Organizational Research Methods: Storytelling in Action

David M. Boje

Book being prepared for Routledge, due March 2018

To cite this document: Boje, David M. (2018) "Organizational Resarch Methods: Storytelling In Action", (March 15), URL = <>


Chapter RPO11 - Deleuzian Rhizomatics and Fractality

 SOURCE 1 for your homework: Deleuze (1994) Difference and Repetition book (please order and share a copy). SOURCE 2: Deleuze & GUattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translation & foreword Brian Massumi. University of Minnesota Press, is on line.

The difference and repetition dialectic is a move of organizational systems thinking away from Hegel/Marx/Follett historical dialectic to a Nietzchean dialectic that incorporates Freudian pschoanalysis. I want to extend the work a group of us did to get a spiral theory of organizational systems into print (we did two full R&R's at AMR, then got bounced, and put the piece in JOCM, and its one disk 1 I gave to you:  David M. Boje (NMSU); Heather Baca-Greif (Denmark), Melissa Intindola (graduate NMSU Management Department named Melissa Cast till she left; Steven Elias (Left NMSU Management Department for Fort Lewis College School of Business Administration to be new dean of business college). The Episodic Spiral Model: A New Approach to Organizational Processes. Accepted April 9 2017 for publication in Journal of Organizational Change Management


Purpose: This article seeks to develop a new model for depicting organizational processes: the Episodic Spiral Model (ESM). 

Design/methodology/approach: Based on a strong process view as the orienting paradigm, we demonstrate the need for the ESM by discussing the shortcomings of two specific spiral types in the organizational literature-the knowledge creation spiral and the efficacy spiral. 

Findings: A review of each spiral type through the lens of nonlinear assumptions reveals the treatment to date of organizational spirals as uni-directional and insufficient for understanding organizations. We propose that managers must undertake a paradigm shift in order to gain a greater awareness of both the environment in which they operate, as well as their process actions. To facilitate this shift, the ESM depicts choice points, chosen and rejected trajectories, and upward and downward environmental-drafts, as well as a multi-dimensional environment, as a way of re-conceptualizing approaches to space, time, and change in organization studies. 

Originality/value: We propose that our model provides a way for scholars to enhance the study of organizations by 1) Understanding that organizations exist in a more dynamic environment than previously studied, 2) Recognizing that the organization has a wider range of choices available, and acknowledging the long-lasting ramifications of both choices made and choices discarded,  and 3) Obtaining a more comprehensive look at the way the organization moves through space and time at any given moment. Taken together, we hope that these contributions allow organizational scholars a new approach to theorizing, exploring, and writing about the organizations they study.



Colebrook pp 17-18 chapter in Queering the non/human (2008): 311-338, online"Perhaps the clearest critique of this notion of theoria comes from Martin Heidegger, who argues that the original experience of the world as unfolding and disclosing itself through a time of presencing becomes covered over with the idea of ‘a’ logic which it is, eventually, the task of man to arbitrate (Heidegger 1998, 240). Rather than pursuing Heidegger’s own way beyond this QUEERING THE NON/HUMAN 18 forgetting of the unfolding of Being, I wish to pursue Gilles Deleuze’s reversal of Platonism. This is not because Deleuze manages to move further beyond Plato than Heidegger – rejecting Heidegger’s calls to dwelling, caring and attending to the four-fold – but because Deleuze returns to a higher Platonism (Deleuze 1994, 265)"



The 'death spiral' is also known as the downward demand spiral" (source). I teach a course in small business consulting, no how to turn around the death spiral.

The death spiral is not knowing where you are, and not adjusting your course. "What you really need to know is that about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, and 50% of small businesses fail in their fifth year" (source). Forbes gives 5 reasons for business failure. In accounting, "the term death spiral refers to the repeated elimination of products resulting from spreading costs on the basis of volume instead of their root causes. Here we focus on more than accounting. We look at the socioeconomic approach to management (SEAM) to keep the business 'agile.' Here is my rendition of downward 'death' spiral.

Socioeconomic Death Spiral © D. M. Boje 2017

Figure 1: The death spiral from socioeconomic view© David Boje Aug 6, 2017

The small business 'death spiral' when the socioeconomic situation is no longer beeing managed, and the dysfunctions go unattended, and the 'hidden costs' become critical financial sources of disaster. These are 'hidden costs' because they are not being picked up in the regular acocunting reports management receives, and without heavy investment in activity based accounting, you don't know what hit you.

