed
from a cultural narrative, enchantment arises in individuals in response to the specific
conditions in which they live and work.
Enchantment by emergence
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Bennett looks at materiality as enchanted. Like Moore, her “contention is that
enchantment never really left the world but only changed its forms” (2001: 91). For
Bennett, and enchantment by emergence as an approach, enchantment is intensely
personal, “a state of wonder” in which the world “comes alive as a collection of
singularities” that enable one to “be both caught up and carried away (p. 5). “The
disenchantment of modernity is,” she explains, “a powerful and rather pervasive
narrative,” which insists that we have left behind “a time when nature was purposive”
and “God was active in the details of human affairs . . .” (p. 7). Actually, “enchantment
never really left the world but only changed its forms” (p. 90).
Whereas Berman looks to cybernetics systems theory, Bennett turns to Prigogine
and Stengers‟ (1988) take on complexity theory, and its materialist ontology. “Prigogine
and Stengers identify classical dynamics with the disenchantment of nature and their own
explorations with its enchantment” (p. 101). In Prigogine and Stengers‟ “far from
equilibrium” thesis, Bennett explains, successive repetitions (cycles or lines) swerve. “In
enchantment, a new circuit of intensities forms between material bodies” (p. 104), she
adds, and enchantment is a sort of “agency or swervy vitality” (p. 105) that is a
materiality.
Unlike Berman, Bennett does not dismiss spirituality. Ecospirituality, for Bennett,
is an important movement because it raises ethical questions, such as the environmental
violence resulting from treating “nature-as-sacred” versus the emergence of “nature-as-
resource-for-exploitation” (p. 91). And unlike Ritzer, she sees complexity aspects to even
bureaucratic organizations that can be enchanting. Organizational “stories reveal what is
uncanny about the experience of institutional complexity,” Bennett explains (p. 106). As
with Moore, Bennett looks to storytelling to explore enchantment-disenchantment. “One
way to call into question the diagnosis of disenchantment is to recall alternative stories
about the nature of things” (p. 84).
Of all these approaches to enchantment, Barad‟s “agential realism” seems the
most radical, as she defines reality in opposition to the “metaphysical individualism” and
subject/object distinction of Newtonian physics (2007: 137-141). Barad derives her
“ontoepistemology” – “the study of practices of knowing in being” (p. 185) – from Niels
Bohr‟s quantum mechanics, as opposed to Heisenberg‟s. Heisenberg‟s Uncertainty
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Principle states that, as experimenting subject, one cannot know the position and
momentum of a quantum particle, as object, because measuring one from the outside will
change the other that is, one cannot know both. On the other hand, Bohr‟s
Indeterminacy Principle insists that “subject” and “object” are part of a seamless reality
where position and momentum of a particle are the result of measuring them with
different apparatus. Refuting metaphysical individualism, Bohr suggests that particles
cannot exist as separate entities, with specific, measurable qualities, except as examined
through an apparatus. It is the apparatus that makes the “cut” between subject and object
and creates meaning/measurement (pp. 115-118).
As a result, reality is not made up of individual entities; rather, it is composed of
“phenomena” whose boundaries are created by the “apparatus” through which one
examines the world (p. 185). To apply this theory to social life, Barad equates apparatus
with the “discoursive practice by which we . . . actively reconfigure the world in its
becoming” (p. 207). As in Baskin‟s storied space theory (see below), the way anyone
experiences the world depends on those discoursive practices/storied spaces a complex
network of organizations, professions, nations and so forth. Contrary to metaphysical
individualism, the characteristics that define any person result from activities within those
practices; meaning arises as an agent “intra-acts as opposed to distinct individuals
interacting within the practices‟ defined boundaries. Barad assumes (181-2) discourse
and materiality are intra-playing, and not separated, as in classical approaches to
mechanistic physics or to classical narrative. This is an “enchanted” world in which "we
are part of the world in its differential becoming" (p. 185); people are participants in an
ongoing process of creating meaning, drawing elements from an overabundant reality,
constantly in flux, and reading the world they create as a result of the relationships and
apparatus/discourses of those practices in which they are seamlessly embedded. Although
Barad does not put it this way, her theory of apparatus/discourses suggests that whether
people experience their worlds as enchanted emerges depending on how they read their
environments through those discourses.
