David M. Boje
This is material for a proposed book on Storytelling Organization Survival Manual: Theory and Practice
Stories can be prisons. Once we are inscribed in stories, characterizations and live out its plot lines, we get enmeshed with other folks who expect us to act, talk, and walk a certain way. In the family we have certain roles to play, certain scripts that get acted out over and over again. Some stories are absolutely addictive and we get hooked on playing our characters and waiting for that climatic moment when we get to play our favorite scene. Stories and storytelling can become part of the panoptic gaze and the hegemony of power. What, then, is a story? And what does it mean ‘to follow’ a story?”
Michel Foucault defined the panoptic gaze as a bultiple, automatic, continuous, hierarchical, and anonymous power functioning in a network of relations from top to bottom, from bottom to top, as well as laterally, to hold an enterprise together (Boje, 1995: 1027).
How does panoptic gaze relate to storytelling? Today's enterprises applaud flat structures with few layers of management, yet there is still control. Through a variety of dispersed and multiple panoptic mechanisms, some digital and others face-to-face, stories are gathered to construct our personnel records. There are for example, meetings in which committees and review teams monitor, assess, classify, and normalize our story. Our story is observed and rated to see if we fit into the preferred story of the disciplined employee. Deviations and differences are noted in our records. There are ways that our personal story becomes the subject of surveillance. This networking of story assessment mechanisms turns panoptic when we do not quite know for sure if our story is being gazed and evaluated or not. The panoptic gaze has entered an era of web-electronics and soon to arrive ---> undetected gene-surveillance. The iron prison cells are know digital bars. And the same three criteria apply (Summarizing Foucault 1977: 218):
1. To obtain the exercise of power at the lowest possible cost, including arousing as little resistance as possible
2. To bring the docility effects of social power to maximum intensity and extend it as far as possible without interval
3. To link the economic growth of power with the output of disciplinary apparatuses in education, military, industry, and medicine within which it is exercises.
For fifteen years I have written about what I call the “Storytelling Organization.” Every workplace, school, government office or local religious group is a Storytelling Organization. Every organization, from a simple office supply or your local choral company, your local McDonald’s, to the more glamorous organizations such as Disney or Nike, and the more scandalous such as Enron or Arthur Anderson is a Storytelling Organization. Obviously the glamorous entertainment companies such as Nike, Disney, and even McDonald’s are Storytelling Organizations. But, think about it, so are the less glamorous, less boisterous, ones like your hardware store, your building contractor, your realty company. They all live and die by the stories they tell. Where you work, you become known as your story, become promoted and fired for your story. It is not always the story you want told, and there are ways to change that story. I will tell a few stories that at the time were an embarrassment, some I kept secret for years. You know these kinds of stories, because you have your own hidden stories. The organization where you work tells stories to craft its identity, shape its history, sell the story behind its product, or makes stories the product. It also hides stories. Every organization is in a struggle for dominance with stories told by competitors, factions in the organization, and perhaps by growing legions of activists who post their contrary stories on the Worldwide Web. Life in storyland is not always glamorous, not always fun, not some kind of romantic comedy. Little is known about the workings of the big picture, about how Storytelling Organizations work, how they respond to their environment, and how to change them and how to survive them? Less is known about the insider’s view of the storytelling organization, or the Theatre of Everyday Life.
In sharing my stories of the Storytelling Organization, I hope to persuade you that this stuff goes on in your own life, even if you don’t work for Nike, Disney or Harley-Davidson. When you can see the storytelling as systemic, you can begin to intervene to manage and change that system, and you can restory. Restory is a way understand how a dominant storyline can grip your life, and how to break away to develop a new story. People and organizations are restorying all the time, whether they plan to or not. Organizations survive or perish by their stories, by understanding their storied environment, and by getting proactive about one’s own story. In that way this book is a Storytelling Organization Survival Guide.
Some key features of the Storytelling Organization from a play called “Tamara” written by John Krizanc.  Attend the usual play, and you are ushered into a room with rows of seats, to watch performers in an elevated stage. Organizations are not like this kind of theatre. We rarely assemble everyone in the organization in one time and one place to be witness to all the stories told spotlighted on a center stage. We instead go about our daily lives, in smaller gatherings, knowing that others are meeting elsewhere without us. Organizations are like the Tamara play.  There is no ballroom seating, you move form room to room, there is simultaneous performance in different rooms, and you must choose which room to enter, knowing you cannot see the whole Storytelling Organization. In Tamara theatre, the audience enters a room without seats, and a maid begins to dust a statue, while an aristocratic looking couple initiates conversation. The maid and the aristocrats exit to another floor; the maid heads down to basement, to the kitchen; at the same time, the aristocrats head up stairs to the bedroom suites. The audience has a dilemma, whom to follow. Some decide quickly and literally run after the maid or the aristocrats. Others take their time, but in just a few moments the audience makes it choice and the play is underway. As the play continues, there is a dinner break and people crowd around the tables to make sense of what went on in the rooms they attended, and to hear stories of what went on in other rooms. Stories become the sensemaking currency, the topic of conversation. One gets a very different impression of the play, depending upon the sequence of room choices that are made, and the connections made at dinner with spectators to other rooms in the Tamara. This fragmented, networking of audience groups chasing actors and storylines, from room to room, floor to floor, and scene to scene is the way I look at organization life.
