Narrative+Approaches+And+Their+Applications.Shaw%2 C Robinson+And+Rose[1]


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Narrative approaches and business history

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Narrative+Approaches+And+Their+Applications.Shaw%2 C Robinson+And+Rose[1]

  1. 1. Narrative Approaches and their Applications for Business History and Management: Opening Remarks Prof. Mary Rose, Prof. Gareth Shaw, Dr Sarah Robinson 19th March 2009 1
  2. 2. ESRC-AIM Workshop: Narratives, Business History and Management • Aims and Scope of Workshop •Where has business history come from? • Interest in Narrative Approaches – Narratives as a management discourses – Narratives and corporate history – Theorizing narrative identities 2
  3. 3. History and Narrative • Why does history matter to narratives and how do narratives matter to history? – Business history : silos or interdisciplinarity – My own background as a business historian – Stories through letters – Use of oral evidence in understanding communities of practice – Context 3
  4. 4. Paths to isolation and diversity: Business History in US and UK 1920-2000 (2) • Isolation a sub-discipline of what? – History – ‘below the salt’ • ‘deadest of all historical dead ends’. (Milward, 1979:886) • ….[One] distinguished historian from LSE described business history as a sort of applied history –‘thereby placing it below the salt and indicating a distinction akin to that so uniquely beloved of the British between pure and applied science ‘ (Coleman, 1987: 141,145) • Business history’s Catch 22 – Economics- assumptions neoclassical economics, cliometrics • ‘the historical and internal dimensions of business were, by definition, eliminated from consideration. (Galambos, 2003:14) – Business and management • Cranfield Institute of Technology 1973 Conference of Management and business history • Peter Mathias concluded: ‘separation of attitude, expectations and practice would prevent much fruitful business history interplay between management specialists and business historians’. • Neither group read each other’s research – Economic history • A sub discipline of a sub discipline – At its narrative best, in Britain, business history was a sub discipline of the sub discipline economic history and at its worst it was, ‘narrow, insular and antiquarian’. (Hannah, 1983, 165-6) – The way forward was inter-disciplinarity but how ? – The Chandler perspective and beyond 4
  5. 5. Alfred D.Chandler Jr, business history and interdisciplinary research (1) • Research Center in Entrepreneurial History during the 1950s and early 1960s • Thomas Cochran – Sociology of entrepreneurship • Alfred D.Chandler Jr – Schumpeterian innovation – History matters – Sociology – evolution of roles in bureaucracies – professionalisation of management in corporations at the heart of the dynamic innovation process – Empirical evidence/types of firms/categories – Relationship between Innovative strategy and business structure • Transformed business history – inward looking and parochial to being outward looking and creative. – Comparative models ,development and performance 5
  6. 6. My own approach to interdisciplinarity • Path dependence new and old knowledge, boundary crossing and new combinations • Family, internal relationships, • PhD Case study : The Gregs of conflict, external networks, history Styal: The Rise and Decline of a as context Family Business (1977) • Family firms and the cotton • Firms, Networks and Business industry, international and regional Values: The American and British comparisons, networks, politics, Cotton Industries since 1750 history (2000) • Evolutionary innovation, networks • (With Mike Parsons) Invisible on of innovation, communities of Everest: Innovation and the Gear knowledge, products and practice Makers (2003) 6
  7. 7. Stories in the history of business • The history of family businesses – The Greg’s of Quarry Bank Mill: The rise and decline of a family business, 1780-1914 (1986) – Family finance – business accounts – Letters and diaries tell the story – How to interpret – Whose story and when? – Context and interpretation 7
  8. 8. Innovation and building communities of practice • Holistic approach to studying innovation – Designers – Users – Suppliers – Testers – Journalists • Comparing and combining stories • Setting in historical and personal context 8
  9. 9. Current projects using narrative approaches • Coming of the supermarket (AHRC) large scale oral history of consumer responses to an innovation. • Innovation in the hotel industry (ESRC- AIM) Large scale survey of management and innovation.
  10. 10. 1. Narratives as Management Discourses • Narratives increasingly important in locating and discussing storied accounts (Barry and Elmes 1997) – Exploration of strategic management importance of ‘devices’ in helping to add credibility to organisational strategies – Materiality, voice, perspective, ordering, setting and readership setting
  11. 11. 2. Narratives and Corporate History • Managers and decision-makers as historians • Rowlinson and Clark’s (2007) work on: – Symbolism of corporate history – Counterfactual narratives – Charting historical narratives • Argue corporate history can contribute to knowledge – base of business organisations • Notions of ‘corporate amnesia’ (Kransdorf 1998)
  12. 12. 3. Theorizing Narrative Identities • Organisations as storytelling milleu (Brown 2006) – sees organisations as ‘discursive space’ • Voices constantly jostle with each other for narrative control – Voice – Multiple understanding of stories – Temporality – fictionality
  13. 13. Basic Characteristics of Narratives 1. Accounts of characters and selective events over time (beginning, middle and end) 2. Retrospective interpretations of events from a particular perspective 3. Focus on intention and action – those of the narrator and others 4. Part of the process of constructing identity (self-in relation to others) 5. Co-authored by narrator and audience (Ospina and Dodge 2005)
  14. 14. Some thoughts from my own research experience 1. Why use narrative research in management and business research? 2. Issues I grappled with: theoretical to practical 3. Methodological challenges: collection, identification and analysis 14
