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Contrasting as a research strategy for highlighting polyphonic sensemaking in stories of organizational life
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Business Administration. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3030-0314
2011 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Field work is a phenomenal but unpredictable source of material for those of us interested in stories of organizing and sensemaking about organizational life. When entering the field we meet people engaged in work and in organizations, who are often keen to tell us what’s going on. These meetings can be both stunning and overwhelming. Where do I start to listen, and where should I stop? The stories of the organization never stop, as new and reoccurring activities needs to be made sense of in the discussions with other organizational actors (Boje, 1991). By relating ongoing events to stories, life in the organization is made meaningful (Czarniawska, 1999). Not all stories of day-to-day life are told with a clear beginning, plot and end, though. The fieldworker interested in narrating the organization becomes a collector of fragmented story parts, and needs to reassemble these parts into a comprehensive whole that can make sense to a reader. The stories possible to tell often become numerous, especially with a longitudinal field study approach. Then how do we choose which stories to tell and how to tell them? One approach is to reassemble several stories told by different actors but relating to the same issue and contrast them against each other. In this paper, experiences of using contrasting as a research strategy for story construction and analysis within one single case study are highlighted and discussed from a sensemaking approach to organizing. The paper illustrates how contrasting can be a used both as a means of embracing polyphony and for avoiding the pitfall of drawing too much attention to consensus building and shedding too little light on conflict, a critique voiced against sensemaking research (Skålén, 2002). Up until now, only a modest amount of empirical research has been done on sensemaking and this is an important research agenda (Weick et al., 2005). This paper contributes to problematizing how empirical research can contribute to the understanding of sensemaking in organizations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
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Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-69961OAI: diva2:433654
27th EGOS Colloquium
Available from: 2011-08-11 Created: 2011-08-10 Last updated: 2015-01-14Bibliographically approved

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Andersson Högberg, Lena
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Business AdministrationFaculty of Arts and Sciences
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