See Lindsley, D. H., Brass, D. J., & Thomas, J. B. (1995). Efficacy-performing spirals: A multilevel perspective. Academy of management review, 20(3), 645-678. Click here for pdf.See Figure 2


"Avoiding spirals may be much easier than stopping them or changing
their direction once they have begun. Consecutive increases (or decreases)
in performance and perceived efficacy heighten emotional
arousal (either exultation or anxiety and depression), which may interfere
with an actor's ability to absorb informative, self-correcting feedback.
Feedback may be totally ignored during an upward spiral ("If it ain't
broken, don't fix it.") or a downward spiral ("Nothing we do will make any
difference.")" (Lindsley, Brass, & Thomas, 1995: 661).

Cycles are part of spirals because the repetition of sameness alternates with repetitions of difference (Deleuze, 1994). "Deleuze (1994: 21) says, "Spirals whose principle is a variable curve and the trajectory of which has dissymmetrical aspects as though it had a right and a left." Cycles in organizaiton systems, eventually becomes spirals of difference and repetition.

Deleuze, G. (1994). Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton from French, 1968 text, Difference et Repetition (Presses Universitaires de France). NY: Columbia University Press.

"Deleuze makes the point that cyclical repetitions of same stages, with same events is countered by repetitions of difference, and it is the differences that turn most every cyclical process into a spiralling one. What defines a spiral, is how the twirls of repetition amplify the differences, or counter-act them, in ways that makes cyclic,reoccurrence of sameness quite unlikely in socioeconomic systems" (Boje, 2012: 81).


Is public education in a socialmateriality death spiral? I attended University of Illinois' doctoral program in organizational behavior. My education was fully funded by the military, through the Ph.D., and I had fellowship to U of I for graduate students, then accelerated into from MBA to Ph.D. program. After I received my Ph.D. the VA cut out the doctoral program benefit. Recently U of I is in such a downward spiral that it shrunk in size, statewide, such that a chuck the size of the Champaign-Urbana campus no longer exists. New Mexico is not alone in the downward spiral of higher education.

"The downward spiral of consequences for Illinois The unprecedented budget impasse has led to myriad consequences that have rippled across state agencies, nonprofit agencies, higher education institutions, and businesses in ways that impact nearly every sector. The most disadvantaged populations, including the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, children, and those with mental and physical health needs have all paid a steep price for being the bargaining chip in a political game of chicken. Yet, all residents of Illinois are affected by the downward spiral of growing deficits, reduced capacity to provide a social safety net and education support, decreased population health, and growing disparities" See Downward Spiral report, p. 9) [The Downward Spiral: The Impact of Illinois’ Year Without a Budget An analysis of long-term implications of the state of Illinois’ fiscal 2016 budget crisis and failure to enact a state budget].

Death Spiral

Figure 2 - The Results of the U of I Death Spiral of Higher Education (p. 9, in U of I report)

Rather than just a death spiral, what is the dialectic with the antithesis vying for hegemonic control. Rather than just a downward spiral, can be theorize an open system with both upward and downward spiraling,entwined in the the negation of the negation, replete with contradictions, taking two steps forward in one direction, and one step back in the other direction? Look at the facticity as Heidegger (1923/1999) calls it of the event history of the downward spiral descent.

Desth Spiral Facticity

Figure 3 - What is the Ontological Facticity of the History of events of the U of I Death Spiral? (p. 7 in same report)




Boje, D. M.; Hillon, Yue; Mele, Tara M. (2017). 21st Century University and the Failure of Business Process Reengineering.Accepted Jan 6 2017, will be published in Organization Development Journal, Spring 2017 – Volume 35, Number 1.  Click here for pre-press PDF.

Boje, D. M.; Hillon, Yue. 2017. “The Dialectical Development of “Storytelling” Learning Organizations: A Case Study of a Public Research University” accepted Feb 6 2017 for publication in The Learning Organization journal.  Click here for PDF

Boje, D. M.; Rosile, Grace Ann. (2017). Storytelling Inquiry into Shamanic and Capitalistic Ways of Emotion and Attunements ACCEPTED Feb 10 2017to EGOS 2017, Copenhagen. 