While Barad does not look at storytelling per se, her theory of discourse does
have some implications, especially to extend Czarniawska‟s (2004) „petrified narratives‟
concept. For Barad, “Time is not a succession of evenly spaced identical moments" (p.
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180) as it is conceived in classical narrative. As a result, time does not leave its mark in a
petrified trail (in our case of narrative) sedimentation of external change, but rather
"sedimenting is an ongoing process of differential mattering" (Barad, p. 181). The past
and future in storytelling are not sequential, linear; they are enfolded participants in
matter's iterative becoming. Second, the petrification metaphor does nothing to "interrupt
the persistent assumption that change is a continuous process through or in time" (p.
182). Petrification narrative is a troubled notion since a "discontinuity queers our
presumptions of continuity" and cannot be therefore the opposite of a continuum of
petrified narrative stability (p. 182).
Storytelling is producing and produced by this intra-active becoming. It is neither
a petrified nor an ideational affair, but a material practice. In sum, there is intra-play in
an open space of agency as storytelling changes the conditions of possibility in intra-
action with materiality. As a result, “iterative intra-actions are the dynamics through
which temporality and spatiality are produced and iteratively reconfigured in the
materialization of phenomena and the (re)making of material-discursive boundaries and
the constitutive exclusions (p. 179; author‟s italics). Agential realist storytelling looks at
timespacemattering as a congealing of agency where material and storytelling are
mutually implicated, complicit. It is critical to analyze the inclusions and exclusions that
are agentially significant in the storytelling from report to report; for the exclusionary
nature of storytelling practices is an intra-activity of the contested social, economic, and
political forces enfolded in the production of material-storytelling.
From an agential realism perspective, storytelling is an intelligibility and
materiality of becoming, or in Boje‟s terms, an antenarrative futurity, set in the
discoursive storied spaces of Baskin. This radical departure from classical narrative
representationalism is a paradigm shift away from the reflexivity of social
constructionism. Agency is cut loose from the humanist orbit of social constructionism
to be able to embrace a posthumanist storytelling, to which we now turn.
Storytelling Theory
Storytelling is a special agency for enchantment-disenchantment. We theorize
storytelling as intraplay of retrospective narrative (Weick, 1995; Czarniawska, 2004),
living storied space presentness (Baskin, 2008; Brewer & Dourish, 2008), and
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antenarrative a fragmentary story with the double meaning of before-narrative, and a
bet on future meaning shaping the future (Boje, 2001, 2008).
In fact, the disagreement between proponents of enchantment by design and those
of enchantment by emergence reflects attitudes toward storytelling. Bennett (2001: 4),
one of the former, for instance, asks how we can break free of the “narrative of
disenchantment,” as if that narrative controlled individuals. Morson (1994: 172), one of
the latter, on the other hand, insists that our lives "have not been authored in advance, but
are lived as we go along." Morson thus suggests that people make enchantment-
disenchantment choices each moment in what Baskin (2008) and Brewer and Dourish
(2008) call “storied spaces.” Storied space theory draws on a growing body of research in
neurobiology and evolutionary anthropology that suggests that the human brain evolved
to transform our experience of the world as a more or less comprehensive, symbolic field
of stories (see, for example, Deacon, 1997; Donald, 1991 and 2001; Wexler, 2006;
Wilson, 1998). The key perception driving this idea is that human beings do not
experience events in a raw, unmediated manner. Rather they experience that is,
perceive, feel, respond to and think about events in terms of the stories their brains are
structured to create to explain those events.
