Research AOM 2016


What are the implications of the changing nature of organizations and organizational work for making meaningfulness?  For what types of organizations does meaningfulness matter, especially those beyond the corporate form?

We live in a postmodern world of multiple complexities.  Ethnocentric boundaries are being challenged; cultures are mutating. Traditional views are challenged. Nevertheless, the one social context that is constant is that making meaning, and therefore determining “meaningfulness”, is relational since it is created through human and social interaction. Human communities in organizational contexts are semantic and symbolic constructs; our words and actions can create boundaries of culturally determined differences, thus reinforcing conflict, or they can celebrate difference, thereby helping to dissolve ethnocentric boundaries.  (Geertz, 2000)

To succeed, a practitioner/consultant living in a world of constant change should appreciate the epistemological implications on how one understands reality, and how reality can be influenced.  A social constructionist practitioner/consultant will understand that the sum total of his or her being is made in relation with the society in which one is situated, the historical context within which one is born, and the human connections one makes.  As such, reality is not understood to be the result of linear calculations of cause and effect, but rather, an iterative process of continuous creativity in being with others. Knowledge is harvested from the intangible, the symbolic and even the aesthetic, adding another element of complexity and richness to the world  (Strati, 1998).

A socially conscious practitioner/consultant has a relational responsibility expressed through a dialogic process that has the effect of two transformative functions.  First, in entering a dialogic process with relational responsibility, there is a transformation of the interlocutors’ action in question, meaning that whatever happened could be interpreted, - or not, as an act of blame, or an act of understanding.  Second, the interpretation could alter the relations among the interlocutors themselves.  In this way, a relationally responsible approach that is concerned with creating meaningfulness is ethical because, in being influenced by many relations, what we say and do is also a reflection of others.  In an organization, relationally responsible actions are then the manifestations of a multiplicity of relations (McNamee & Gergen, 1999).

StrategicPlay is a budding consultancy that uses the novel, experiential exercise and methodology called LEGO®SERIOUS PLAY®. Participants use LEGO® bricks to build metaphorical elements associated with work life on teams and within organizations to enhance working relationships and enable meaningfulness. This experiential process allows people to express their ideas and thoughts visually, metaphorically and even aesthetically, through three dimensional artifacts that they build with LEGO® bricks (Busch, Venkitachalam, & Richards, 2008). 

The effectiveness of an organization’s capacity for change is closely associated with whether the change is meaningful, and is understood and accepted by those affected by the change (Judge, Bowler, & Douglas, 2006). In our time, it is inevitable that change happens in organizations. By choice or circumstance, owners, managers and staff must all reconcile themselves with the fact that change is a certainty and change avoidance isn’t an option.  Understanding the change, and enhancing meaning-making with playfulness, is an approach to managing organizational change that can deliver value by involving all stakeholders (Burgi & Roos, 2003). Play triggers spontaneity and lowers defences, barriers and boundaries. Joyfulness reduces and maybe even eliminates conflict.

Based on a premise of positive behaviors incorporated into strategy and program analysis, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® delivers best results when examining foundational or initial ideas and drivers for change. It is proven that play diminishes stressors, helps create a meaningful environment, and allows opportunities for new thinking that supports change (Brown, 2010). It is our belief that this approach is appropriate for all organizations open to non-traditional approaches to change and seriously interested in creating a meaningful working environment.


Brown, S. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York: Penguin Group.

Burgi, P., & Roos, J. (2003). Images of strategy. European Management Journal, 21(1), 69.

Busch, P., Venkitachalam, K., & Richards, D. (2008). Generational differences in soft knowledge situations: Status, need for recognition, workplace commitment and idealism. Knowledge & Process Management, 15(1), 45-58.

Geertz, C. (2000). Available light:Anthropological reflections on philosophical topics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Gergen, K., & Thatchenkery, T. (1997). Organizational science in a postmodern context. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 32(4), 356-377.

Judge, W. Q., Bowler, M., & Douglas, T. (2006). Preparing for organizational change: Evolution of the organizational capacity for change construct, Academy of Management Best Conference Paper.

McNamee, S., & Gergen, K. J. (1999). Relational responsibility. In S. McNamee & K. J. Gergen (Eds.), Relational responsibility: Resources for sustainable dialogue (pp. 3-53). Thousand Oaks:CA: Sage.

Strati, A. (1998). Organizational symbolism as a social construction:  A perspective from the sociology of knowledge. Human Relations, 51(11), 1379-1402.