Metaphors of failure and the failures of metaphor: A critical study of root metaphors used by bankers in explaining the banking crisis.

Dennis Tourish, Owen Hargie

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    30 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This paper analyses the testimony of four banking CEOs to the Banking Crisis Inquiry of the Treasury Committee of the UK House of Commons in 2009. We explore the root metaphors they employed as they sought to explain the banking failures that had occurred. Our analysis identifies four such metaphors. First, ‘the wisdom of the crowd’, in that bankers were influenced by the behaviour of significant others. Second, the bankers depict themselves as at times being forced to be passive observers of events. Third, they characterize themselves as victims of the crisis, sharing in the widespread pain it produced. Fourth, they are penitent learners, able and willing to improve. The main intent seems to be to frame public discussion of the crisis in terms which diminishes their responsibility for what happened. We also argue that the bankers’ discourse had limited impact in terms of framing public debate, while the metaphors they employed havethe potential to minimize learning from failure. The study of the metaphors of failure that they employed is therefore also the study of the failure of metaphor as an explanatory trope and an aid to organizational learning. In addition, we suggest that the impact of metaphors can be reconsidered in terms of what we term ‘the exclusion principle’. This suggests that, while they achieve some of their effects by a process of comparison between adjacent domains, and a consideration of differences between them, they also can exclude categories of meaning from consideration. Our paper therefore contributes to the literature on metaphor, as well as those considering organizational failure and associated attempts to draw lessons from the banking crisis.
    LanguageEnglish
    Pages1045-1069
    JournalOrganization Studies
    Volume33
    Issue number8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012

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    Bankers
    Banking crisis
    Banking
    Chief executive officer
    Wisdom
    Organizational learning
    Pain
    Exclusion
    Organizational failure
    Observer
    Discourse
    Responsibility