The most immediate storied space, which resembles Barad‟s discourse (2007:
334), shaping the antenarratives any of us create is personality, the interpretation of how
a person must behave. In this storied space, any individual may present him- or herself,
adaptively, as attractive or homely, intelligent or slow, honest or dishonest. Personality,
as a storied space, is shaped by the full variety of other storied spaces that every person
becomes embedded in at some time in his or her life, including:
Storied Space
Adaptive Behavior
Narrative
Individual
Personality
How I must interact
with others
Small group/family
Dynamics
How we interact
Organization/community
Culture
How we “do things
around here”
Market/profession
Discourse
How we perform
specific tasks
Nation
Culture
How we interact with
each other and those
in Other Nations
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Religion/philosophy
Episteme
How we know what
is “real”
Table 1: Scales of Storied Space
The most immediate of these spaces are the small groups, starting with family, to which
any person belongs. As children go out into the world, they become parts of other small
groups, whose values may differ or even conflict. Each progressively more inclusive
scale of storied space shapes and is affected by those within it.
For Baskin (2008: 4), storied space appears to be an intensely complex
nested network of less inclusive storied spaces that function as the human
equivalent of complexity study's complex adaptive systems.” Storied spaces are a
“network of spaces family and work group, organization and community,
profession and nation in which membership depends on the acceptance of
negotiated stories by which each grouping defines the nature of the world and how
people in the group must respond to prosper” (Baskin, 2008: 1). Brewer and
Dourish (2008: 7) describe stories spaces as set in places known to people who tell of
them, and embodying moral lessons. For Baskin (2008: 7),
All of these storied spaces are swirling, dynamic environments, much as Dervin's
process of sense-making (2003) or Boje's Tamara (1995) describes them-the
interactions grounded in different people telling different stories about the same
events-a process whose products are forged in the inevitable conflict that occurs
when people, with their varied functions, desires and experiences, live and work
together.
Storied spaces relates to work by Bakhtin as well as Derrida and Calvino.
Bakhtin‟s (1973: 6) approach to dialogism is concerned with the more “polyphonic
manner of the story,” a blending of many voices and viewpoints. Derrida (1991: 287)
looks at story as a homonym (not a synonym to story):
Each “story” (and each occurrence of the word “story” (of itself) each
story is at once larger and smaller than itself, includes itself without
including (or comprehending) itself, identifies with itself even as it
remains utterly different from its homonym.
Calvino (1979: 109) similarly pursues a plurality of stories. Gabriel (2000: 42), for
example, says a story emerges from a complex collage of forces, and that earlier narrative
fragments become the seed of a “proto-story.”
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Storytelling then is the intra-play in storied spaces of dominant narratives and
antenarratives. Antenarrative is a “non-linear, incoherent, collective, unplotted, and pre-
narrative speculation, a bet… a proper narrative can be constituted” (Boje, 2001: 1), the
very currency of living story. “Stories are „antenarrative‟ when told without the proper
plot sequence and mediated coherence preferred in narrative theory” (2001: 3). Forward-
looking antenarratives are the most abundant in business, yet the most overlooked in
research and consulting practice” (Boje, 2008: 13).
Our first proposition is that storied spaces reflect the intra-play of dominant
narratives (fixed or petrified accounts of past events) and antenarratives people tell
to explain emergent phenomena. The field of narrative studies, in particular, emerged
from Aristotle‟s (350 BCE: section 1450b: lines 1-20: pp. 232-233) conception that
narratives must be coherently plotted, with beginning, middle, and end (BME). "We have
laid it down that a tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete in itself, as a whole
of some magnitude. . . . Now a whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end"
(1450b: 25-30: p. 233). For Mikhailovich Bakhtin (1973: 12) “narrative genres are
always enclosed in a solid and unshakable monological framework.” Bakhtin‟s work is
contrary to coherence narrative that posits mono-system-wholeness, mergedness, and
finalizedness. Jacque Derrida (1991: 261) says of narrative:
A demand for narrative [is] a violent putting-to-the-question an instrument
of torture, working to wring the narrative out of one as if it were a terrible
secret … [with] archaic police methods … psychiatric, and even
psychoanalytic [methods].
Most organization narrative theorists, such as Czarniawska (2004: 38), argue that
strong corporate cultures have coherent, petrified BME narratives. In Czarniawska‟s early
work (1997, 1998), narratives must have a plot and be retrospective.
