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Narrative Change Management in American Studies

A Pragmatic Reading


Silke Schmidt

Management means getting things done. How can research on the theory and practice of management help American Studies move forward? This book offers a pragmatic approach to bridging the gap between the humanities and business studies. Based on a critical reading of the disciplinary cultures of American Studies and Business School education, the book analyses narratives of U.S. management theorists and practitioners, including Peter F. Drucker, Mary Cunningham, and John P. Kotter. The stories help readers acquire effective management and leadership tools for application-oriented humanities in the digital age.

"With her outsider perspective on the discourse in management research and application, Schmidt proposes interesting questions that can turn into fruitful research issues in Business Studies and its interdisciplinary exchange with American Studies. I hope this book falls on open ears." – Evelyn Korn

"Schmidt did pioneering work by taking the risk of entering novel terrain to show new paths for the further development of American Studies." – Carmen Birkle

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10 Managing Change in Kotter and Rathgeber’s153 Our Iceberg Is Melting (2005)


Image: Cover Illustration of Our Iceberg Is Melting

Humanism places the human at the center. How could a management theorist concerned with a colony of penguins fit into this picture? When learning about John Kotter’s expertise on change leadership, the answer becomes quite clear: A penguin colony and human organizations share more than one might think. This is also why Kotter was able to bring “Penguins into Boardrooms,” as the headline of a New York Times article declared (Jennings). Kotter is another “leadership guru” in management ←347 | 348→theory (Moore and Klein 448). His role as a liberal artist in scholarship and consulting complements the series of management thinkers discussed in this book. This chapter introduces the reader to another key concept of Organization Studies, namely change leadership. As the theoretical discussion in the context of Narrative Organization Studies has shown, change is an immanent task of the manager (Chapter 3). Change as a management topic has been discussed for almost three decades now. What distinguishes Kotter from other theorists is his intense concern about leadership learning and didactics. This also explains his courage to experiment with the most diverse media tools to spread otherwise abstract knowledge. This is where the penguins come into play.

John Kotter was born in San Diego in 1947.154 He received his undergraduate training in engineering at MIT where he also gained his MBA in 1970. He then earned his PhD in organizational behavior at Harvard, soon got involved in teaching...

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