What is distinctive about the work is that from the Tamara play three key elements the Storytelling Organization can be derived. First, there is fragmentation. The audience fragments, the action moves between rooms, the task of the story inquirer is to knit the fragments together into their own storyline. Instead of stories being these dead objects, with beginnings, middles, and ends, the story is all in fragments, and the fragmenting, reassembling, networking audiences pulls the bits together in individual passage points (paths through the Tamara). Second, story sharing and story soliciting are essential to the integration of the organization. Since we cannot be in all the rooms at the same time, we share and solicit stories. From this we build our sense of the whole, while we consummate the whole. Third, in Tamara the personality facets of each of the characters shift as they move from room to room. It is more than telling the story differently to each new room of actors and spectators; we learn that each character has their secrets, and as more is revealed, we learn they masquerade; they are not always who they appear to be if one takes in only the one room of story performances. For example, a chauffer is masquerading and is actually an aristocrat, but later we learn that his sworn love to the maid, may be a ruse to gather information because this chauffer pretending to be a chauffer is also a spy (but for whom?). These three elements are unique themes of the book: (1) time-space dispersion of fragmenting, audience, (2) networking stories through sharing and soliciting, and (3) the shifts in dramatis personae.
The Narrative - antenarrative Debate -
Previous work - In previous work, my colleagues and I developed the theory of the “storytelling organization.” I would like to translate the theory into practical implications for anyone working in organizations. Storytelling organization theory, research, and consulting practice began with the idea that stories are situated within systems of communication and relationship. A storytelling organization is constantly adding stories to its collective memory bank, while deleting stories or just forgetting some by choice or attrition. Each new event sets off vibratory energy dynamics into collective memory of storytelling organizations. Each new event sets of revisions and transformations to collective memory, to story space. Old stories linger on obstinately, antenarratives (pre-stories) seek to gain a foot hold, but many old stories cannot be swept away. In this way collective memory evolves. While the individual can change their inner life story through meditation and narrative therapy, transforming the life story of a storytelling organization is a different level of analysis. Work by Epson and White on restorying, for example asserts that to change a family member’s story, the entire family system must be the object of therapy and analysis. Restorying work has been applied to the organization level by Barry and Elmes, and my partner, Rosile. We can say that whatever the storytelling organization experiences is a reflection of what antenarratives it broadcasts and what gets taken to be official stories. The stories in collective memory, the stories broadcast in ads, the stories shared in training, succession, and in crises – are all a reflection of narrative identity.
The Debate - There are three main players in organization and storytelling work: Yannis Gabriel (2000), Barbara Czarniawska (1997) and myself, David Boje (2001). We have important paradigm differences.
Gabriel thinks my terse stories and my fragmented antenarratives are not “proper” stories. Czarniawska, like so many others (e.g. Russian Formalism) privileges narrative over story. “I shall argue not all narratives are stories; in particular, factual or descriptive accounts of events that aspire at objectivity rather than emotional effect must not be treated as stories” (Gabriel 2000: 5). Gabriel (2000) in his book, defines “narrative” as having “plots and characters, generating emotion in narrator and audience, through a poetic elaboration of symbolic material” – Gabriel (2000: 239). I take the approach that narratives can be “the fragmented, non-linear, incoherent, collective, unplotted and pre-narrative speculation, a bet” – Boje (2001: 1), or what I term the “antenarrative.” Gabriel and Boje want to privilege story theory over narrative; Czarniawska does the opposite. In sum, the three leaders in the field of storytelling and organization disagree over what is a proper story, and whether story is a subset of narrative, or narrating fits under storytelling. Here are my views:
Story is an account of incidents or events, but narrative comes after and adds ‘plot’ and ‘coherence’ to the story line. (Boje, 2001: 1, UK punctuation in original)
“A terse telling is an abbreviated and succinct simplification of the story in which parts of the plot, some of the characters, and segments of the sequence of events are left to the hearer's imagination” (Boje, 1991)
Stories are systemic and to change them requires a change in the system of storytelling itself (Rosile & Boje, 2002).
I think the little stories are more important than the well-crafted coherent stories. I created the term “antenarrative” to capture the idea of a pre-story; a bet that a story could be told that would change the very system of storytelling in an organization. Antenarrative, and terse story (defined as a coded telling of a story, with much of the story left out, or left between the lines), according to my worthy colleagues, lack the power to narrate, and is not artistic. Yet, these improper forms do create actionable knowledge in organizations. For example, Gabriel (2000) finds my approach to storytelling with its focus on fragmented, networking terse stories to be anemic.
One suspects that Boje is driven to this conclusion because his commitment to viewing organizations as storytelling systems does not square with the anaemic quality of the stories he collected. Yet, in taking this extreme position (and the strength of Boje’s argument lies in its extremism), Boje loses the very qualities that he cherishes in stories, performativity, memorableness, ingenuity, and symbolism (Gabriel, 2000: 20, boldness is mine).
Gabriel (2000: 20) adds that my storytelling approach (terse tellings) is not an “integrated piece of narrative with a full plot and a complete cast of characters; instead they exist in a state of continuous flux, fragments, allusions, as people contribute bits, often talking together (Boje, 1991: 12-13).” I agree that I am committed to viewing storytelling in storytelling systems, and I intend to explore that terrain in this project.
Here is the relevance of all this to the book I propose: I think there is an answer: that in a storytelling organization system, there are full-blown coherent narratives that meet Gabriel and Czarniawska’s criteria for proper story/narrative, and there are antenarratives and terse performances that meet my own. Why not see them as dancing together in what I am calling the “Storytelling Organization.” Those of us working on the antenarrative project have asserted they have trajectories that are non-linear, a telling that is incoherent and collectively accomplished. In short, a very improper storytelling, yet one that has actionable knowledge consequences. The non-linear antenarratives compete with linear (coherent) narratives. For each official story, there is a set of counter-stories or antenarratives; together these are constitutive of the whole system of the Storytelling Organization. Survival is a matter of knowing which is which.
At least one philosopher concurs. For example, Bruno Latour (1996: 118) argues there is a difference between the linear narrative diffusion model (narratives that erupt fully formed in the mind of Zeus) and the non-linear whirlwind model of what we call antenarrative. Looking at both models in the same story space of complex organization is a collaborative way to proceed.