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Weick (1995)
presented a narrative sensemaking in a chapter on organization control, and is about
Perrow‟s (1986) third-order managerial control, which Weick sees as being worked out
narratively in retrospectively shared values and meanings. Weick‟s (1995: 127-129) short
discussion of retrospective narrative-sensemaking stresses: “people think narratively
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“A story consists of a plot comprising causally related episodes that culminate in a solution to a problem”
(Czarniawska, 1997: 78). Elsewhere, “For them to become a narrative, they require a plot, that is, some
way to bring them into a meaningful whole” (1998: 2).
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rather than argumentatively or paradigmatically”; “organizational realties are based on
narration”; the “propensity for inductive generalization [of] noteworthy experiences”
becomes an “empirical basis” where “people try to make the unexpectable, hence
manageable”; “impose a formal coherence on what is otherwise a flowing soup” i.e. “the
experience is filtered” by “hindsight”; “typically searching for a causal chain”; “the plot
follows either the sequence beginning-middle-end or the sequence situation-
transformation-situation”. In recent years, some critics have moved away from the
retrospective position. For instance, Weick, Sutcliffe, and Obstfeld (2005) suggest that
sensemaking could also be prospective (forward-looking).
Our second proposition is that this mainstream concept of dominant petrified
narrative reflects a notion of enchantment by design, where controlling narratives must be
told from the top of the hierarchy, disenchanting or reenchanting the work place, perhaps
best expressed by Schein when he insists that “the only thing of real importance that
leaders do is to create and manage culture” (1991: 2; author‟s italics).
A key problem is that people learn to experience their living stories as if they
were like the narratives with which they create meaning, with discernible beginnings,
middles, and endings (BME narrative). Sometimes this is to design enchantment, other
times to exorcise it. However this BME narrative only works when there is one authorial
standpoint from which to view all the elements of a situation. The power of dominant
narratives is that they emerge as a matter of survival. Thus, personality emerges in a
person‟s early years as he/she defines how to behave with his/her parents, on whom the
child literally depends for survival (Baskin, 2003); organizational culture emerges as
people in that entity learn how they must behave to succeed in their markets (Baskin,
2008); professional discourses emerge as people in them define how to do their tasks in a
redefined environment (see, for example, Foucault, 1973 on the beginning of modern
medicine). Such narratives can therefore come to be taken for the realities they explain.
Our third proposition: given this survival value, people most often make sense of
events by fitting their antenarratives in the context of their dominant narratives. This is
what Weick (1995) refers to as sensemaking. While this can be a productive strategy in
many cases, understanding it as the only strategy for sensemaking can create obstacles to
exploring the full nature of enchantment/disenchantment/reenchantment.
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In what follows, we explore these propositions of storytelling specifically in the
context of organizations as storied space, and then illustrate our conclusions by citing the
experience of employees in three American hospitals. We will assert that the ability to
live an enchanted work life seems to depend on the ability of people in an organization to
integrate new living antenarrative, especially when the realities they communicate are
disturbing and integration demands that they allow those dominant narratives to evolve.
Organizational enchantment
Consider two comments. In one case, a nurse, explaining the frustration she felt in
working with the hospital‟s doctors, said, “Sometimes I think the doctors are waiting for
me to drop a pen so they can yell at me.” In the other, a mechanic on the floor of a
bottling company warehouse was explaining how much he and his fellow workers
disliked their previous manager, a recently minted MBA, who acted as if no one on the
crew had anything he could learn from. “We got rid of him in six months,” the mechanic
noted with a wink (Baskin, 2005).
The nurse had become disenchanted with her work. She felt objectified and
powerless, the victim of Others who appeared to ignore her, just as her fellow nurses felt.
These nurses, for example, agreed that the hospital‟s chief financial officer (CFO) never
came to their floors to observe; on the other hand, members of the senior executive team
were certain that the CFO made regular visits. Whichever version was “true,” the nurse‟s
feeling of powerlessness, of working in an environment in which she was not a
participant and had little power to affect her surrounding, illustrates the experience of
disenchantment. For the mechanic, however, the workplace was enchanted, if only
because he and his fellow workers experienced the power of being able to get rid of a
manager he described as incompetent. In spite of the objectifying behavior of their
manager, they experienced themselves as full participants in their work life. Like the
nurse, the mechanic was subject to the power of Others; unlike her, he experienced
himself as a powerful participant even in an organizational situation in which he had little
formal power. Both exist in the same “disenchanted” Western culture; yet, different
circumstances leave the nurse in a disenchanted work world, while the mechanic‟s world
is enchanted. Their sense of enchantment/disenchantment, then, is emergent.
