The Tamara of Storytelling

Boje, D.M. 2001, Narrative methods for organizational & communication research, Sage.

I started reading this yesterday and I can’t say I understand 80% of it as yet.  I’m back in the time where you read and read and read, and only when you’ve read enough does something ‘click’ in your brain and it all makes sense.  At the moment I’m lost in a wormhole of postmodern deconstruction and grand narratives.

But even when I am lost,  few things jump out.

The first is the concept of ‘Tamara storytelling’.  Boje uses the play Tamara to illustrate a different way of narrative construction.  According to wikipedia (that irrefutable resource – jk):

In Tamara, the barrier between spectator and actor has been dissolved; the spaces intermingle, and spectators become actors on many stages. Tamara is postmodern theatre performed in a large house with ten actors performing simultaneous scenes in several different rooms; at other times there is simultaneous action in eleven rooms. The spectator can accompany the character of their choice and experience the story they choose, knowing that with the simultaneous performances they cannot experience the whole play. Thus the members of the audience make a series of choices, and depending upon these choices, each spectator creates and develops an individual viewing of it.

Boje, who incidentally is used as a reference in that article, says that the way the audience moves in an out of the action, in simultaneous rooms, is an analogy for storytelling within organisations.  The action is no linear, occurring on the main stage, but simultaneously happening in multiple points.  And to capture any narrative, or to attempt to, means listening to multiple voices.

This drew my thoughts to my interview plans, when the subject is to be interviewed about their leadership development, and then those around them are going to be interviewed to gain a different picture of how they developed as a leader.  In this case one key idea (how leaders are developed) is to be constructed from multiple narratives.

As I’m getting into a world that I know little about, these ‘aha’ moments are crucial to keeping me moving.




Storytelling and rejection of leadership

Yesterday I found out I am to have one, maybe three, operations on my arm if I am to regain full use and mobility.  It seems like an excessive amount of time, money and effort to fix an injury I received from falling over, but I guess them’s the breaks (pun intended.)  While I’m already feeling a bit overwhelmed, the knowledge that I will be back to one handed typing for another three months (at least) makes me want to hyperventilate. Any recommendations for voice activated software for the computer would be well received.  If it’s not too expensive, and works, it might be a good solution.

I’ve given myself a deadline of one month to finish my methodology consideration, and my supervisor wants to see me in two weeks, so it’s all systems go.  I’m trying not to think about the fact I have 50 essays to mark as of 12th June.

Today I’m thinking about storytelling and how it has impacted my life, and my research choices.  I’ve always been a reader and someone who gets lost in stories.  My father taught me to read by us working through the May Gibbs books, and these are the first memories I have of being transported away.

As I got older, I was interested in the psychoanalytic and feminist implications of stories, especially fairy tales.  I was fascinated by Bruno Bettelheim’s analysis of fairy tales from a Freudian perspective and wrote my first thesis on a reading of children’s fantasy film.

From a leadership perspective I found John Kotter’s discussion of how storytelling plays a role in change and leadership to be very relevant and useable. The power of story telling and narrative in our lives is to me, obvious, and clearly something that I keep returning too.

I hadn’t, however, considered it in terms of my PhD research.  I was caught up in the positivist approach where I thought I could objectively study leadership phenomena.  Now I know better.  In some ways this is good as it has opened the door for me to consider narrative and storytelling, and clearly this is something good for me.

One issue that keeps popping up is the rejection of the idea of leadership.  I see this so often when speaking on my thesis to others.  “What is your topic?” “Leadership development in the Australian creative industries.” “That’s interesting because we have no leaders.” An example conversation I’ve participated in 10 or 20 times this year.

Then, with my students, I come across an active dislike of the term.  In my leadership lecture last week I pushed them to name a leader they admired or inspired them – from the sector ideally.  And not one of them could.  In addition, when discussing the evolution of the degree they are completing they all indicated a name change that included the term leadership was a terrible idea.

Why this complete rejection of the leadership concept? They themselves saw the idea as elitist and not relevant. It is an area that I feel I have to explore, but the question is when and how – is it part of this thesis or another independent piece of research?

My current idea is to conduct me research through interviews, but not just with the subjects themselves, but with a number of people around them.  I wonder then, if the idea of leadership rejection will come out in the study, or if participants who argue to contribute will have a different view?

Enough for now, I have about 20 books on qualitative and narrative research methods to get through.