The Antenarrative Position - There is, for me, a fascinating world of storytelling that includes narrating and antenarrating. To me, in the subterranean of the messy antenarratives, with their fits and starts, and untidiness there are what Bakhtin (1973: 45) calls the “fabric of the story.” Storytelling can be studied from several different points of view, by the narrativists (topping story with narrative coherency), the storytelling purists (where only the artistically-crafted story counts), and by the antenarrativists (where pre-storied complexity resides). I think we all agree that, storytelling, narrating, and antenarrating need to be studied in situ (in context). This book provides examples from the best known organizations and from everyday life to make this case. What follows is a brief look at the lesser known of the three approaches, the antenarrative work done since I invented the concept.
Barge (2002) takes an antenarrative approach to organizational communication and managerial practice by focusing attention on ways people manage the multi-voiced nonlinear character of organizational life. Antenarrative, for example, says Barge (2002: 7) “requires managers to recognize the multiplicity of stories living and being told in organizations.” He gives examples of the managerial practice in the Kensington Consultation Centre in London.
Vickers (2002: 2-3), for example, looks at how “postmodern antenarratives encourage the possibility that there may be no story to tell, only fragments that may never come together coherently. She combines Heideggerian phenomenology with an antenarrative exploration multi-voiced ways of telling stories, of putting fragments together. She conducts in-depth interviews of people whose lives were shattered by chronic illness and suffering, and uses antenarratives to present what does not fit into coherence narratives.
Dalcher and Drevin (2003), for example, are studying software failures in information systems using narrative and antenarrative methods. On the one hand, “failure storytelling can be understood as a narrative recounting with the unlocking of patterns or a plot” (Dalcher & Drevin, 2003: 140). A more antenarrative process focuses on how “the reality in failure stories is of multi-stranded stories of experiences and reactions that lack collective consensus” (p. 141). During lack of collective consensus, there are more disparate accounts and perspectives, where webs of narrative and antenarrative work things out.
We (Boje and Rosile, 2003) studied the antenarrative bets made about Enron, sorting out their causal texture. The approach was to recover the antenarrative circumstances of causal assertions by tracing shifting intertextual and inter-plot linkages. Was it Fastow, Skilling or Lay, or do we put the blame on general greed and hubris, or say it was those evil corporations, something about Enrongate, or what we teach in the Business College.
We (Boje and Rosile, 2004) continued the exploration of Enron. This time we looked at antenarratives as the clash of Aristotle’s epic and more tragic narrative poetics. Antenarratives are highly interactive, constituting and constructing evolving and shifting patterns of prestory connections that territorialize, deterritorialize, and reterritorialize (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) an emergent labyrinth that can veer out of collective authorial control.
Antenarratives, they argue, become part of Enron’s facade, and they become ways to unmask that facade, to resist narrow tragic narration. Enron made the antenarrative bluff that Washington politicians, business professors, and Wall Street analysts would not be able to distinguish between fiction and real. Antenarrative plays a special role in the emergent oscillating, contending, and morphing labyrinth of Enron SPEs, and in their unraveling.
I am interested in the dynamic processes between narrative and antenarrative. Narrative and antenarrative are the two faces of Janus. Let me summarize the key theory points in Table 1 and move on to the practical story book review.
Table 1: Ante-propositions about Story Space Dynamics
The Practical Books and related works on Storytelling and Organization.
There is always a shelf full of practical storytelling books in any bookstore, but they have missed the mark. Unlike the books (reviewed in part “A”) above, the practice book authors make assumptions about stories that are not born out in the research on how stories get told in organizations. The common error is assuming stories are wholes; the further assume that stories have beginnings, middles, and ends and are told with coherence, like the lady reading stories to children during story hour. Rather than one coherent story defining organization experience, I have argued that there is a fragmented weave of contesting story themes, plots, and styles. This weave is one the move, ever-changing and re-arranging is the essence of the Storytelling Organization.
The problem with practical storytelling books (Allan, Fairtlough, & Heinzen, 2001; Denning, 2002; Gargiulo, 2002, and so forth) is that they are naïve. On the one hand they purport to be about practical storytelling reality; on the other hand they are not grounded in the reality of storytelling in organizational context. One should avoid the advice of these story practice books, for they do not describe or theorize the living story or storytelling in its systemic context. Let me give some examples.
Let me say something positive. Storytelling practice work has come a long way since the 1980s and 1990s when Tom Peters recommended CEOs learn three minute stump speeches, to spur employees onto to greater acts of customer service and quality (Peters & Waterman, 1982). For example,David M. Armstrong, president and CEO of a 100-year-old maker of steam, air and water systems, sent me a pre-publication copy of his book (1992) where he systematically collected an arsenal of customer service stories that he used to train employees. Armstrong’s (2002) latest book is entitled ''Chief Storytelling Officer: More Tales from America's Foremost Corporate Storyteller.'' Peters wrote on the jacket of the book, 'David Armstrong has elevated storytelling into a quasi-science,'' Peters wrote about Armstrong. ''The wild and wooly marketplace is so demanding that we burn the policy manuals and knock off the incessant memo writing."Peters and Armstrong quickly emerged as proponents of the managerialist approach to ‘corporate storytelling.’ This lite side of storytelling organization work has many adherents.
For example, stories can not be just made up as ‘springboards’ (Denning, 2001). Springboard stories exploit tacit knowledge so that listeners will reinvent the knowledge in their own local contexts (Denning, 2002: x). Storytelling is not just an isolated crafted performance to broadcast a transformative CEO character or disseminate a managerialist (managerialist means from the perspective of management only) idea for corporate control. Rather, storytelling has its own dynamic qualities. Making stories (Gargiulo, 2002) that empower CEOs (and other speakers) needs more than just good storytelling skills; it requires a grasp of the systemic qualities of context.
