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The Storytelling Organization: A Study of Story Performance in an Office- Supply Firm

David M. Boje
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 36, No. 1 (Mar., 1991), pp. 106-126
DOI: 10.2307/2393432
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393432
Page Count: 21
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The Storytelling Organization: A Study of Story Performance in an Office- Supply Firm
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Abstract

This paper reports on a participant-observation study in a large office-supply firm of how people perform stories to make sense of events, introduce change, and gain political advantage during their conversations. The story was not found to be a highly agreed-upon text, told from beginning to end, as it has been studied in most prior story research. Rather, the stories were dynamic, varied by context, and were sometimes terse, requiring the hearer to fill in silently major chunks of story line, context, and implication. Stories were frequently challenged, reinterpreted, and revised by the hearers as they unfolded in conversation. The paper supports a theory of organization as a collective storytelling system in which the performance of stories is a key part of members' sense making and a means to allow them to supplement individual memories with institutional memory.

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