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Title:The Everyday Poetry of Organizing
Author(s):Ullian, Joseph Alan
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Speech Communication
Abstract:The connection between language and the organizing process is an association that the author believes can lead to valuable insights. This dissertation was designed to explore this premise by (1) setting out a new model of organizational communication based on meaning-making as the process of creating organizational reality, and (2) presenting an exploratory study of one meaning-making strategy, the holistic image, in order to seek support for this new model.
The work begins by examining representative social science views of human nature to discover those aspects of human cognitive abilities that have been ignored in the past. An alternative image of human beings, one that portrays people as proactive, creative, and cognitively capable of accomplishing a social reality, is then described and adopted. The discussion turns to one aspect of this image, the ability of humans to think holistically, to grasp the entirety of a situation. Out of this view of human nature, a model of organization communication is developed which holds that the organizational reality is an ongoing socially constructed affair, and that this process is in fact the process of organizing. What are really organized in organizations, the author contends, are the shared understandings that people hold about what they are doing. The sharing of these understandings is accomplished through symbolic means.
The subject then shifts to the topic of imagistic language, those expressions in which one thing is talked about in terms of another different thing. The author's main hypothesis is that the use of imagistic language is an especially important strategy in achieving shared understandings. The focus is narrowed to one kind of imagistic subset, the metaphor. Then, attention is narrowed once again to one kind of metaphor called the holistic image, a comparison between one thing and the entirety of something else. Applied to an organization, an example of a holistic image is: "This organization is like a garbage can."
Following the discussion of holistic images, the importance of holistic images for the organizing process is presented. Organizational holistic images, it is argued, capture the sense of the whole organization. This ability becomes especially important in organizations because it aids in boundary transitions, coordination of activities, and adaptation to change.
In order to gain support for organizational holistic images, the author designed an exploratory study. The study was conceived as a preliminary investigation to discover whether holistic images applied to the concept "organization" could change the way people respond to that term. Thirty-six members of an executive MBA class were given the concept "organization" and six holistic images (i.e., "This organization is like a hibernating mouse."). They rated these images against the three dimensions (evaluation, potency, activity) from Osgood's semantic differential technique. Another group of 15 students were asked to rate "organization" and three holistic images. They were told that all images came from their organization, although only one, in fact, actually did come from their organization. The author found that holistic images do change the way people affectively respond to the concept of organization. Some images affect all affective dimensions, some affect two dimensions, and some affect only one. Also, those subjects who were told that the images came from their own organization responded differently from the group rating a hypothetical organization. Experience seems to modify interpretations of holistic images.
The author believes that examining the images that people use to describe their organizations will help social scientists discover how people organize their shared understandings. Future investigations, especially field studies, are needed to determine how holistic images function in actual everyday organizational experience.
Issue Date:1980
Description:221 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8108691
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-05-13
Date Deposited:1980

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