Storytelling just degenerates and dies in these presentations because the books fail to deal with the concrete systematicness of storytelling in context. Ripping story out of context, tidying put story practices becomes a vacuous approach, one that can without exaggeration be called arbitrary, arrogant, and naïve. Where story is separated from the living performance context, and rendered into abstract typology dimensions for methodological advice, the result is the same: story is killed. Storytelling is tidied up, rendered artistically-valuable by classification into romantic, comedic, satiric, and tragic choice à but there is not one ounce of life left in the story.
An alternative approach is to treat storytelling as a socioeconomic act of performance, crossing organizational boundaries, interacting everywhere with context, and indeterminately consummating systemicalness. While story is compositional, its form is also interactive and interdeterminate with system and environment activity, and an organization’s historical becoming. It is absurd to begin an aesthetic system of storytelling by positing a formal construction to story, for their dead (archetype) typification. Storytelling does not respect such boundaries, so it is absurd to begin story inquiry from this dead end. Yet, this is what is being packages in the story practice books (e.g. (Allan, Fairtlough, & Heinzen, 2001; Denning, 2002; Gargiulo, 2002, and so forth).
There is a second genre of practice books. These books promote storytelling as the repository of tacit knowledge. The idea is that such stories can be captured and preserved in datasets, and with the proper software, knowledge can be retrieved to use by the knowledge workers, and controlled by the knowledge managers, to produce what is called the “Knowledge Organization.” While I agree that storytelling systems are part of an organization’s collective memory, the assumptions about story are quite naïve. First, the story itself garners its meaning in the context of its performance. Second, that performance is the storyteller leaving aspects of the story unsaid, and the story listener filling in the gaps with their own knowledge and experience. Third, the storytelling event is intertextual to past knowledge of symbols, language, and indexical episodes being storied. Fourth, when people are prompted to tell a story, they craft one that is different from the story they would tell in the context of daily performance. Fifth, the collective memory of a Storytelling Organization is constantly being restoried, amended and its stories rehistoricized to fit the current values and ideologies of the participants. Finally, the task of retrieving and storing and then constantly updating stories so they could be fed to knowledge workers is a task that would bust the gut of most university research computer centers. Yet, despite these shortcomings, the knowledge management approach to stories is exceedingly popular and gaining wider audiences in the story consulting industry.
For example, I found our from a story consultant working with NASA, that they believe that one-third of their system knowledge has disappeared. They are collecting older-time and retiree stories in order to recapture that knowledge, to make it retrievable. In this way, the knowledge is harvested from the mind of the workers and technicians, and inserted into the management information system.
One of the premier purveyors of the knowledge assets side of storytelling organization is the ‘knowledge management’ storytelling consulting work of Dave Snowden. He thinks he has discovered that a main “secret ingredients could well be story-telling,” stating that “Narrative… allows companies to tap a bigger amount of tacit knowledge because people learn best through story-telling”[i] Previously the European director of IBM's Institute of Knowledge Management, Snowden is now director of a non-profit organization in IBM called Cynefin Centre. Cynefin is a global network of so-called experts in storytelling, narrative and qualitative analytic approaches from anthropology, psychology, and theology, as well as experts from government agencies and industrial firms. Software and hardware are used to retrieve story bits, at the right time, and get them to the knowledge worker who can apply them in ways that give a firm its competitive edge.
Snowden’s Cynefin Centre (IBM) uses the tacit-knowledge story fragments that can be extracted and retrieved from ‘knowledge conversations’ and the knowledge applied where needed in the system. He views this as a second generation way to replace a first generation focus on timely information provision for managerialist decision support rooted in business process reengineering (BPR) initiatives, which failed to deliver on its promised benefits (Snowden, 2002). And the third generation, Snowden (2002: 2), says, is the use of story of knowledge creation and knowledge disruption:
[It] requires the clear separation of context, narrative and content management and challenges the orthodoxy of scientific management. Complex adaptive systems theory is used to create a sense-making model that utilizes self-organizing capabilities of the informal communities and identifies a natural flow model of knowledge creation, disruption and utilization.
Snowden became interested in storytelling when his IBM colleagues sent him email in 1999 about Shaw et al, (1998) working at 3M, whose article made storytelling fashionable. Shaw. Brown and Bromiley (1998) draw a practical link between the basic principles of narrative flow, setting the stage, introducing dramatic conflict, reaching a resolution, and the process of strategy formation and elucidation. Snowden sought to codify esoteric and tacit story knowledge using solicitation questions that could be analytically translated into levels of abstraction. Snowden adapted Polanyi (1974) work on tacit knowledge to Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) four-part SECI model (socialization, externalization, combination, & internalization). The idea was to develop a technology to make storied-tacit knowledge tacit knowledge. Snowden (2002) criticized Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) early work for being dualistic (tacit or explicit), rather than dialectic (tacit opposed by explicit) -- as in Nonaka and Takenchi (1998). Their later word used the Japanese word “Ba” as a way to look at “shared space for emerging relationships” (Snowden, 2002: 5). Nonaka and Takenchi’s (1998) use of the term small space with emergent, recalled for Snowden, Boisot’s (1995, 1998) work on abstract (knowledge) spaces. Boisot (1998) argues that personal tacit knowledge (taken to be stories of the workers & technicians) can be rendered into proprietary-explicit knowledge (used in computer retrieval systems of an organization) and can become publicly explicit knowledge (such as distributed in books and Internet), which people read to become publicly shared (common sense) knowledge. The model is appropriated in story consulting (& knowledge-story consulting) work in ways that do not hold up. As reviewed above, stories are not so easy to retrieve, the stories of workers are experientially conceived, and extracting that knowledge would make the workers obsolete, and their craft can be downsized or outsourced (again a highly managerialist and one could say exploitative perspective).