Heidegger (1923/1988/1999) Ontology --- The Hermeneutics of Facticity translated by John van Buren.Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.It is available online for download as pdf.

Newfield, Christopher. (2016). The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them (Critical University Studies) Johns Hopkins University Press

Newfield, Christopher. (2011). Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class. Harvard University Press.




SOURCE 2 for your homework: (work by Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) develop a rhizomatics ontology that is quite different from the prior four. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) have a chapter on spatiality, in which they relate Benoit Mandelbrot's multi-fractal theory to their own rhizomatic ontology. Deleuze would reject Substantialism. The book is downloadable for free.(D&G) Deleuze, G.; Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translation & foreword Brian Massumi. University of Minnesota Press.


Deleuzian Spiral Repetition and Difference © Boje 2017

Figure 4: Spiral of Difference and Repetition in Landscape, Timescape, and Materialscape Ontology

In the figure above, there is a turning point (blue to pink) where the are changes in the system that are not brining production, quality, and so on. Dysfunctions and conflicts intensify as participants change their understanding of future turnings. This is a dialectical and ontological existence. There's more than one dialectical process. There is the conceptual dialectic (Plato, Hegel) and a dialectical existence (the acting and actions in spacetimemattering, to use Barad,s 2003, 2007 term). Spiraling is for Deleuze (1993: 13) a "repetitive milieux) of real and conceptual oppositions, some conceptual, and some existential. Rather than a smooth upward or downward spiraling, there can be ups and downs in the sociomateriality of an organizational system, movements in spacetimemattering. Spiraling repetition and difference has system animations as the shape and form of the spiraling becomes sociomaterial. Whorl-after-whorl is an opposition of repetition and remembrance. Repetition and difference include forming habits of action, and habits of system thinking. TQM, for example, is the repetition of sameness in habits of production, while experimenting with quality changes (continuous improvement) in the moments of action. Systems grounded in petrification of formal identity will have a difficult time detecting whorl changes. The death spiral can remain unseen, masked or repressed, repeating the dysfunctions that wound a system spiraling downward in the first place. There can be what I call fore-caring (antenarrative preparation) for whorl awareness, and whorl intervention. It is possible to change systems.


"Quantum Storytelling - the collective enterprise is adaptive to its environment, which is also changing. That environment is comprised of at least three dimensions: landscapes, timescapes, & materialscapes). Storytelling Organizations are intra-active and intra-penetrated with those three environmental dimensions. As Deleuze (1994) argues, the spiral moves to the left and to the right, in its trajectory" (Boje, 2012: 96).

Boje, D. M. (2012a). Reflections: What does Quantum Physics of Storytelling Mean for Change Management? Journal of Change Management, accepted 7/22/2011, waiting to appear in print in 2012. Click here for pre-press PDF.

Figure 5: MODEL 3 - Quantum Double Spiralwith Strategic Movements from A to B location in Performnce, Timescape, and Landscape (Boje, 2012: 35); see another version with spacetimemattering dimensions

This is an ontology different from Follett, Heidegger, Barad, and Dewey. Get started with the online book and begin with chapter on SPACE, where they talk of Mendelbrot fractal systems, and other kinds spatializing. You will also need to learn about Rhizomatics ontology.

Three Minute Theory: What is the Rhizome?


presents a primer on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's concept of "the rhizome.

Rhizome systems move in all directions in multiplicities. A branching fractal of branches into sky, and roots into the ground presents a beginning (bottom), trunk (middle), and upper management (top). Rhizome is an entirely different fractal, that is an immanent process that allows us to question the branching fractalof traditional systems thinking. Rhizomes are always in the middles, always and, and, and and, rather than this or that (branching). The fractal implications for systems thinking is explored in Henderson and Boje (2015) Organizational Development and Change Theory: Managing Fractal Organizing Processes and in Boje (2015) Organizational Change and Global Standardization: Solutions to Standards and Norms Overwhelming Organizations.


Boje's Death Spiral transfromation to Growth Spiral interventions

Figure 6- DOUBLE SPIRAL MODEL 1: Using Triple DPIE Accelerated Growth Spiral interventions to get out of Client Organization's Death Spiral (copyright D. M. Boje, Aug. 5, 2017)

The single (upward or downward) spiral models don't cut it. In the Plato version (above) the upward (just) and the downward (unjust) spiral whorls are entangled. Move one one way the other turns the other way.