    Cite this

    @article{9e27b996436849dbbe2481055c2eac11,
    title = "Metaphors of failure and the failures of metaphor: A critical study of root metaphors used by bankers in explaining the banking crisis.",
    abstract = "This paper analyses the testimony of four banking CEOs to the Banking Crisis Inquiry of the Treasury Committee of the UK House of Commons in 2009. We explore the root metaphors they employed as they sought to explain the banking failures that had occurred. Our analysis identifies four such metaphors. First, ‘the wisdom of the crowd’, in that bankers were influenced by the behaviour of significant others. Second, the bankers depict themselves as at times being forced to be passive observers of events. Third, they characterize themselves as victims of the crisis, sharing in the widespread pain it produced. Fourth, they are penitent learners, able and willing to improve. The main intent seems to be to frame public discussion of the crisis in terms which diminishes their responsibility for what happened. We also argue that the bankers’ discourse had limited impact in terms of framing public debate, while the metaphors they employed havethe potential to minimize learning from failure. The study of the metaphors of failure that they employed is therefore also the study of the failure of metaphor as an explanatory trope and an aid to organizational learning. In addition, we suggest that the impact of metaphors can be reconsidered in terms of what we term ‘the exclusion principle’. This suggests that, while they achieve some of their effects by a process of comparison between adjacent domains, and a consideration of differences between them, they also can exclude categories of meaning from consideration. Our paper therefore contributes to the literature on metaphor, as well as those considering organizational failure and associated attempts to draw lessons from the banking crisis.",
    author = "Dennis Tourish and Owen Hargie",
    note = "Reference text: Acharya, V., and Richardson, M. (2009) (Eds.) Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System, New York: Wiley. Alvesson, M., and Skoldberg, K. (2009) Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research (2nd Edition), London: Sage. Amernic, J., Craig, R., and Tourish D. (2007) The charismatic leader as pedagogue, physician, architect, commander, and saint: Five root metaphors in Jack Welch’s letters to stockholders of General Electric, Human Relations, 60, 1839-1872. Amernic, J., Craig, R., and Tourish, D., (2010) Measuring and Assessing Tone at the Top Using Annual Report CEO Letters, Edinburgh: Institute for Chartered Accountants in Scotland. Aristotle, Poetics, trans. I. Bywater, in The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), vol 2, 1457b. Barker III, V., and Barr, P., (2002) Linking top management attributions to strategic reorientation in declining firms attempting turnarounds, Journal of Business Research, 55: 963-976. Barker III, V., and Mone, M. (1998) The mechanistic structure shift and strategic reorientation in declining firms attempting turnarounds, Human Relations, 51, 1227-1258. Benoit, W. (2001) Framing through temporal metaphor: the ‘bridges’ of Bob Dole and Bill Clinton in their 1996 acceptance speeches, Communication Studies, 52, 70-84. Black, M. (1993) More about metaphor, In A. Ortony (Ed.) Metaphor and Thought, New York: Press Syndicate, Cambridge University Press, pp.19-41. Bones, C. (2012, February 20) Bankers' bonuses – blame the 'because I'm worth it' generation. Guardian Online (UK). Retrieved from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/20/lloyds-bankers-bonuses-loreal-generation Boxenbaum, E., and Rouleau, L. (2011) New knowledge products as bricolage: Metaphors and scripts in organizational theory, Academy of Management Review, 36, 272-296. Buzzanell, P. (1996) Book review of Fairhurst G.T. and R.A. Sarr, The art of framing: Managing the language of leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996, Management Communication Quarterly 10, 243-254. Cannice, M. and Bell, A. (2010). Metaphors used by venture capitalists: Darwinism, architecture and myth, Venture Capital, 12, 1-20. Cannon, M., and Edmondson, A. (2005) Failing to learn and learning to fail (intelligently): How great organizations put failure to work to innovate and improve, Long Range Planning, 38, 299-319. Clementi, G., Cooley, T., Richardson, M., and Walter, I. (2009) Rethinking compensation in financial firms, In V. Acharya and M. Richardson (Eds.) Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System, New York: Wiley, pp.197-214. Conrad, C. (2011) Organizational Rhetoric, Cambridge: Polity Press. Coombs, W. T. (2007) Protecting organization reputations during a crisis: The development and application of situational crisis communication theory, Corporate Reputation Review, 10(3), 163-176. Cornelissen, J. (2004) What are we playing at? Theatre, organization, and the use of metaphor, Organization Studies, 25, 705-726. Cornelissen, J. (2005) Beyond compare: metaphor in organizational theory, Academy of Management Review, 30, 751-764. Cornelissen, J. (2006) Metaphor and the dynamics of knowledge in organizational theory: A case study of the organizational identity metaphor, Journal of Management Studies, 43, 683-709. de Holan, P. (2011) Agency in organizational forgetting, Journal of Management Inquiry, 20, 317-322. Derrida, J. (1967) Of Grammatology, Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press. Derrida, J. (1982). White mythology: Metaphor in the text of philosophy. In Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. Eisenhardt, K., and Zbaracki, M. (1992) Strategic decision making, Strategic Management Journal, 13, 17-37. Elliott, L., and Atkinson, D. (2009) The Gods That Failed: How the Financial Elite Have Gambled Away Our Futures, London: Vintage Books. Entman, R. (1993) Framing: towards clarification of a fractured paradigm, Journal of Communication, 43, 51-58. Eubanks, P. (1999) Conceptual metaphor as rhetorical response: A reconsideration of metaphor, Written Communication, 16, 171-199. Fairhurst, G. (2011a) Communicating leadership metaphors, In M. Alvesson and A. Spicer (Eds.) Metaphors We Lead By: Understanding Leadership in the Real World, London: Routledge, pp. 180-193. Fairhurst, G. (2011b) The Power of Framing: Creating the Language of Leadership, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Fairhurst, G. and Sarr, R. (1996) The Art Of Framing: Managing The Language Of Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Financial Services Authority (2012) Final Notice, Accessed online at http://www.fsa.gov.uk/static/pubs/final/bankofscotlandplc.pdf. Last Accessed 11th March 2012. Financial Services Authority (2011) The Failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland, London: Financial Services Authority. Fleming, P. (2005) Metaphors of resistance. Management Communication Quarterly, 19, 45-66. Foss, S. K. (2009). Rhetorical criticism: Exploration and practice. Long Grove, IL.: Waveland Press. Fraser, B. (1993) The interpretation of novel metaphors, In A. Ortony (Ed.) Metaphor and Thought (2nd Edition), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 329-341. Goffman, E. (1986) Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. 1974. Reprinted Boston: Northeastern UP, 1986. Grice, H. (1975) Logic and conversation, In P. Cole and J. Morgan (Eds.) Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3, Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press, pp.41-58. Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and Practice (5th Edition), London: Routledge. Hargie, O., Stapleton, K., and Tourish, D. (2010) Making sense of CEO public apologies for the banking crisis: Attributions of credit, blame and responsibility, Organization, 17, 721-742. Harr{\'e}, R. (1984) The Philosophies of Science (2nd edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press. Harr{\'e}, R. (1995) Agentive discourse, In R. Harr{\'e} and P. Stearns (Eds.) Discourse Psychology In Practice, London: Routledge, pp. 120-136. Heracleous, L. and Jacobs, C.D. (2008) Understanding organizations through embodied metaphors, Organization Studies, 29, 45-78. House of Commons Treasury Committee (2009a), Banking Crisis Volume 1: Oral Evidence, Last retrieved August 20, 2011, from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmtreasy/144/144i.pdf. House of Commons Treasury Committee (2009b), Banking Crisis: Reforming Corporate Governance and Pay in the City, Ninth Report of Session 2008–09, Last retrieved February 16, 2012, from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmtreasy/519/51902.htm. House of Commons Treasury Committee (2009c) Banking Crisis: Dealing With the Failure of the UK Banks, London: House of Commons Stationery Office Ltd. J{\"a}ger, S. (2001) Discourse and knowledge: Theoretical and methodological aspects of a critical discourse and dispositive analysis, In R. Wodak and M. Meyer (Eds), Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis, London: Sage, pp. 32-62. Kerr, R., and Robinson, S. (2011) Leadership as an elite field: Scottish banking leaders and the crisis of 2007-2009, Leadership, 7, 151-173. King, I. (2009, February 7). Top bankers prepare for live TV and net grilling by Treasury Committee. Times Online (U.K.). Retrieved from http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/ industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article5679586.ece Lakoff, G. (1993) The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor, In A. Ortony (ed.), Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 202-51. Lakoff, G. (1997) How unconscious metaphorical thought shapes dreams, In D.J. Stein, (eds.) Cognitive science and the unconscious. Washington: American Psychiatric Press, pp. 89-120. Lakoff, G. (2004) Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing. Lakoff, G., and Johnson, M (1980) Metaphors