Snowden’s (2002:8) model is not only managerialist, it is hierarchical and linear, “Expert communities resent any knowledge below the lower level as it involves reengaging in a level of conversation which they have passed some time ago – they will visit to teach, but not to collaborate.” Snowden (2002: 12) summaries,
The ability to convey high levels of complexity through story lies in the highly abstract nature of the symbol associations in the observer’s mind when she/he hears the story. It triggers ideas, concepts, values and beliefs at an emotional and intellectual level simultaneously. A critical mass of such anecdotal material from a cohesive community can be used to identify and codify simple rules and values that underlie the reality of that organization’s culture,”
Stories are collected in what Snowden calls “story circles,” which he describes as a knowledge mapping exercise, a quite low-cost way to gather the “‘unofficial’ elements of knowledge within an organization.”[ii] I am critical of the approach because it does not respect the knowledge property rights of workers, and assumes that such story extraction is a straight forward routine activity. The story fragments are then to be entered into a computerized database.
Whereas Tamara is the dialectic between official and marginal story, the Snoden facilitators are trained to be on the alert for participants who, engaged in ‘spinning’ get into story battles and forget the official history. Unofficial stories are also gathered, in responses to facilitators’ prompts; what would happen if questions. The facilitator begins to analyze the story fragments, converting them to abstract archetypes, then checking to see how well the group identifies their stories with those archetypes. People in the focus groups get so immersed in the story-sharing they forget they are being videotaped, that their knowledge is being made systemic, and that asset value is being eroded.
Snowden and his associate, Denning, conduct an “Organizational Storytelling and narrative Patterns” story elicitation and analysis master class for managers and executives.[iii] Participants learn how to assess tacit knowledge (stories) with archetypes, manage differences between official stated knowledge and the ‘shadow organization’ of informal knowledge. And Denning (2002) includes sessions on how to create and perform springboard stories. They end with how to create and exploit narrative databases for major corporations, military, and other government agencies.
There is one approach to this knowledge capture and retrial work, that while not the topic of the book proposed, is relevant to this overall review. In the field of national Homeland Security, the approach is to use stories as surveillance. To use electronic surveillance apparatus to tap phones, email, blogs, and list serves in order to search for stories, more accurately stories that terrorists might tell.
What I call story-capturing and story-spinning technologies are being applied to social surveillance, propaganda, and overall control in proposed ‘Storytelling Organizations.’
The ‘Homeland Security act’ gave rise to what I call a ‘Storytelling Organization’ project, one that captures story using email, cell phone, and other conversational snooping, with the aid of artificial intelligence seeks to discern story patterns (archetypes) that affect national security. The results are then use to put story to a propaganda-use. The idea is to influence public opinion with shrewdly constructed stories that government officials can use for social control. This new ‘Storytelling Organization’ is an agency, straight out of Orwell’s 1984; it is called the “Directorate for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection.” The idea is to use a variety of technologies of surveillance combined into massive database to build an “electronic dossier” on U.S. citizens and anyone who visits the U.S. The technology is called “Lifelog” part of the “Defense Advanced Research Project Agency” (DARPA) that gathers every conceivable voice and text element of a person’s life into a database, where narrative threads trace human relationships and experiences, and analysts weave these bits into storytelling using narrative persuasion techniques to communicate their analysis to policy makers. According to the Total Information Awareness Office (in 2002) a 150 page document, converting surveillance traces into story has several advantages: [iv] This is how story and storytelling are conceived in these surveillance projects:
Conveying information in a story provides a rich context, remaining in the conscious memory longer and creating more memory traces than decontextualized information. Thus, a story is more likely to be acted upon than “normal” means of communication. Storytelling, whether in a personal or organizational setting, connects people, develops creativity, and increases confidence. The use of stories in organizations can build descriptive capabilities, increase organizational learning, convey complex meaning, and communicate common values and rule sets (p. 21).
As an organizational storytelling theorist, these past twenty-five years, I find the use of artificial intelligence to glean text and voice traces from internet, email, phone calls, credit cards and other sources dumped into a massive interagency database, and then distilled into stories that can be spun to the public to be quite intriguing, and just a little bit frightening. It raises ethical issues about privacy, surveillance, and the potential for major abuses of power.
Even if the computer software and storage/retrieval technology is not now capable of achieving its surveillance goals, the ‘Total Information Awareness’ program, formerly headed by John Poindexter, the Pentagon and other agencies would be monitoring the phone calls, email and huge amounts of other items such as passports, visas, work permits, airline tickets, rental car use, credit card receipts, gun purchases, and chemical purchases of U.S. citizens.[v] The specter of such total surveillance, though not implemented presently, serves to strike fear into people who would otherwise be free to question their government. It succeed in keeping more people in line, fearing their name will appear on a list that could affect their ability to get on an airplane, or even cost them their job. DARPA’s (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and Information Awareness office (IAO) has a mission: It…
“will imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness useful for preemption; national security warning; and national security decision making."[vi]
Storytelling surveillance is at the heart of this initiative. Fortunately, in my view, Congress eliminated all funding for the Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) data-mining program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and shut down the DARPA Information Awareness Office, TIA's parent entity that was formerly headed by Admiral John Poindexter. While TIA and DARPA are not funded, there is a parallel, “U.S. intelligence” agency, known as "Novel Intelligence from Massive Data" (NIMD), part of the Community Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) taking over these activities. So TIA becomes NIMDA, and DARPA is ARDA.[vii]
There are exceptions to this genre; two we shall review here are the work of two of my colleagues, Michael Kaye and Theodore Taptiklis. I am more persuaded by Michael Kaye’s (1996) work on the importance of story listening skills in the in situ communicative process spaces of the Storytelling Organization. His book is based upon my earlier empirical work published in Administrative Science Quarterly. Kaye says:
… Stories can shape the culture of organizations. Through stories and myths, we can form images of the organization and judge whether it is healthy or ailing. They tell us about the people who are saving the organization and those who are bringing it down…myths support rituals, communicate values and help leaders envisage the future (Kaye, 1996: 63).