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On the other hand, mainstream management theory reflects enchantment by
design or, perhaps more accurately, disenchantment by design, which it aims specifically
to create, by imposing mechanical control. As Morgan (1986) points out, the movement
toward “scientific management” that began with Taylor early in the 20th century has led
to thinking of organizations as machines. Even management theorists who intended to
assist leaders in encouraging organizational “change” discuss organizations as
mechanically integrated entities that must be operated by leaders who stand outside and
decide what must be done. As a result, the vast majority of literature on organizational
culture (Schein, 1991), storytelling (Weick, 1995), and these two together (Czarniawska,
2004), pictures organizations as driven by the dominant historical narratives of
management.
For the co-authors of this essay, managers who want to reenchant organizations
that are disenchanted will profit from understanding both types of enchantment. The
decision to live with a sense of enchantment or disenchantment is personal and emergent.
Some people prefer to live disenchanted, preferring a rule-bound work life, where they
don‟t have to experience the uncertainty of a wonder-full life. Others will live enchanted,
no matter how disenchanted management tries to make their organizations. It seems to us
that most people prefer an enchanted work life, but are capable of living either way and
will respond to the storied spaces in which they find themselves. As a result, while the
dominant narrative of the traditional management discourse emphasizes
control/disenchantment, people in organizations will work very hard to recapture their
sense of meaning, purpose and power in their work.
Some organizations, on the other hand, have evolved dominant narratives that
make them highly likely to be enchanted places to work. Such organizations hire people
who want to participate, train managers to encourage such behavior, and install systems
that support participation. The parade example is 3M, whose dominant narrative invites
employee antenarratives about new products: from 3M executives telling stories about
rebels who pushed products that would eventually become successful, to informal
networks for recruiting help and resources, to rewards and promotions for such initiative.
As a result, the company has a long list of successful products developed informally,
from its first successful product, Wetordry sandpaper, to Post-It notes (Baskin, 1998: 81-
14
83). At 3M, enchantment by design encourages enchantment by emergence. However,
cultures where the encouragement toward enchantment are so thoroughly integrated
across a company are rare. In most cases, the choice to live an enchanted or disenchanted
work life emerges as a result of the dynamics of an organization‟s storied space.
Nursing disenchantment
A particularly poignant example of people striving for an enchanted work life
experience is nursing. The discourse for the nursing profession, after all, insists that
nurses need to be full participants in the care of their patients that is, that they
experience their work places as enchanted. As Benner and Wrubel (1989: 7) note, a
significant part of nursing practice extends beyond providing mere technical care to
“helping people cope with the stress of illness.” Doing so demands that nurses participate
in the condition of their patients. Yet, at the same time, a variety of conditions are making
it increasingly difficult for nurses to experience that caring and participation (Gordon,
2005). Consider several cases from Baskin‟s (2007) study of work groups in three
American hospitals.
In one case, two ICU (intensive care unit) nurses with more than 30 years at one
of the hospitals loved their work, but were troubled at the changes of the last decade.
Taking care of the critically ill, they explained, “requires dedication,” if only because “we
have to be ready to make life and death decisions every day.” As a result, both nurses had
been socialized into an enchanted ICU storied space whose dominant narrative
emphasized intense dedication to patient care. In recent years, however, the conditions in
their storied space had changed so drastically that one of them was faced with the need to
change her personal dominant narrative about being a nurse or retire. In addition to the
pressures of cost-cutting and reduced nurse-to-patient ratios, improvements in technology
meant that their “patients are sicker,” and while the physicians “don‟t want the patients to
die,” the nurses had to “think of their comfort.” “We hurt them all day long to keep them
alive” one explained. They didn‟t even have the support of fellow nurses because the new
generation of nurses was adapting to these new conditions, rather than the old nursing
dominant narrative, and they didn‟t have the time needed to socialize the new nurses to
their narrative. As a result, one nurse was at a crisis point: “I almost have to lower my
expectations of myself. I can‟t get it all done. I have to let things go.” She could no
15
longer enact the dominant nursing narrative by which she had constructed her identity;
she was nearly in tears because she would have to adapt to the new disenchanted
narrative or leave (Baskin: 2007: 6-7).