We Live By, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lanchester, J. It’s finished. London Review of Books, May 28, 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2011,from: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n10/print/lanc01_.html. Leitch, S., and Palmer, I. (2010) Analysing texts in context: Current practices and new protocols for Critical Discourse Analysis in organization studies, Journal of Management Studies, 6, 1194 – 1212. Levinson, S. (1983) Pragmatics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. McGrath, R. (1999) Falling forward: Real options reasoning and entrepreneurial failure, Academy of Management Review, 24, 13-30. Morgan, G. (1986) Images of Organization, London: Sage. Morgan, G. (1996) Is there anything more to be said about metaphor? In D. Grant and C. Oswick (Eds.) Metaphor and Organisations, London: Sage, pp. 227-240. Morris, M., Sheldon, O., Ames D., and Young, M. (2007) Metaphors and the market: Consequences and preconditions of agent and object metaphors in stock market commentary, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,102, 174-192. Moss Kanter, R. (June, 2003) Leadership and the psychology of turnarounds, Harvard Business Review, 58-67. Mueller, F., and Whittle, A. (2011) Agency as a discourse grammar: An analysis of accountability and the banking crisis, EGOS Conference 2011, Gothenburg, Sweden, 06-09 July 2011. Mumby, D. (2001) Power and Politics, In F. Jablin and L. Putnam (Eds.) The New Handbook of Organisational Communication, London: Sage. Oberlechner, T., and Mayer-Schoenberger, V. (2002) Through their own words: Towards a new understanding of leadership through metaphors, John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University) Faculty Research Working Papers Series. Oswick, C., and Grant, D. (1996a) (Eds.) Organizational Development: Metaphorical Explorations, London: Pitman. Oswick, C., and Grant, D. (1996b) The organization of metaphors and the metaphors of organization: Where are we and where do we go from here? In D. Grant and C. Oswick (Eds.) Metaphor and Organizations, London: Sage, pp. 213-326. Oswick, C., Keenoy, T., and Grant, D. (2002) Metaphor and analogical reasoning in organisation theory: Beyond orthodoxy, Academy of Management Review, 27, 294-303. Oswick, C., Putnam, L., and Keenoy, T. (2004) Tropes, discourse and organizing, In D. Grant, C. Hardy, C. Oswick and L. Putnam (Eds.) The Sage Handbook of Organizational Discourse, pp. 105-128. Pablo, Z., and Hardy, C. (2009) Merging, masquerading and morphing: Metaphors and the World Wide Web, Organization Studies, 30, 821-843. Pretorius, M. (2008) Critical variables of business failure: A review and classification framework, South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, 11, 408-430. Putnam, L. and Fairhurst, G. (2001) Discourse analysis in organizations. In F. Jablin and L. Putnam (Eds), The New Handbook Of Organizational Communication. London: Sage, pp.78-136. Richardson, B., Nwankwo, S., and Richardson, S. (1994) Understanding the causes of business failure crisis: Generic failure types: boiled frogs, drowned frogs, bull frogs and tadpoles, Management Decision, 32, 9-22. Rogoff, E. G., Lee, M., and Suh, D. (2004) “Who done it?” Attributions by entrepreneurs and experts of the factors that cause and impede small business success, Journal of Small Business Management, 42, 364–376. Searle, J. (1979) Metaphor, In A. Ortony (Ed.) Metaphor and Thought. New York: Cambridge University Press. Searle, J. (1993) Metaphor, In A. Ortony (Ed.) Metaphor and Thought (2nd Edition), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.83-111. Smith, R., and Eisenberg, E. (1987) Conflict at Disneyland: A root-metaphor analysis, Communication Monographs, 54, 367-380. Song, N.S. (1998) Metaphor and metonymy, In R. Carston and S. Uchida (Eds.) Relevance Theory. Amsterdam, Holland: John Benjamins. Spicer, A., and Alvesson, M. (2011) Metaphors for leadership, In M. Alvesson and A. Spicer (Eds.) Metaphors We Lead By: Understanding Leadership in the Real World, London: Routledge, pp.31-50. Tsoukas, H. (1991) The missing link: A transformational view of metaphors in organizational science, Academy of Management Review, 16, 566-585. Turnage, A. (2010) Identification and Disidentification in Organizational Discourse: A Metaphor Analysis of E-mail Communication at Enron, PhD Thesis, North Carolina State University. Whittle, A., and Mueller, F. (2012) Bankers in the dock: Moral storytelling in action, Human Relations, 45, 111-139. Winkler, I. (2010) Contemporary leadership theories: Enhancing the understanding of the complexity, subjectivity and dynamic of leadership. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.",
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    Metaphors of failure and the failures of metaphor: A critical study of root metaphors used by bankers in explaining the banking crisis. / Tourish, Dennis; Hargie, Owen.