He takes a more balanced view (than what we reviewed thus far). Instead of a CEO stump speech or steering story, Toast Master story skills, Kaye’s approach is more both more practical and more dynamic than the practice books already reviewed. Kaye argues that making up a good story, does not change the on-going dynamics of the Storytelling Organization. Stories are contextual; decontextualized stories are not transformational, and cannot be so easily stored in the organizations computer information system. Stories and myths are part of history, part of the on-going sensemaking of the organization, and in constant rehistorization. Kaye dies some years back of cancer, but had a thriving Storytelling Organization consulting and training practice in Australia, which is wife now continues.
Theodore Taptiklis is a former McKinsey consultant, where Tom Peters got his start. In 1990, Mr. Taptiklis was recruited by the mutual insurance industry. Working in that environment, Taptiklis also developed a story consulting approach that looked that storytelling ownership rights, and the ongoing opposition of alternative stakeholders in a storytelling system. In 2000, he began work on oral presentation software called “StoryMaker.” This software would serve as a competitor to Groupware, NVIVO, and Ethnograph for researchers. And in corporate and government consulting, as an alternative to the kinds of tacit knowledge ot institutional knowledge conversion/retrieval schemes we have reviewed thus far. The competitive advantage is that “StoryMaker” is a mobile voice recording, retrieval, and presentation software platform. It preserves the oral performance of the story, provides for ownership rights to each story (the ability to control the dissemination of the story & pull it from circulation), and is sensitive to the ongoing revision to organizational history.
I can sum up my critique in one sentence: the story practice books (except for Kaye) I have seen are not about storytelling reality. In short, these books kill stories and storytelling. I take the view that story is alive in a socioeconomic world (as in Taptiklis’ approach). Storytelling is performed in life already systematic, and changes that systematic order, including the social and economic actions and values. I am inspired by Bakhtin’s observation (1991: 274-275), no storytelling act “has anything to do with completely random and unordered matter that is completely indifferent to value.” One has to choose between totally managerialist and surveillance initiatives we reviewed and the more balanced approaches that take story rights and story ethics into account. In many of the approaches we reviewed (both in academic and practice treatments) rather than being endemic to every aspect of order and system, story is reduced to cognitive or metaphoric (archetypal) typification. The answers presented are too simplistic, too disjointed from the delicate process of story formation, storied memory, and restorying that I would like to write about in the proposed book. My preference is to focus on the verbal art of storytelling as a constituent of wider socioeconomic reality, and trace how stories cross boundaries, and I prefer not to put storytelling into some demarcated or caged territory or make stories told a subject of surveillance and managerialist control.
References used in Prospectus
Armstrong, D. M. (1992). Managing by Storying Around: A New Method of Leadership. NY: Doubleday
Armstrong, D. M. (2002). Chief Storytelling Officer: More Tales from America's Foremost Corporate Storyteller.
Barge, Kevin J. 2002. Antenarrative and managerial practice. Working Paper, University of Georgia. Accepted for publication in revised form at Communication Studies.
Bakhtin, M. 1981. The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M. M. Bakhtin (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Bakhtin, M. 1984. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (C. Emerson, Ed. & Trans.). Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
Bakhtin, M. 1986. Speech genres and other late essays (C. Emerson, trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bakhtin, M. 1990. Art and Answerability: Early Philosphical Essays. Edits by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov. Translated and notes by Vadim Laipuna; supplement translated by Kenneth Brostrom. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Barry, David & Michael Elmes (1997). "Strategy retold: Toward a narrative view of strategic discourse." Academy of Management Review, 22(2) 429-452. Applied in general theory to strategic change.
Baskini, Ken. 2004. Storytelling and the complex epistemology of organizations. Chapter for Managing the Complex, Vol. 1.
Boal, Augusto 1979. Theatre of the Oppressed. Translation by Charles A. & Maria-Odillia Leal McBride. Originally published in Spanish as Teatro de Oprimido in 1974. NY: Theatre Communications Group.
Boal, Augusto 1992. Games for Actors and Non-actors. Translated by Adrian Jackson. A conflation of two books, Stop C’est Magique (Paris: Hachette, 1980) and Jeuz pour acteurs et non-acteurs (Paris: La Découverte, 1989) with additions by Boal. London/NY: Routledge.
Boal, Augusto 1995. Rainbow of Desire, The Boal Method of Theatre and Therapy. NY: Routledge.
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Boje, D. M. 1991. The storytelling organization: A study of storytelling performance in an office supply firm. Administrative Science Quarterly, 36: 106-126.
Boje, D. M. 1995. Stories of the Storytelling Organization: A postmodern analysis of Disney as "Tamara-Land." Academy of Management Journal. August 1995, Vol. 38 (4): 997-1035 [i]
Boje, D. M. R. Dennehy; Rosile, Grace Ann; D. J. Summers 1997. "Restorying reengineering: Some deconstructions and postmodern alternatives" Journal of Communication Reserch. Special Issue on Displaced Workers, 24(6): 631-669.
Boje, D. M. 2001. Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. London: Sage.
Boje, D. M. 1998. Nike, Greek goddess of victory or cruelty? Women's stories of Asian factory life. Journal of Organizational Change Management. Vol 11(6):461-480.
Boje, D. M. 1999. Is Nike Roadrunner or Wile E. Coyote? A postmodern organization analysis of double logic. Journal of Business & Entrepreneurship. Special Issue (March, Vol II) 77-109.[ii]
Boje, D. M. 2002. Critical Dramaturgical Analysis of Enron Antenarratives and Metatheatre. Plenary presentation to 5th International Conference on Organizational Discourse: From Micro-Utterances to Macro-Inferences, Wednesday 24th - Friday 26th July (London).