In nature, there are many examples of double spiraling, in both/and relationships rather than either/or (either upward or downward). The meaning and matter of the double spiraling process are held together through communicative practices. For example in this YoutTube two Australian black snakes are spiraling themselves together in a "deadly snake dance" that is part of their dominance and mating ritual communicative practices.

Figure 7: Two Red-bellied Austrailian black snamkes spiraling together in a sort of tango dance

(See also "Snake Dance At Forest" and

"18 MAY 2017 Real Naag Nagin Dance"

Figure 8: 350 Swainson's Hawks flocking in Spiraling flight formation over the mesquite dunes

I witnessed a pair of Spainson's Hawks doing a parallel spiraling flight, the two spirals looping together as the pair moved upwards and downwards in co-constituting their flight together, while moving across the East Mesa of Las Cruces, where I live. They moved their double spiral vortex across the mesa, and finally, to the pond which only fills after a few good rains, where I was jogging. The double spiral Swainson's Hawk formation remained at the poind for a few minutes, most likely, in search of prey.

I observed a spiraling upward and downward mating and feasting event of about 150 dragon flies at this pond a week earlier (July, 2017). The double spiraling, upward and downward, flight paths, were over a muddy bank on the pond where food source (mosquitoe larvae) was plentiful. The females were attracted to the spiral, where the males attempted to entice them to mate. The inward and outward flight took the females to locations throughout the pond that is about 100 feet across. Their tails would pat the water, then fly upwards and, sometimes, back into the double spiraling vortex, then back out again. There are other examples of spiraling flight formations in nature.

Figure 9: Spiraling flight of 1,000 to 500,000 Carlsbad Cavern Bats emerge from cave opening


The double spiraling of the forces of opposition movements are ontologically inseparable practices of sociomateriality. Organization theorists, Wanda Orlikowski (2007: 1437) notes, "There is no social that is not also material and no material that is not also social." The meaning and matter of the double spiraling process in and between organizations are held together through communicative practices in spacetimemattering (see spacetimemattering definition).


Now, in my current work, its about the double spiral system of dialectic wonderment moving in spacetimemattering (Barad, 2007) and finding a superior sociomaterial location in the market and industry. For example, can higher education move to a better strategic position, by doing a both/and (upward and downward spiraling processes in their dialectic relational processes) moving to new terrain. For example, in UK, there is an Open University movement, with free online courses for everyone wanting higher education. Perhaps this is the negation of negation of the knowledge society thesis and of the knowledge economy antithesis. My point is to look at how the double spiral systemic moves in its landscape, timescape, materialscape (in other words, in the inseparability of spacetimemattering).

Figure 10 - the Strategy Path of a double spiral with upward (green) and downward (red) death whorling action

The single (up or down) spiral models don't cut it. There has to be force and counterforce, an opposition. Besides, what I call double spirals do not sit still, their upward and downward spiraling force exist in a context where there is movement across spacetimemattering. For more on this, see Pittz, Thomas G; Boje, David M.; Intindola, Melissa; & Nicholson, Stephanie. (2016). “COPE”ing with Institutional Pressures: A Reintroduction of Pragmatism to the Study of Organizations. Accepted on Nov 5, 2016 at Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy. Click here for PDF pre-press version. or this one

Upward Spiral separate from Downward Spiral

Figure 18\1: DOUBLE SPIRAL MODEL 2- the Upward Spiral (Blue) is separated from Downward Spiral (Red) (source, Gary Davis).

Spiral within Spiral of Stress Boje 2014

Figure 12: DOUBLE SPIRAL MODEL 2: 'Quantum' Double Spiral - Downward Spiral is within Upward Spiral creating dialectical vortex (source: David Boje, 2014, New Materialisms and Systemicity).

There has to be force and counterforce, an opposition in the double spiral vortex. Besides, what I call double spirals do not sit still, their upward and downward spiraling force exist in a context where there is movement across spacetimemattering.


For there to be a dialectical vortex, there must be force and counterforce. An upward spiral has counteracting forces. A downward spiral, such as a conflict spiral, has counteracting forces. I was a doctoral student in Louis R. Pondy's 'conflict and power' doctoral seminar. He taught us his classic 'episodic conflict model.' It is a process model and a relationality model, and I view it as ontological. When there is a lack of conflict management, then latent conflict from prior episodes emerges in manifest conflict relations at the next possible interaction event.

