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The use and abuse of storytelling in organizations

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to introduce the manner in which storytelling has become an increasingly common part of management development, and to highlight some of the use and abuse of storytelling as a management development tool. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper adopts an initial warning about the way storytelling is being used, particularly by management and leadership coaches, questioning whether the term "storytelling" is an appropriate term to use for what is occurring. The notion of "storyselling" is introduced in such a context and, in so doing, stimulates critical reflection about storytelling. A summary of key ideas of other papers is also presented to assist the reader in better understanding the broader trajectories contained in the papers as a whole. Findings ‐ Many are now starting to question practical guidance that is emerging from organization and management literature. Multiple paradigms have yielded not complementary perspectives on management problems, but less than unambiguous voices and guidance. Storytelling has become increasingly popular because it fills a void left by the current state of the organization and management literature. The practical guidance that "preaches" how an approach worked for others in similar situations makes storytelling a big business. Often wrapped up in the rhetoric of management and leadership coaching, storytelling becomes a core educative tool ‐ a tool that this paper, and volume, suggests needs to be carefully examined. Originality/value ‐ The paper, and the volume as a whole, represents an opportunity for readers to join with the authors in a reflexive consideration of storytelling. The paper and volume also represent a cautionary note to those who rely upon what is dubbed "storytelling" as a core educative tool.

Keywords: Coaching; Management development; Storytelling

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-03-22

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