At a second hospital, a group of nurses from several departments also felt the
powerlessness and detachment characteristic of disenchantment. (The nurse‟s quote
earlier in this paper was made in this group.) All these nurses desired a storied space in
which they could focus on their patients, but found obstacles everywhere. As one noted,
“Everybody [in the hospital] has problems about what we do, but no one supports us.”
Not only were many of the physicians “very negative,” but they insisted that the nurses
deliver bad news that the physicians should have brought, as when a patient fasted the
day before his surgery, only to have the surgery postponed for the next day so that he‟d
have to fast again. Similarly, the nurses felt nearly abandoned by the administration. “All
they care about is keeping those beds warm,” one said. “They don‟t care about the
nursing shortage. They never send notes of appreciation.” These nurses even felt
unsupported by fellow nurses. “Nurses don‟t seem to care,” one said. “They complain but
expect other people to do the work.” Another described “my worst day in years.” Patients
were being discharged and new ones coming in so fast that she was unable to get her
paperwork finished. “Fifteen minutes before the end of the shift, nurses from the next
shift were sitting around watching TV,” she reported. “None of them offered to help me.
They refused to come on the floor until all the „Ts‟ were crossed.” Even their nursing
managers were part of the problem. So when one of the nurses came to her manager with
some problems, she was told, “You‟ll just have to live with it.” The resulting
disenchantment had become so serious that even nurse interns from the local nursing
college weren‟t interested in positions there. In terms of storied space, no one would
listen to their antenarratives; even though they had negotiated a shared narrative of their
work place, no one supported them (Baskin, 2007: 7-8).
Yet at the same hospital, an interview with one nurse stood out as clearly the most
enchanted attitude toward nursing. She had recently been hired into the hospital‟s 18-
month-old birthing center. This job, she explained, was both exciting and challenging:
At first, the nurses who trained me would answer questions, and if I needed help,
they‟d be there. But we have so much to juggle that the nurses were constantly
asking if they could help. I was surprised at how much I could juggle. Then after
16
awhile, conditions would arise where I couldn‟t get help. The new nurses who can
swim under these conditions get respect; the other nurses know that you really
need help when you ask.
In the birthing center, nurses were expected to exercise considerable autonomy, because,
as one manager noted, “things happen so quickly in the unit.” Those who couldn‟t,
including several traditionally trained obstetrics nurses, left. As opposed to the hospital
nurses who were felt so controlled by physicians, birthing center nurses were encouraged
to call on doctors only when they really needed help. These nurses experienced
themselves as empowered participants, fully enchanted. Why, then, did these nurses
experience enchantment while the other nurses at the same hospital felt so disenchanted?
The organizational culture, after all, was the same. As the CEO explained, the
hospital was moving toward a more service-oriented culture in which everyone could feel
respected and therefore respectful to patients. The key difference appears to be that the
disenchanted nurses belonged to storied spaces that had been stable for decades, at a time
when the old medical narrative, which, as Foucault (1973) notes, elevates the
technological knowledge of the doctor far above the care provided by the nurse, was
dominant. Even though management was trying to move a new narrative that balanced
technology and care, the storied space in which the disenchanted nurses worked was still
enacting that old dominant narrative. Nurses in the birthing center, however, operated in a
storied space that was now, after only 18 months, becoming stable. It had been
established with a newer medical narrative, staffed with that narrative in mind, and
operated according to it. The power of this storied space was demonstrated by the trouble
some of the more established physicians were having in a workplace where nurses had so
much autonomy. The contrast between these two groups of nurses illustrates emergent
enchantment, where a person‟s choice reflects multiple circumstances, reflected in their
various storied spaces (Baskin, 2007: 7).
