Organization theory and poetry: A not so elusive link by Naveed Yazdani , Hasan S. Murad and Rana Zamin Abbas (5)

Metaphors are used in organization theory as tools to
convey meanings and to illuminate and illustrate theories
by linking them with some more familiar word, phrase or
object (Hernes, 2004). For example, the metaphor of jazz
is used to reflect the “temporal, emotional and ambiguous
aspects of organizational structure (Kamoche et al.,
2005; Lewin, 1998; Zack, 2000). Similarly organizations
are metaphorically described as theatres (Cornelissen,
2004). Metaphors are useful to organization theory not
only because they provide a linkage between an organizational phenomena and a word, phrase or object (the
comparison model) but also because they create and
generate new meanings beyond the more visible association between the source and the target (Cornelissen,
2005). Metaphors allow us to create a thought, but that
created thought is disciplined. This duality of creativity
and discipline, allows one to grapple with the manysidedness of an organizational issue, phenomena or
problem (Oswick et al., 2002).
Currently the description and analysis of organizational
metaphorical forms is a common practice in organization
theory. A metaphor is a particular linguistic expression
that links abstract social constructs to concrete social
actions. It works through invoking a concept originating
from another field or level than the one that is being
studied. A metaphor forms a specific image or gestalt of
the organization (Mills et al., 2006). Literature identifies
certain characteristics or criterion of a sound organizational metaphor. One of such criterion is the capacity of
a metaphor to generate new theoretical and practical
insights about organizations. Other criteria include the
ability of one metaphor leading to the creation of new
metaphors and variables and also providing the right
balance of similarities and differences between the
‘source’ and the ‘target’ (Morgan, 1998; Alvesson, 2002;
Clegg et al., 1996). Metaphors are the basic structural
forms of experience through which people engage, organize and understand their worldviews and are considered
as the most effective communicative devices and if seen
as epistemological devices to understand organizational
phenomena, they must be able to embrace the ontological dynamism of organizations and their sub-systems
(Sadler-Smith and Evan, 2006). Unlike brands, they are
the conceptual abstract “which resides in the minds” of
organizational stakeholders and highlight the difference
and identity of a particular organizational form (Pfister,
2009; Yanow, 1996; Polley, 1997).
It is interesting to realize that we understand the world
on the basis of stories and narratives which are deeply
rooted in our mind since early childhood. They prepare
our minds to see and perceive the world and happenings
around us as stories (Stewart, 2001). Narratives are concerned with metaphorical articulation through language.
Metaphors are therefore an automatic instrument of our
language through which we ‘socially construct’ our
worldviews and realities and formulate the link between
abstractions and concrete forms and realities. Metaphors
provide insights which help in the understanding of organizational meanings, goals, values, processes, strategies,
structures, cultures and systems (Hopkinson, 2003).

The discourse of organization theory informs us that it
has been devoid of abstract, ephemeral and metaphysical facets of knowledge. The fields of religion, history,
mystic philosophy and arts and literature, apparently seems to have had little impact on organization theory.
This particularly refers to the Western style of organizing
and managing which emerged after the eras of enlightenment, renaissance and modernism. However, this trend
seems to be shifting even in the West. Western writers
and critics are pointing towards this shift by highlighting
that non-empirical fields are slowly clawing their way
back into the mainstream organization theory.

(Organization theory and poetry: A not so elusive link by Naveed Yazdani, School of Professional Advancement, University of Management and Technology, Lahore. Pakistan. Hasan S. Murad, University of Management and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan. and Rana Zamin Abbas, Organization Theory Center, University of Management and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan. / Accepted 15 September, 2011 African Journal of Business Management Vol. 6(1), pp. 7-13,11 January, 2012 / Available online at

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