An Exploration of Counter-Intuitive Conceptual Structures in Organizational Stories

in Journal of Sport Management
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Although it is well accepted that organizational stories communicate cultural meaning, little is known about their optimal composition for memorability and subsequent transmission. This interpretive study sought to explore the features of organizational stories which contribute to their cognitive optimality. Boyer’s (1994, 2001) cognitive optimality hypothesis was employed, which predicts the presence of minimally counter- intuitive (MCI) concepts in culturally recurrent stories. Employing a sample of nine Australian sport organizations, 27 in-depth interviews were conducted. The organizational stories collected in this research, when defined by Gabriel’s (2000) criteria, contained MCI concepts. The data analysis revealed three emergent codes that reflect the cognitive structure of MCI concept organizational stories: Agency, Membership Markers, and Ritual. This article extends cognitive optimality theory by demonstrating how it can be employed to understand the mechanisms underpinning the cultural transmission of concepts. It adds to theoretical explanations seeking to explain the construction and composition of sport organizational culture by predicting a heavier density of counterintuitive content in stories and other cultural content.

Smith is with the College of Business, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Melbourne 3001, Australia.

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