Boje, D. M. 2003. The Antenarrative Cultural Turn in Narrative Studies – David M. Boje (To appear in book edited by Mark Zachry & Charlotte Thralls The Cultural Turn Communicative Practices in Workplaces and the Professions; chapter revised Sept 16.
Boje, D. M. 2004a. Grotesque Method. Published in Proceedings (edited by Henri Savall, marc Bonnet & Michel Peron) of First International Co-sponsored Conference, Research methods Division, Academy of Management: Crossing Frontiers in Quantitative and Qualitative Research methods. Vol. II pp. 1085-1114. Lyon France, Presentation March 19 2004; paper written February 1, 2004; revised Mar 11. Copy on line at http://peaceaware.com/McD/
Boje, D. M. 2004b. Regenerating Ronald McDonald with the Method of Grotesque Realism. Published, pp. 752-756 Business Research Yearbook, Vol. XI 2004 edited by Carolyn Gardner, Jerry Biberman & Abbass Alkhafaji. Paper about the play, and the play presented in San Antonio Texas on Mar 26 2004 Copy on line at http://peaceaware.com/McD/
Boje, D. M. 2004c. The Play: “The Official Opening of McDonald’s in Baghdad: A Post Postmodernist Play on Future of Capitalism.” Published pp. 747-751, in Vol. XI 2004, Business Research Yearbook (2004) edited by Carolyn Gardner, Jerry Biberman & Abbass Alkhafaji. Play presented Mar 25 2004 in All Academy Symposium: Globalism and the future of capitalism; presentation in San Antonio Texas. Copy on line at http://peaceaware.com/McD/
Boje, D. M. 2004d. Architectonics of McDonald’s Cohabitation with Wal-Mart: Critique of critical and mainstream theory and research perspectives. March 2 2004; Revised April 3 2004. Published in conference proceedings of Critical Perspectives on International Business Programme for Workshop, Durham Business School, UK; Paper presented Mon Apr 5 2004 in teleconference format Copy on line at http://peaceaware.com/McD/
Boje, D. M. 2004e. A Virtual Leader Construct Theory: From Colonel Sanders to Ronald McDonald. Under review since 26 July 2004.
Boje, D. M. 2004f. The Leadership of Ronald McDonald: Double Narration and Stylistic Lines of Transformation. Under review since 26 July 2004.
Boje, D. M. & Cai, Y. 2004. McDonald’s: Grotesque Method and the Metamorphosis of the three Spheres: McDonald’s, McDonaldland, and McDonaldization. Accepted for publication in The Metamorphosis Journal (23 July 2004). Copy on line at http://peaceaware.com/McD/
Boje, D. M. & Cai, Y.; Duvan A., Keller, A.; McGrane, K.;Valencia, B.; Schweig, V; & Watanaratkul, J. 2004. A Discursive Systems Theory: Bakhtinian analysis of McDonald’s.
Boje, D. M.; Cai, Y.; Thomas, E. 2004a. Play: Regenerating McDonaldland: A Play of Grotesque Humor. Presented at four conferences on these dates. (1) IABD in San Antonio Texas on Mar 26 2004; (2) Organizational Behavior Teaching Conference in Redlands CA, rehearsal June 23, play performed June 24; (3) Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism, rehearsal July 8, & performed July 9, 2004; (4) Academy of Management, Aesthetics special interest group, play performed at Fringe Café Mon Aug 9 2004.
Boje, D. M.; Cai, Y.; Thomas, E. 2004b. book chapter: Regenerating McDonaldland: A Play of Grotesque Humor. Play accepted as part of a book chapter, Humour, Organisation and Work. (Eds) Robert Westwood (University of Queensland Business School) &Carl Rhodes (University of Technology Sydney). Book project is under review.
Boje, D. M.; Driver, M.; & Cai, Y. 2004a. McDonald's, McDonaldland, and McDonaldization: Humor and the dialogical approach to strategy. Paper presented Sat July 10 2004 at Standing Conference for Organizational Symbolism, Halifax Nova Scotia. Copy on line at http://peaceaware.com/McD/
Boje, D. M.; Driver, M.; & Cai, Y. 2004b. McDonaldland chronicles: A strategic theory of humor. Under review since January 26 2004.
Boje, D. M.; Rosile, G.A.; & Gardner, C. 2004. Antenarratives, narratives and anaemic stories. Paper presented in Showcase Symposium, Academy of Management, Mon Aug 9 2004 in New Orleans. Organizer, John Luhman. Copy on line at http://peaceaware.com/McD/
Boje, D.M., Luhman, J. & Baack, D. (1999). " Hegemonic Tales of the Field: A Telling Research Encounter between Storytelling Organizations." October issue of Journal of Management Inquiry. 8(4): 340-360.
Boje, David M. & Rosile, G. A. (2002). Enron Whodunit? Ephemera. Vol 2(4), pp. 315-327
Boje, David M. & Rosile, G.A. (2003). Life Imitates Art: Enrons Epic and Tragic Narration. Management Communication Quarterly. Vol. 17 (1): 85-125.
Boje, David M., Rosile, G.A., Durant, R.A. & Luhman, J.T. (2004) Enron Spectacles: A Critical Dramaturgical Analysis. Special Issue on Theatre and Organizations edited by Georg Schreyögg and Heather Höpfl, Organization Studies, 25(5):751-774.
Czarniawska, B. (1997) Narrating the Organization: Dramas of Institutional Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Czarniawska, B. (1998). A Narrative Approach to Organization Studies. Qualitative Research methods Series Vol. 43. Thousand Oaks, Ca; Sage Publications, Inc.