    In: Organization Studies, Vol. 33, No. 8, 01.09.2012, p. 1045-1069.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Metaphors of failure and the failures of metaphor: A critical study of root metaphors used by bankers in explaining the banking crisis.

    AU - Tourish, Dennis

    AU - Hargie, Owen

    N1 - Reference text: Acharya, V., and Richardson, M. (2009) (Eds.) Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System, New York: Wiley. Alvesson, M., and Skoldberg, K. (2009) Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research (2nd Edition), London: Sage. Amernic, J., Craig, R., and Tourish D. (2007) The charismatic leader as pedagogue, physician, architect, commander, and saint: Five root metaphors in Jack Welch’s letters to stockholders of General Electric, Human Relations, 60, 1839-1872. Amernic, J., Craig, R., and Tourish, D., (2010) Measuring and Assessing Tone at the Top Using Annual Report CEO Letters, Edinburgh: Institute for Chartered Accountants in Scotland. Aristotle, Poetics, trans. I. Bywater, in The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), vol 2, 1457b. Barker III, V., and Barr, P., (2002) Linking top management attributions to strategic reorientation in declining firms attempting turnarounds, Journal of Business Research, 55: 963-976. Barker III, V., and Mone, M. (1998) The mechanistic structure shift and strategic reorientation in declining firms attempting turnarounds, Human Relations, 51, 1227-1258. Benoit, W. (2001) Framing through temporal metaphor: the ‘bridges’ of Bob Dole and Bill Clinton in their 1996 acceptance speeches, Communication Studies, 52, 70-84. Black, M. (1993) More about metaphor, In A. Ortony (Ed.) Metaphor and Thought, New York: Press Syndicate, Cambridge University Press, pp.19-41. Bones, C. (2012, February 20) Bankers' bonuses – blame the 'because I'm worth it' generation. Guardian Online (UK). Retrieved from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/20/lloyds-bankers-bonuses-loreal-generation Boxenbaum, E., and Rouleau, L. (2011) New knowledge products as bricolage: Metaphors and scripts in organizational theory, Academy of Management Review, 36, 272-296. Buzzanell, P. (1996) Book review of Fairhurst G.T. and R.A. Sarr, The art of framing: Managing the language of leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996, Management Communication Quarterly 10, 243-254. Cannice, M. and Bell, A. (2010). Metaphors used by venture capitalists: Darwinism, architecture and myth, Venture Capital, 12, 1-20. Cannon, M., and Edmondson, A. (2005) Failing to learn and learning to fail (intelligently): How great organizations put failure to work to innovate and improve, Long Range Planning, 38, 299-319. Clementi, G., Cooley, T., Richardson, M., and Walter, I. (2009) Rethinking compensation in financial firms, In V. Acharya and M. Richardson (Eds.) Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System, New York: Wiley, pp.197-214. Conrad, C. (2011) Organizational Rhetoric, Cambridge: Polity Press. Coombs, W. T. (2007) Protecting organization reputations during a crisis: The development and application of situational crisis communication theory, Corporate Reputation Review, 10(3), 163-176. Cornelissen, J. (2004) What are we playing at? Theatre, organization, and the use of metaphor, Organization Studies, 25, 705-726. Cornelissen, J. (2005) Beyond compare: metaphor in organizational theory, Academy of Management Review, 30, 751-764. Cornelissen, J. (2006) Metaphor and the dynamics of knowledge in organizational theory: A case study of the organizational identity metaphor, Journal of Management Studies, 43, 683-709. de Holan, P. (2011) Agency in organizational forgetting, Journal of Management Inquiry, 20, 317-322. Derrida, J. (1967) Of Grammatology, Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press. Derrida, J. (1982). White mythology: Metaphor in the text of philosophy. In Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. Eisenhardt, K., and Zbaracki, M. (1992) Strategic decision making, Strategic Management Journal, 13, 17-37. Elliott, L., and Atkinson, D. (2009) The Gods That Failed: How the Financial Elite Have Gambled Away Our Futures, London: Vintage Books. Entman, R. (1993) Framing: towards clarification of a fractured paradigm, Journal of Communication, 43, 51-58. Eubanks, P. (1999) Conceptual metaphor as rhetorical response: A reconsideration of metaphor, Written Communication, 16, 171-199. Fairhurst, G. (2011a) Communicating leadership metaphors, In M. Alvesson and A. Spicer (Eds.) Metaphors We Lead By: Understanding Leadership in the Real World, London: Routledge, pp. 180-193. Fairhurst, G. (2011b) The Power of Framing: Creating the Language of Leadership, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Fairhurst, G. and Sarr, R. (1996) The Art Of Framing: Managing The Language Of Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Financial Services Authority (2012) Final Notice, Accessed online at http://www.fsa.gov.uk/static/pubs/final/bankofscotlandplc.pdf. Last Accessed 11th March 2012. Financial Services Authority (2011) The Failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland, London: Financial Services Authority. Fleming, P. (2005) Metaphors of resistance. Management Communication Quarterly, 19, 45-66. Foss, S. K. (2009). Rhetorical criticism: Exploration and practice. Long Grove, IL.: Waveland Press. Fraser, B. (1993) The interpretation of novel metaphors, In A. Ortony (Ed.) Metaphor and Thought (2nd Edition), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 329-341. Goffman, E. (1986) Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. 1974. Reprinted Boston: Northeastern UP, 1986. Grice, H. (1975) Logic and conversation, In P. Cole and J. Morgan (Eds.) Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3, Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press, pp.41-58. Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and Practice (5th Edition), London: Routledge. Hargie, O., Stapleton, K., and Tourish, D. (2010) Making sense of CEO public apologies for the banking crisis: Attributions of credit, blame and responsibility, Organization, 17, 721-742. Harré, R. (1984) The Philosophies of Science (2nd edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press. Harré, R. (1995) Agentive discourse, In R. Harré and P. Stearns (Eds.) Discourse Psychology In Practice, London: Routledge, pp. 120-136. Heracleous, L. and Jacobs, C.D. (2008) Understanding organizations through embodied metaphors, Organization Studies, 29, 45-78. House of Commons Treasury Committee (2009a), Banking Crisis Volume 1: Oral Evidence, Last retrieved August 20, 2011, from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmtreasy/144/144i.pdf. House of Commons Treasury Committee (2009b), Banking Crisis: Reforming Corporate Governance and Pay in the City, Ninth Report of Session 2008–09, Last retrieved February 16, 2012, from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmtreasy/519/51902.htm. House of Commons Treasury Committee (2009c) Banking Crisis: Dealing With the Failure of the UK Banks, London: House of Commons Stationery Office Ltd. Jäger, S. (2001) Discourse and knowledge: Theoretical and methodological aspects of a critical discourse and dispositive analysis, In R. Wodak and M. Meyer (Eds), Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis, London: Sage, pp. 32-62. Kerr, R., and Robinson, S. (2011) Leadership as an elite field: Scottish banking leaders and the crisis of 2007-2009, Leadership, 7, 151-173. King, I. (2009, February 7). Top bankers prepare for live TV and net grilling by Treasury Committee. Times Online (U.K.). Retrieved from http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/ industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article5679586.ece Lakoff, G. (1993) The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor, In A. Ortony (ed.), Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 202-51. Lakoff, G. (1997) How unconscious metaphorical thought shapes dreams, In D.J. Stein, (eds.) Cognitive science and the unconscious. Washington: American Psychiatric Press, pp. 89-120. Lakoff, G. (2004) Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing. Lakoff, G., and Johnson, M (1980) Metaphors We Live By, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lanchester, J. It’s finished. London Review of Books, May 28, 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2011,from: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n10/print/lanc01_.html. Leitch, S., and Palmer, I. (2010) Analysing texts in context: Current practices and new protocols for Critical Discourse Analysis in organization studies, Journal of Management Studies, 6, 1194 – 1212. Levinson, S. (1983) Pragmatics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. McGrath, R. (1999) Falling forward: Real options reasoning and entrepreneurial failure, Academy of Management Review, 24, 13-30. Morgan, G. (1986) Images of Organization, London: Sage. Morgan, G. (1996) Is there anything more to be said about metaphor? In D. Grant and C. Oswick (Eds.) Metaphor and Organisations, London: Sage, pp. 227-240. Morris, M., Sheldon, O., Ames D., and Young, M. (2007) Metaphors and the market: Consequences and preconditions of agent and object metaphors in stock market commentary, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,102, 174-192. Moss Kanter, R. (June, 2003) Leadership and the psychology of turnarounds, Harvard Business Review, 58-67. Mueller, F., and Whittle, A. (2011) Agency as a discourse grammar: An analysis of accountability and the banking crisis, EGOS Conference 2011, Gothenburg, Sweden, 06-09 July 2011. Mumby, D. (2001) Power and Politics, In F. Jablin and L. Putnam (Eds.) The New Handbook of Organisational Communication, London: Sage. Oberlechner, T., and Mayer-Schoenberger, V. (2002) Through their own words: Towards a new understanding of leadership through metaphors, John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University) Faculty Research Working Papers Series. Oswick, C., and Grant, D. (1996a) (Eds.) Organizational Development: Metaphorical Explorations, London: Pitman. Oswick, C., and Grant, D. (1996b) The organization of metaphors and the metaphors of organization: Where are we and where do we go from here? In D. Grant and C. Oswick (Eds.) Metaphor and Organizations, London: Sage, pp. 213-326. Oswick, C., Keenoy, T., and Grant, D. (2002) Metaphor and analogical reasoning in organisation theory: Beyond orthodoxy, Academy of Management Review, 27, 294-303. Oswick, C., Putnam, L., and Keenoy, T. (2004) Tropes, discourse and organizing, In D. Grant, C. Hardy, C. Oswick and L. Putnam (Eds.) The Sage Handbook of Organizational Discourse, pp. 105-128. Pablo, Z., and Hardy, C. (2009) Merging, masquerading and morphing: Metaphors and the World Wide Web, Organization Studies, 30, 821-843. Pretorius, M. (2008) Critical variables of business failure: A review and classification framework, South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, 11, 408-430. Putnam, L. and Fairhurst, G. (2001) Discourse analysis in organizations. In F. Jablin and L. Putnam (Eds), The New Handbook Of Organizational Communication. London: Sage, pp.78-136. Richardson, B., Nwankwo, S., and Richardson, S. (1994) Understanding the causes of business failure crisis: Generic failure types: boiled frogs, drowned frogs, bull frogs and tadpoles, Management Decision, 32, 9-22. Rogoff, E. G., Lee, M., and Suh, D. (2004) “Who done it?” Attributions by entrepreneurs and experts of the factors that cause and impede small business success, Journal of Small Business Management, 42, 364–376. Searle, J. (1979) Metaphor, In A. Ortony (Ed.) Metaphor and Thought. New York: Cambridge University Press. Searle, J. (1993) Metaphor, In A. Ortony (Ed.) Metaphor and Thought (2nd Edition), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.83-111. Smith, R., and Eisenberg, E. (1987) Conflict at Disneyland: A root-metaphor analysis, Communication Monographs, 54, 367-380. Song, N.S. (1998) Metaphor and metonymy, In R. Carston and S. Uchida (Eds.) Relevance Theory. Amsterdam, Holland: John Benjamins. Spicer, A., and Alvesson, M. (2011) Metaphors for leadership, In M. Alvesson and A. Spicer (Eds.) Metaphors We Lead By: Understanding Leadership in the Real World, London: Routledge, pp.31-50. Tsoukas, H. (1991) The missing link: A transformational view of metaphors in organizational science, Academy of Management Review, 16, 566-585. Turnage, A. (2010) Identification and Disidentification in Organizational Discourse: A Metaphor Analysis of E-mail Communication at Enron, PhD Thesis, North Carolina State University. Whittle, A., and Mueller, F. (2012) Bankers in the dock: Moral storytelling in action, Human Relations, 45, 111-139. Winkler, I. (2010) Contemporary leadership theories: Enhancing the understanding of the complexity, subjectivity and dynamic of leadership. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

