Organizations and Archetypes

Organizations and Archetypes

Monika Kostera

Archetypes are common patterns containing hidden images of human motivations, offering inspiration and awakening imagination. This book is a collection of such tales, connected to twelve organizational archetypes, where each is illustrated by more general theoretical reflections, current management and organization theory literature, as well as practical examples. Monika Kostera proposes an imagery and language for self-management and self-organization for non-corporate use including entrepreneurs and multipurpose NGOs.

Chapter 16: On the studying of organizational myths and archetypes: methods

Monika Kostera

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies


The methods of choice for a study of archetypes are first and foremost various types of ethnography and ethnographically inspired methods. The ethnographer collects stories in the field and pays attention to archetypical and mythical motifs and plots, either while still in the field or back home, during the phase of interpretation. I will briefly explain how this can be done, but let me first explain the role of ethnography in the study of organizations.80 Ethnography is one of classical methodologies used in the exploration of culture. It is being defined by the use of ethnographic methods: observation, open-ended interviews and text analysis; a narrative form where data is thickly described; and expresses a textual sensibility (Yanow et al., 2009). Organizational ethnography originates in the research tradition of cultural anthropology from which it spread to organization theory. It is believed that this took place in the course of the research conducted by Elton Mayo in a factory of Western Electric in Hawthorne, when at one point, an anthropologist named Roethlisberger was asked to join in order to gain a better understanding of the culture of the employees (Wright, 1994).81 Ethnography is particularly useful for research questions starting with ‘why’ and ‘how’. It is a way of exploring social phenomena in their authentic context. Such research is often described as naturalistic, which means that the researcher attempts to observe and describe reality as it appears in its ‘natural state’, without interference of the researcher.

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