Selling products or life stories? The storytelling of “hero” entrepreneurs

This essay is provided by Hannah Schupfer, student in the master program Organization Studies at University of Innsbruck, and based on her master thesis.

“The worlds most powerful person is the greatest storyteller” – Steve Jobs (1995)

Nowadays, the Silicon Valley is brimming with firms whose CEOs and founders apparently are role models for today’s generation of young entrepreneurs. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page and alike are regarded as geniuses in their areas of expertise. To the wider audience they are especially known for their entrepreneurial success story. How often did we hear the story about Bill Gates and how he made up his way from working in his garage to become the CEO of one of the world’s most famous companies? Or Mark Zuckerberg – do we start thinking about Facebook or do we maybe first think about the lucky college dropout?  

A relatively coherent group of people that share a similar background and hold certain attributes in common can – theoretically – be defined as a social category. In my master thesis, I investigated how the category of today’s “hero” entrepreneurs has been formed. Specifically, I analyzed how the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs “tell their story” which, I argue, influences how the social category of the hero entrepreneur is shaped and understood.

Continue reading “Selling products or life stories? The storytelling of “hero” entrepreneurs”

Learning from Disasters: A ‘Framing’ Perspective

Was the launch of Siri a “disaster”? Depends on how you frame it. (Foto, CC BY-SA 2.0

This research essay is authored by Melissa Köhler, student in the master program Organization Studies at University of Innsbruck.

‘We do not learn from experiences… we learn from reflecting on experiences.’ (John Dewey)

Unexpected and unusual incidents in organizational life often result in a change from stable conditions into situations that are ‘far from equilibrium’ (Rudolph and Repenning, 2002). Even if undesirable incidents entail an organizational breakdown and misery, organizations can try to make sense of the circumstances. They have the possibility to reflect and learn in order to prevent such occasions, or to improve their response the next time. To understand how organizations learn from disasters, current scientific literature mainly analyzes very popular incidents such as the Mount Everest climbing accident in 1996 or natural catastrophes. In order to gain substantial insights on how organizations learn from disastrous situations, this focus on extreme incidents seems quite narrow-minded. Who defines whether a specific event is a disaster or not? A ‘Framing’ perspective could help to induce a better understanding on how organizations learn from such situations.

Continue reading “Learning from Disasters: A ‘Framing’ Perspective”

The Simulacrum of Massive Open Online Courses representing Open Educational Resources

This research essay is authored by Isabella Winkler, student in the master program Business Education at Universität Innsbruck and participant in the 2017 edition of the course “Open Organizations and Organizing Openness“.

(Foto: Pete, CC-BY 2.0)

Globalization and digitalization are keywords which characterize today’s society. The process of digitalization and dissemination of data has already found its way into education. It is one of the biggest concerns when talking about modernizations in educational systems (Dobusch & Heimstädt, 2016). One primary goal of recent education is to make knowledge accessible anywhere, anytime and for anyone. As a result education becomes egalitarian and contributes to the public’s welfare. In his educational ideal Humboldt already registered that it is the state’s duty to make knowledge available for everyone even for the poorest (Gaisbauer, Kaperer, Koch & Sedmak, 2013). Going one step further beyond open access for everybody the UNESCO has come up with the conception of Open Educational Resources (OER). “OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others.” (Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007, p. 4).

What also came along with this Open Education Movement were Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in the segment of higher education. Since 2008 these educational opportunities offered by universities and commercial organizations have shaped the educational infrastructure. The number of MOOCs has rapidly grown in the last ten years because educational institutions have to fulfill the needs of potential students and to meet the requirements of the fast changing educational market towards learner-centered and individualized learning methods. MOOCs are online courses which provide each person free access to university level education without paying a fee and without the need to fulfill certain admission requirements (Yuan & Powell, 2013). Though, at this point it raises the question: To what extent does the ‘Open’ in Massive Open Online Courses correspond to the ‘Open’ in Open Educational Resources or do MOOCs not overcome the hurdle of providing only Open Access instead of Open Education? Continue reading “The Simulacrum of Massive Open Online Courses representing Open Educational Resources”

Organizational Improvization beyond the Jazz Metaphor: Indian Music and Music Therapy

This research essay is authored by Cäcilia Bart, student in the master program Organization Studies at Universität Innsbruck.

Foto: Jason Baker, CC-BY 2.0
Foto: Jason Baker, CC-BY 2.0

Metaphors help t o understand organizations from different perspectives. Over the past 20 years the dominant metaphor for understanding organizational improvisation has been that of the Jazz band (Kamoche et al., 2003). However, this focus on one metaphor implies that we have forgotten an important lesson that Morgan (1997) taught us about metaphors: “a way of seeing is also a way of not seeing”. Continue reading “Organizational Improvization beyond the Jazz Metaphor: Indian Music and Music Therapy”

Organizing Intuition and Playful Practice: The Jazz Band Metaphor Revisited

This research essay is authored by Hannes Henzinger, student in the master program Organization Studies at Universität Innsbruck.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant
and has forgotten the gift.” (Albert Einstein)

Preservation Hall Jazz band (Foto:  Infrogmation, CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Preservation Hall Jazz band (Foto: Infrogmation, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

A common narrative in today’s organization and management literature is that this world, especially the world of business, has become increasingly complex and unpredictable. Not just the scope, also the velocity of change has increased. Such a dramatic shift in the image of the environment seems to ask for an abandonment of old organizational practices. Not just bureaucracy seems outdated. Even stable strategies, routines, and planning are running the risk of falling short of what is needed to react timely and adaptively in this new environment. This narrative calls for a reconstruction of the practice of organizing, “new models and metaphors are needed for organizing” (Barrett, 1998, p. 605). The metaphor of a jazz band, introduced by Karl Weick, is a particularly catchy one. With an allusion to peak performance, like a “flow” experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), it elegantly charms the reader into seeing jazz aspects in organizing and decision making. Beyond the lessons that are elaborated on in the article by Barrett (1998) the metaphor offers two further potentially valuable aspects, that, although foundational to the metaphor, often go unnoticed: the role of intuition in organizing and decision making and playful practice. Continue reading “Organizing Intuition and Playful Practice: The Jazz Band Metaphor Revisited”

New Category at the ConJunction Blog: Student Research Essays

In some Organization Studies courses, students are required to write a short research essay, addressing one focused question or thesis related to the course topic. These essays are distinct from ‘ordinary’ seminar or term papers not only due to their short length but also because the students are encouraged to take a clear, maybe even provocative stance.

Foto: Bernhard Ginzler, CC-BY 4.0)
Foto: Bernhard Gitzler, CC-BY 4.0)

Reading these essays, Richard Weiskopf and I have regularly encountered works that were of such excellent quality that we think it would be a waste to just grade them. Rather, we have – and will continue to do so – asked authors of such essays to share them with a wider audience here at the ConJunction Community Blog.

The first two essays in what we hope will be an ongoing series, have been provided by Cäcilia Bart and Hannes Henzinger. While both essays deal with Jazz as a metaphor for organizing, they contribute quite different insights. Stay tuned for these and future student essays.