    PY - 2012/9/1

    Y1 - 2012/9/1

    N2 - This paper analyses the testimony of four banking CEOs to the Banking Crisis Inquiry of the Treasury Committee of the UK House of Commons in 2009. We explore the root metaphors they employed as they sought to explain the banking failures that had occurred. Our analysis identifies four such metaphors. First, ‘the wisdom of the crowd’, in that bankers were influenced by the behaviour of significant others. Second, the bankers depict themselves as at times being forced to be passive observers of events. Third, they characterize themselves as victims of the crisis, sharing in the widespread pain it produced. Fourth, they are penitent learners, able and willing to improve. The main intent seems to be to frame public discussion of the crisis in terms which diminishes their responsibility for what happened. We also argue that the bankers’ discourse had limited impact in terms of framing public debate, while the metaphors they employed havethe potential to minimize learning from failure. The study of the metaphors of failure that they employed is therefore also the study of the failure of metaphor as an explanatory trope and an aid to organizational learning. In addition, we suggest that the impact of metaphors can be reconsidered in terms of what we term ‘the exclusion principle’. This suggests that, while they achieve some of their effects by a process of comparison between adjacent domains, and a consideration of differences between them, they also can exclude categories of meaning from consideration. Our paper therefore contributes to the literature on metaphor, as well as those considering organizational failure and associated attempts to draw lessons from the banking crisis.

    AB - This paper analyses the testimony of four banking CEOs to the Banking Crisis Inquiry of the Treasury Committee of the UK House of Commons in 2009. We explore the root metaphors they employed as they sought to explain the banking failures that had occurred. Our analysis identifies four such metaphors. First, ‘the wisdom of the crowd’, in that bankers were influenced by the behaviour of significant others. Second, the bankers depict themselves as at times being forced to be passive observers of events. Third, they characterize themselves as victims of the crisis, sharing in the widespread pain it produced. Fourth, they are penitent learners, able and willing to improve. The main intent seems to be to frame public discussion of the crisis in terms which diminishes their responsibility for what happened. We also argue that the bankers’ discourse had limited impact in terms of framing public debate, while the metaphors they employed havethe potential to minimize learning from failure. The study of the metaphors of failure that they employed is therefore also the study of the failure of metaphor as an explanatory trope and an aid to organizational learning. In addition, we suggest that the impact of metaphors can be reconsidered in terms of what we term ‘the exclusion principle’. This suggests that, while they achieve some of their effects by a process of comparison between adjacent domains, and a consideration of differences between them, they also can exclude categories of meaning from consideration. Our paper therefore contributes to the literature on metaphor, as well as those considering organizational failure and associated attempts to draw lessons from the banking crisis.

    U2 - 10.1177/0170840612453528

    DO - 10.1177/0170840612453528

    M3 - Article

    VL - 33

    SP - 1045

    EP - 1069

    JO - Organization Studies

    T2 - Organization Studies

    JF - Organization Studies

    SN - 0170-8406

    IS - 8

    ER -