Finally, it‟s important to note people can attain a level of enchantment even in
storied spaces where the dominant narrative drives disenchantment. One group of nurses
in the third hospital were under enormous pressure. This “nursing resources” group
served as a clearinghouse for resolving problems throughout the hospital, a task
complicated because their hospital focused on trauma and indigent patients. As a result,
17
the problems they faced included more than the difficulties of ensuring proper nurse
staffing at a time of patient shortages, but issues ranging from flashers to shootings. In
addition, the nurses perceived hospital administration as indifferent. As one of them
noted, “We‟ve offered our nurses bonuses for coming in when they‟re supposed to be off.
Management is now talking about killing those bonuses. Instead, we‟d bring in agency
nurses. But if you spend that money on your own [people], you make a statement about
their value.”
In spite of these pressures, the group demonstrated a strong sense of unity and
pride; they had to work hard at it, but they still experienced their work place as
enchanted. Many of its members attributed that to their current manager. “She‟s allowed
us to take ourselves off schedule for weekly meetings,” one of them explained. “When
we asked for a retreat, she said OK.” Another added, “We meet once a month, have
dinner, and drink a lot. It really helps to know that once a month I can vent all I want
without repercussions.” As opposed to the disenchanted nurses at the second hospital,
they felt that someone was listening to their antenarratives, supporting them and giving
them the opportunity to negotiate their storied space‟s developing narrative (Baskin,
2007: 8).
The major difference, we believe, between supporting an enchanted or a
disenchanted attitude in the work place is here, in the issue of whether people in a storied
space experience support and encouragement of their antenarratives of ongoing,
sometimes-painful events. Those that feel their antenarratives are listened to and
supported are much more likely to experience the power and sense of participation that
characterizes emergent enchantment. In fact, disenchanted nurses were often bitterest
about managers who “listened” to their antenarratives and then did nothing about them.
With this in mind, we turn to the issue of what management can to encourage an
enchanted attitude.
Encouraging enchantment
Few organizations have cultures like that of 3M, where the storied space evolved
to encourage people to enact their antenarratives. But for managers and executives who
want to encourage their employees to reenchant the work place, at least two options are
possible.
18
The first, and most thorough, option is to thoroughly restructure the existing
culture. Georg Bauer, for instance, took over as CEO of Mercedes-Benz Credit
Corporation, the financing subsidiary of Daimler-Benz of North America, in 1992, when
all the conditions of the market were about to change. His response was to develop an
environment in which employees could restory the culture, recreating its dominant
narrative by negotiating their antenarratives from a position of power and full
participation. To do so, Bauer set up project teams from across the company that
collected an enormous amount of data, much of it in conversation with employees,
customers, and dealers, in effect gathering antenarratives. These teams recommended
ideas for implementing 19 initiatives. Those ideas were then presented to Bauer and his
senior team, which sent all the ideas to a pilot stage to learn if they‟d work. Five years
after beginning this process, Bauer was certain that all of the 19 initiatives had been
implemented successfully. Facing a level playing field for the first time, MBCC
continued to lead its market for financing Daimler Benz products in both market share
and customer and dealer satisfaction, having restoried the company‟s dominant narrative.
Unfortunately, the merger with Chrysler ended this experiment in recreating a storied
space (for a full discussion, see Baskin, 1998: 177-88).
A less extreme alternative is to tweak the organizational culture so that managers
and executives are encouraged to listen to employee antenarrative. This is very different
from the approach taken in most of the literature on storytelling, which insists only that
managers learn to tell the company‟s story (see, for example, Denning, 2001). Our point
is that if management wants its employees to experience an enchanted work life to feel
powerful and participative then it is more important that managers listen to their
people‟s stories. How any organization does so should reflect its dominant narrative so
that it is more likely to be widely accepted. For example, the CEO could simply begin
listening to the antenarratives of people around the company, making sure to get back to
them to explain how she had followed up. Or it might be effective to have periodic “story
inventories,” where a team from the organization or a consultant could schedule
interviews with a wide variety of work groups. Again, it‟s critical to keep people
informed about what management learns and what it plans to do about it. However, the
way to encourage people to feel like full participants is to treat them that way.
