Developing Management Models for Post- Modernity
Hanne Nørreklit | Lennart Nørreklit
Email: email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Management models increasingly dominate the public discourse. It is advocated as part of the solution for safeguarding the welfare state and for being competitive in a global business environment. However, how appropriate are these models in solving the management tasks in a post-modern context? And are there alternative suggestions that are more suitable of solving the management task of post-modernity?
With a view to gaining more insight into this question, the present article takes as its starting point Cassirer’s philosophy on symbolic forms, a symbolic form being “a way of having a world” (own translation) (Cassirer 1999). In a symbolic form, a person discovers and unfolds an ability to build his own universe as an ideal universe which enables the person to “understand and interpret, to articulate and organize, synthesize and universalize his human experience” (Cassirer 1962, p. 221). Symbolic forms such as art, science, myth and religion thus have common features and structures in their basic function of creating common human existence. In science as symbolic form, ideals of objectivity and precision in the description of phenomena and their relations are the dominant ideas in man’s formation of his universe. In art, man unfolds an ability to be subjective and create sympathetic insight into matters and their diversity (Cassirer 1962). Where science as symbolic form conceptualises objects, art teaches us sympathetic insight. The symbolic forms of art and science perceive a phenomenon differently. For example, science will perhaps see a constellation as a trigonometric function, whereas it may be considered by art as a “Hogarthian line of beauty” (own translation) (Cassirer 1999, p. 62). Like the symbolic form of art, the symbolic form of myth builds on emotional sympathy, but differs by believing in the existence of the constellation. It is used to create a natural or magical unity of life. Monotheistic religions also include ideas of striving for a sense of unity, but here the idea is of achieving a universal, ethical sense of unity in an individualised society. Here, the symbolic form of religion helps the individual to choose between right and wrong.
The conclusion is that dominant management models are caught in the symbolic form of science. When moving in the direction of art as symbolic form, they use genres, metaphors and discourses which basically presuppose a deterministic and mechanical universe. The stories are not valid, but the belief is created that the images are real. The models thus seek, via myth, to solve the problems involved in modernity’s emptying of the social room of human individuality and emotional life. Dominant management discourse is therefore an untenable solution to the real management tasks in a post-modern context. As an alternative the paper outlines a framework which integrates symbolic forms of science and art. Based on analyses of contemporary successful managers it opens a new management discourse which holds potential in general, but perhaps in particular for organisations acting in a post-modern context.