Dalcher, D. & Drevin, L. 2003. Learning from information systems failures by using narrative and antenarrative methods. Proceedings of SAICSIT, pages 137-142. Available on line at http://portal.acm.org/ft_gateway.cfm?id=954029&type=pdf&dl=portal&dl=ACM&CFID=11111111&CFTOKEN=2222222
Deleuze, Gilles & Felix Guattari (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translation by B. Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Fairclough, Norman. 1992. Discourse and Social Change. Polity Press, Cambridge UK.
Fairclough, Norman. 2003. Global capitalism and critical awareness of language. Text of on line paper at http://www.schools.ash.org.au/litweb/norman1.html
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Gabriel, Yiannis (2000). Storytelling in Organizations: Facts, fictions, and fantasies. London: Oxford University Press.
Gardner, C. (2002). An exploratory study of bureaucratic, heroic, chaos, postmodern and hybrid story typologies of the expatriate journey. Dissertation in Management Department of College of Business Administration and Economics.
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Snowden, D. (2002). Complex acts of knowing – paradox and descriptive self-awareness. IBM Global Services working paper, July. [iii]
Vickers, Margaret H. (2002). Illness, work and organization: Postmodernism and antenarratives for the reinstatement of voice. Working paper, Unviersity of Western Sydney. Accepted for publication at Tamara: Journal of Critical Postmodern Organizational Science.
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[iii] See Snowden presentation http://www-1.ibm.com/services/files/complex.pdf
 I have done work in each of these organizations (Boje, 1991, Boje, Luhman, & Baack, 1999, Boje & Cai, 2004, Boje, 1995; Boje, 1999; Boje & Rosile, 2004; Boje, Smith & Gardner.
 Disney, like other corporations is a storytelling organization of many struggling stories, each a different frame of reality, each chased by wandering and fragmenting audiences. In its plurivocality, each Disney story masks diversity and a multiplicity of voices. Each story is multi-voiced, the author’s voice is for example, refracted through the character’s dialog; the story itself is a response or answer to other stories told or anticipated to be told.
 For example, The Nike storytelling organization constructs through storied sense making practices its very legitimacy to employ young, female Asian workers to accumulate billions in capital. But, activist entrepreneurs are also virtual storytelling organizations, using the Internet to assemble delegitimation stories to damage the integrity of Nike, crafting stories to purposely deconstruct the dominant ideology and institutional memory of Nike
 See Boje 2001 book on Narrative Methods, and subsequent work by Barge 2002 and Vickers 2002.
 Boje, 2001, 2002; Boje & Rosile, 2003, Dalcher & Drevin, 2003; Barge, 2002; Vickers, 2002; Boje 2003, 2004; Boje, Driver, & Cai 2004; Boje, Rosile, Durant & Luhman, 2004
 And it relates to Fairclough’s (1992) critical discourse analysis, i.e. his advancing the idea that the intertextual trajectory is embedded in hegemonic struggle.
 Barry and Elmes (1997) provide a more balanced relation, pointing out the mis-adventures of corporate storytelling, as well as the applications.
 This Boiset (1998: 59) calls the social learning cycle (see illustration at http://choo.fis.utoronto.ca/Kluwer/KOOL.html)
 Paul Rosenzweig (September 08, 2003). Defending the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness System. Fox News. Rosenzweig is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,96694,00.html
 See web site http://www.storymaker.org/
 Krizanc, John (1981/ 1989). Tamara. Toronto, Ontario: Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited (Dates are for first and second edition).
At one extreme, the storytelling organization can oppress by subordinating
everyone and collapsing everything to one "grand narrative" or "grand
story." At the other extreme, the storytelling organization can be a
pluralistic construction of multiplicity of stories, storytellers, and
story performance events that are like Tamara but are realized
differently depending upon the stories in which one is participating
(Boje, 1995: 1000).
 Research on storytelling organizations now ranges from Boje’s office supply (1991) and Disney (1995) studies, Boyce’s (1995) study of a non-profit organization, Kaye’s (1996) extension to change, and Gephart’s (1991) leader succession work. Mary Boyce’s (1995) work on storytelling organization work is based in social construction philosophy; Czarniawska’s (1997) takes a different tact in Narrating Organization, one that bridges social construction with Kenneth Burke’s scene-act ratio analysis, and Boje’s (1991, 1995) work is based more in critical postmodern philosophy and complexity theory of narrative fragmentation, the contestation between official story and marginalized story, terse-story (or fragmentation), the networking of multiple stages (as in Tamara play), and the hegemony of storytelling (Boje, Baack, & Luhman, 1999). To date the work has been fairly abstract; the purpose of this project is to make it accessible to the general audience.
 Boje, 1991, 1995; Gephart, 1991; Boyce, 1995; Kaye, 1996
 Antenarrative is defined as “the fragmented, non-linear, incoherent, collective, unplotted, and pre-narrative speculation, a bet, a proper narrative can be constituted” (Boje, 2001: 1).
 See references on Barry & Elmes, 1997; Rosile & Boje, 2002; Boje, Dennehy, Rosile & Summers, 1997
[i] 24 Apr 2002 see web site http://it.asia1.com.sg/specials/km20020424_001.html
[ii] IBM story circles http://www.actkm.com/actKM%20meeting%20presentations/Softlaw/3
[iv] For documentation of Total Information Awareness Program Version 1.1 July 19, 2002 see http://www.epic.org/privacy/profiling/tia/tiasystemdescription.pdf
[v] See for example, Harris, Shane (2003) Total Information Awareness official responds to criticism
January 31. government Executive on line Daily Breifing http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0103/013103h1.htm
[vi] DARPA Mission statement listed on their web site at http://www.arpa.mil/iao/
[vii] A summary description of the NIMD program is available on the
ARDA web site here: http://ic-arda.org/Novel_Intelligence/index.html