Portrait of the Manager as a Young Author
On Storytelling, Business, and Literature
144 pp., 5 x 7 in, 1 b&w illus.
- Published: September 18, 2018
- Published: August 24, 2018
What happens to the relationship between business and literature when storytelling becomes a privileged form of communication for organizations.
Corporations love a good story. Microsoft employs a chief storyteller, who heads a team of twenty-five corporate storytellers. IBM, Coca-Cola, and the World Bank are among other organizations that have worked with storytelling methods. And, of course, Steve Jobs was famous for his storytelling. Today, narrative is a privileged form of communication for organizations. In Portrait of the Manager as a Young Author, Philipp Schönthaler explains this unlikely alliance between business and storytelling.
The contradictions are immediately apparent. If, as the philosopher Hans Blumenberg writes, stories are told to pass the time, managers would seem to have little time to spare. And yet, Schönthaler reports, stories are useful in handling complexity. When digital information flows too quickly and exceeds the capacity of the human brain, narrative can provide communicative efficiency and effectiveness. Words and numbers both vouch for truth, are both instrumentalized by management, and are inextricably interdependent.
What happens, if narrative becomes ubiquitous? Does the commercialization of narratives have an effect on literature? Through the lens of storytelling, Schönthaler explores the relationship between economics and literature and describes a form of writing that takes place in their shared spheres. Most books on storytelling in the corporate world are written by business writers; this book offers the perspective of an award-winning literary author, who considers both the impact of storytelling on business and the impact of business on literature.
Philipp Schönthaler has given us a terrific book about how capitalism is trying to reenchant itself, and us, through the craft of storytelling. Writing fifty years after Roland Barthes's Mythologies, he shows us how little about the world has changed.—Ben Kafka
Ben Kafka, New York University, author of The Demon of Writing