  15. 15. The Accidental Tourist • ‘I did not set out to collect stories or deliberately to ask people to tell stories but started to notice that the interviews were full of stories’ (Robinson 2005) 15
  16. 16. 1. Why use narrative approaches in management research? • Narrative is a powerful means by which people describe their lives and communicate their experiences to others: • ‘We dream in narrative, daydream in narrative, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, believe, doubt, plan revise, criticize, construct, gossip, learn, hate and love by narrative’ (Hardy 1968 in Gergen 1999:70). • We live ‘storied lives’ Finnegan (1997:78) 16
  17. 17. • Narrative also evolves out of attempts to make sense of our experiences • ‘We understand our own lives – our own selves our own places in the world – by interpreting our lives as if they were narratives, or, more precisely, through the work of interpreting our lives we turn them into narratives, and life understood as narrative constitutes self- understanding.’ Ricoeur (in Simms 2003:80) 17
  18. 18. From a research perspective then… • Narratives can be seen as a way into people’s experiences and their sense of identity in that ‘narratives are a primary embodiment of our understanding of the world, of experience, and ultimately of ourselves’ (Kerby 1991:3). • They are a resource we can use to let others see a (selected) slice of our lives. • ‘culturally developed resources which - like language – people can draw on, manipulate and enact in the creation and experience of their storied lives’ (Finnegan 1997:78). • Narrative can be used to make sense of the ‘flowing soup’ of our everyday experiences and to identify and navigate and link islands of meaning • The ability of narrative to ‘construct meaningful totalities out of scattered events’ (Ricoeur 1981:279). 18
  19. 19. 2. Issues I grappled with • Story or narrative? • Often used interchangeably. • But some writers make specific distinctions between them. • According to Boje (2001), story is ‘ante’ to narrative – story is an open account of incidents or events, but narrative comes after and adds ‘plot’ and ‘coherence’ to the story-line. • A ‘fondness’ for stories – acceptable? 19
  20. 20. A working definition…. • ‘A story describes a sequence of actions and experiences done or undergone by a certain number of people, whether real or imaginary. These people are presented either in situations that change or as reacting to such change. In turn these changes reveal hidden aspects of the situation and the people involved, and engender a new predicament which calls for thought, action or both. This response to the new situation leads the story to its conclusion.’ (Gallie1968:22 in Ricoeur 1984:150): 20
  21. 21. 3. Methodological challenges: collection, identification and analysis • Didn’t set out to do narrative research • Abandoned interview schedule • Issue of formality - both the participants and myself were more relaxed. • The interviews were less formal and more ‘storied’: participants took time in describing their experiences, using stories and anecdotes to illustrate their points • Critical incidents’ (Flanagan 1957 in Easterby-Smith et al. 1991) or ‘moments of crisis’ (Fairclough 1992), where I asked students to describe incidents which had particularly affected them in some way 21
  22. 22. Identification and selection • I agree with Boje (2001) that sequence is important in making a story. • But disfluent speech, by lack of rehearsal, or by shyness, lack of confidence in the language in which the story is being narrated. • Some stories jumped out at me, some needed several readings until I saw their ‘storied’ qualities. • Relied on an intuitive identification of stories, some pieces appearing more ‘storied’ than others. • Native speakers of English, where the tone was fluent, the imagery marked and the story-telling conventions were easily recognisable because these speakers were using (what for me were) culturally recognisable signs of storytelling. • I made a conscious effort to look for different forms of story-telling and to re-read disfluent speech for storied fragments 22
  23. 23. Neil’s story: The ‘employability factor’ ‘So I mean it came to the point as well umm to be honest with you I was slightly disillusioned with my employer as well so again looking either to move out and again in my particular profession in many ways it is perceived that I was working for the vanguard of ELT so again where do you go? - reassess a little bit and then you try and particularly and if its not human err if its not dealing with people its more dealing with change and again I saw many examples of this thinking how can we do this? I’m in a international environment I’ve got quite a lot of experience working with different cultures and again try to build on those that knowledge base that you have and expand in a way that is vocationally err true and the fact is as well that the MBA for myself at 34 I’m thinking at the end of it if I did a Masters in HRM how how easy would it be to convince employers with a MA in HRM or an MA in another discipline? Whereas the MBA employability factor its so you know people say people always comment on MBAs it’s taken for granted that you’ll get a job I don’t necessarily share that but its handy.’ 23
  24. 24. Analysis of stories • Concerns about the use of theme analysis for ‘bundling’, ‘stacking’, ‘counting’ stories and placing them in ‘theme taxonomies’ (Boje 2001:125) • Led me towards a Hermeneutic approach 24
  25. 25. References Barry, D. and Elmes, M (1997) ‘Strategy Retold: Towards a Narrative View of Strategic Discourse’, Academy of Management Review 22 (2): 429-452 Brown, A.D. (2006) ‘Collective Identities’ Journal of Management Studies Kransdorf, ? (1998) Corporate Amensia: Keeping Know-How in the Company 25
  26. 26. Ospina, S.M. and Dodge, J. (2005), It’s About Time: Catching Method upto Meaning – The Usefulness of Narrative Inquiry in Public Adminstration Research’, Public Administration Review 65(2) : 143- 157 Rawlinson, M. and Clark, P. (?) ‘Corporate History, Narrative and Business Knowledge’, Final Report to ESRC (Grant RES-334-25-0013) 26