19
The desire for an enchanted work life is, as noted earlier, not universal. A person
in accounting, for instance, seems likely to need less of a feeling of power and full
participation than one in, say, marketing. Yet, in markets that are changing as rapidly and
are as competitive as ours today, a workforce that experiences enchantment can
contribute at a higher, more fully involved level. To create that sense of power and
participation demands developing the feeling that the organization‟s storied spaces are
open to anyone who wants to participate. And the best way to open those spaces is for
management to listen and then offer the feedback that allows people to realize that the
organization‟s storied spaces are shared by everyone in it.
Discussion and Conclusions
We proposed a typology of enchantment approaches that are related to
storytelling practices in organizations: enchantment by design and enchantment by
emergence. We explored this in the hospital setting. We found that three aspects about
enchantment: that the narrative-form, rooted in classical structuralism and modernity has
resulted in the abstraction and erasure of enchantment from hospital practice. Second,
despite such narrative-form, organizations, such as hospitals we studied, were never
disenchanted because enchantment resides in many living storied spaces. Finally, the
findings point to the varied forms of so-called „enchantment‟ and „disenchantment‟ are
taking in organization action and its storytelling.
Our first proposition was that storied spaces of the hospital are in interplay
with dominant narratives (e.g. national culture, fixed or petrified accounts of past
events) and antenarratives people tell of emergent phenomena. Our second
proposition explored how dominant petrified narrative reflects a notion of enchantment
by design, where controlling narratives must be told from the top of the hierarchy,
disenchanting or reenchanting the work place. Finally, our third proposition looked at
survival value, how people most often make sense of events by fitting their antenarratives
in the context of their dominant narratives.
20
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... This symbolic behavior regarding the treatment of employees seems destined to show EDP as an enchanted place to work, as evidenced in the below excerpts. Indeed, storytelling can encourage enchantment in relations between organizations and their environment (Boje and Baskin, 2011). The device of enumeration ("family," "personal" and "professional lives") seems directed to give readers a clear sense that EDP has an active role in helping employees balance family and work demands: ...
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Purpose This paper aims to explore the role of storytelling and impression management (IM) through the president’s letter in legitimizing the practices of an electricity company with regard to controversial issues during a period of change. Design/methodology/approach Drawing on a qualitative case study, this paper examines annual report letters from 1995 to 2013 using a methodological interpretative approach. Findings By promoting a success story using IM, the presidents give sense to particular actions related with controversial issues and attempt to influence expectations on strategic changes. The findings demonstrate that organizational actors use the flexibility of the president’s letter to tell the story and emphasize its self-laudatory nature. The study highlights that storytelling in these documents can be used to alleviate the tensions created by the inherent contradictions of social structures. Practical implications This research is useful for regulatory authorities, users of annual reports and academic researchers, making them attentive of the narratives companies may adopt to protect their legitimacy. The findings shed light on the need to evaluate the credibility of accountability mechanisms and can help stakeholders to develop a more critical view of the president’s letter. Originality/value This paper makes a contribution to research on communication issues by expanding literature on accounting and organizational storytelling. By demonstrating how presidents use sensegiving as a means of legitimacy-claiming, this study adds to the literature on legitimating accounts. In doing so, this paper bridges the gap between theories about organizational legitimacy, storytelling and IM. To sum up, the findings serve as an incremental step toward understanding the nature of accountability reporting.
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Enchanting work is a polysemic term that can account for multiple interpretations. It can be defined as a feeling of being connected in an affirmative way to existence. In organizational terms, enchanted workplaces are places of wonder that allow people to be active agents, who can impact on their environment, find meaning in their work, and flourish. In this context, enchantment has been operationalized in organizational and managerial literature in a variety of ways, including being resourceful, happy, resilient, passionate, motivated, or healthy at work, among others. The main purpose of this special issue was to highlight those elements that may promote enchanting work environments, and the processes through which (re-)enchantment may be achieved. Also, we were interested in understanding re-enchantment as an internal process. JEL CLASSIFICATION: M50
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