Organization theory and poetry: A not so elusive link by Naveed Yazdani , Hasan S. Murad and Rana Zamin Abbas (1)

ce the times of Western modernity, knowledge is compartmentalized as different fields. This has however, not mitigated the influence of natural science model of theorizing on social sciences. As a result the discipline of organization theory has grown without the influence of abstract, ephemeral and metaphysical fields such as; religion, history, mystic philosophy, arts and literature. With the rise of organizational cultural studies and the emergence of symbolic-interpretive view of organizing during
the last three or four decades, the trend is however gradually shifting.

Corporate aesthetics is one such field within organization theory which places value on the aesthetical aspects of managing and organizing. Taking lead from corporate aesthetics, this paper highlights the link between organization theory and literature (poetry, both English and Urdu). The linguistic and conceptual instrument of metaphors is isolated as the underpinning tool of this link. The role of metaphors in organization theory assumes further importance since the emergence of ‘social construction’ and ‘sense making’ view of organizations. The paper reinforces the views of contemporary writers of organization theory that the field draws from multiple and diverse disciplines by highlighting the link between organization theory and poetry through employing metaphoricity.


Organization theory is drawn from multiple disciplines. These not only include the more obvious, such as economics and mathematics, but also the more remote, like philosophy, religion, arts and literature (Hatch, 1997). The relation between arts/literature and organization theory is manifested clearly in its emerging field of corporate aesthetics. In general terms, aesthetics is defined as “philosophy of beauty” (Langfeld, 1920). It “is the field of philosophy that deals with form, beauty and ugliness, and the sensuous and symbolic dimensions of existence such as arts, music and culture” (Thorpe and Holt, 2008).

Corporate aesthetics are concerned with the knowledge or impression which we get through our senses
*Corresponding author. E-mail: about a particular organization. Hospitals, for example, are known to exude a particular smell (McAuley et al., 2007). Similarly five-star hotels are associated with a particular environment appealing to our senses, a fragrance, background music played in lighter notes and properly dressed up staffs with name tags and designations displayed are all part of the ‘package’ which one expects from that organization. The idea of corporate aesthetics developed in 1980s is relevant to the study of organizational culture and artifacts (Ramirez, 2005).

Corporate aesthetics are means to project “highly stylized corporate identity”. Many organizations in the world are accumulating art collections. Deutsch Bank is said to have the world’s largest corporate art collection, some 50,000 arts works. They are also stakeholders in the proprietorship of Deutsch Guggenheim art museum in Berlin. Even some military cemeteries are using specialized designs and layouts which exude a sense of “solace and peace rather than depression”. All the corporate aesthetic endeavors are targeted to ‘feel’ the organizational values, beliefs and practices, the pathos underlying an organization’s culture (Hancock and Spicer, 2010). Corporate Aesthetic Management (CAM) is developing as a full-fledged strategic framework. CAM seeks to strategically manage an organization’s range of visual and aesthetic outputs. These outputs include; products, logos, company showrooms, building and interior, packaging, advertisement and employee uniforms (Schmitt et al., 1995; Hancock, 2005; Teck, 2006).

The whole edifice of marketing is based on the psychological assumption that the semiotic decoding of
aesthetic symbols creates a brand image in the minds of consumers (Jones and Bos, 2007). It is through advertisement and various other marketing campaigns that organizations build positive image about themselves and their product offerings in the eyes of the consumers (Karaosmanoglu and Melewar, 2006). The colors, sounds, smells and image which make an organization beautiful, revolting or ugly are included in the field of corporate aesthetics. These and more ephemeral aspects of organizations are more phenomenological rather than substantial because they require time and reflection to be appreciated and are beyond the immediate fleeting moment of consciousness (Dale and Burrell, 2002).

The use of photography in studying organizational culture and behavior and ‘art therapy’ used as a
psychotherapeutic technique are also examples of how corporate aesthetics are gaining more and more
relevance in the contemporary organization theory (Barry, 1996; Warren, 2002). 

From the aforementioned discussion, it can be inferred that the field of corporate aesthetics is the artful projection of an organizations’ values. Corporate aesthetics therefore serves as a link between the fields of organization theory, arts and literature. There are numerous ways and instruments that linked the two fields which cannot be captured through one paper. This paper explores only one of such link, metaphors, which are used to convey or impart meanings in both Literature and organization theory. A brief summary of how metaphors are being employed in the two fields are further explained. 

(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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