The birth of bizdames: A rupture in the conversation, engaging the body in decision-making

Kathleen Mallon, University of Rhode Island


Organizational studies consistently find that managers spend more time talking than any other activity (Mintzberg, 1973; Simon, 1945), that strategic decisions are developed and enacted through interactive talk (Perlow, 2003; Shaw, 2002), and that a diversity of perspectives has a positive effect on decision-making and organizational performance (Agyris, 1977). Conversely, the evidence suggests that cultures that perpetuate silence are less effective (Bourgeois, 1985; Enz & Schwenk, 1991; Morrison & Milliken, 2000; Ryan & Oestreich, 1991). Thus, knowledge about the inter-relationship of the micro-mechanisms of silence and talk and their effect on organizational performance is critical to management theory and practice (Huisman, 2003; Marshak et. a1., 2002; McGowan, 2003; Perlow, 2003; Shaw, 2002). ^ This study uses conversation theory and analytical techniques to identify patterns in a computer-mediated conversation. The interpretive, reflexive approach brings multiple perspectives to bear on the resulting model of conversation as organization (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2001). The method assumes that the researcher will filter the data through the unique and uncontestable prism of her personal experiences (Boje, 2001 a.; Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992; Czarniawska, 1997a; Damasio, 1999; Janesick, 1994; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). ^ The findings suggest that words evoke integrated physical, intellectual and emotional images of past experiences. These meaning-laden representations are experienced by individuals as events. Words that are deeply felt rupture human consciousness and create potential for change by enabling people to see and feel the conflict between the structures of the status quo and their own set of personal, embodied rules or values. Bourdieu calls this emotional experience or moment of potential a doxic experience (1980; 1998; 2001). ^ This study questions the “rational ideal” as an attainable, managerial goal by proposing that emotion-free rational thought and action are not humanly possible. Instead, the findings support the notion of an “every-day” or fuzzy logic that guides strategic thinking, decision-making and change. The resulting model of decision-making as conversation integrates biological, psychological, sociological and management theories to create a novel explanation of conversation as an unpredictable, self-organizing process that is fueled by the emotional or felt experience (Dugal & Eriksen, forthcoming 2004) of words. ^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Management|Psychology, Industrial|Sociology, Social Structure and Development

Recommended Citation

Kathleen Mallon, "The birth of bizdames: A rupture in the conversation, engaging the body in decision-making" (2004). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3135908.