I would like to retheorize Pondy's (1967) classic episodic conflict model as a double spiral oof dialectial oppositions. Many had erred in assuming Pondy's model is linear temporally.

See: Pondy, L. R. (1967). Organizational conflict: Concepts and models. Administrative science quarterly, 296-320.

In his doctoral seminar, his complaint was readers of his Administrative Science Quarterly article only read the first half, and missed his systems orientaiton. However, his systems model (conflict among lateral parties at sameorganizational level) is about material constraints (raw materials, workers, machines, & other resources at disposal of lateral units) and the pressures toward suboptimization (units have different preference orderings) for interdependent mattering conditions (common use of serve, sequence of work or information flow prescried by task or hierarch, and rules of unanimity or consensus in effect for joint activity. Here is a linear list of stges.

Stage 1: Latent [lateral] Conflict (over scarce resources, drives for autonomy, divergence of subunit goals). As budgets tighten lateral units experience latent conflict. Latent conflict can be from environmental effects, for example, budget crises at state level that affect public universities, or the 2008 mortgage crisis that toppled entire governments, but was not something people were aware of instantly.

Stage 2: Perceived Conflict - can be present in relationship event when latent conflicts have not reached sensemaking awarness. Lateral units may debate and hassle over some interdependendence issues.

Stage 3 Felt Conflict - can be disagreement over interdependence, budgets, poilcy, but may or may not make parties tense or anxious. But it can also escalate to a personal level, and units as well going taking hard stands, and quarreling and feuding.

Stage 4 Manifest Conflict - This erupts when efforts to manage conflicts have been unsuccessful. The latent conflict from prior episodes, has escalated to perceived and felt levels, and now there is a variety of conflictful behaviors: open aggression, verbal violence, (often despite proscribed conviviality norms), sabotage of opponent's plans, formation of defensive coalitions, protests, riots, and a rigid adherence to rules as form of resistance. The availability of conflict resolution mechanisms and strategic considerations are both critical to keeping conflict from hitting the manifest stage.

CONFLICT AFTERMATH (often missing in those working with Pondy's conflict model. Its a 'relational process' model. Each conflict episode is one of a sweries of encounters among all particpipants, that has conflict partially settled, or suppressed. Many suppressed conflicts can lead to escalation and explosion, as people lose their cool, and become malevolent in the next crisis, unable or unwilling to exercise convivial norms of behavior.

In a Double Spiral retheorizing of Pondy's (1967) model, the episodic aspects become clearer and more dynamic, as well as dialectic. At each whorl there are oppositional forces (Green) keeping the conflict escalation spiral (Red) in some check.


Retheorizing Pondy episodic conflict model as double spiral © D Boje 5 Aug 2017

Figure 13: DOUBLE SPIRAL MODEL 2 - Pondy's Episodic Conflict Model can be retheorized as a double spiral of entwined conflict management spiral and conflict escalation spiral

The conflict aftermath is from the residue of the upward spiraling conflict episodes, that are not managed or resolved to the satisfaciton of all participants to the conflict and a cooperative relationship develops. Conflict merely suppressed will raise its head again at the next episode, the next meeting, the next crisis. Pondy is an open system theorist and makes the point that the organization systems are responding to their environment, to environments which themselves can be in crisis.



In this next version the doublie spiral vortex not only has up and down movement, it moves across a quantum field.

Figure 14 - DOUBLE SPIRAL MODEL 3: The Strategy Path of a 'quantum double spiral' with upward (gold) and downward (purple) death spiral of whorling dysfunctions. Here intervention is strategic in space (landscape) and time (timescape) and Materiality (Materialscape) for bettering positioning for Performance Outcomes

This is a current day version of [Model 3] 'double twisted spiraling' movement, as inspired by my reading of Plato, and my experience over past 35 years working with Spiralic storytelling and recent work with relational process ontology dialectics that we will keep exploring.

In the realm of the 'real' space-time-materiality are inseparable, absolutely entangled (see Barad, 2007, notion of spacetimemattering). The dialectic is the relation between upward and downward spiraling forces in spacetimemattering.