Gustavson business history researchers win best paper award


Gustavson researchers Diego Coraiola and Roy Suddaby, along with University of Alberta collaborator William Foster, received the 2016 Academy of Management’s Management History division’s John Mee Award for Outstanding Contribution to Management History research for their paper “Useful Rhetorical History: An Ideographic Analysis of the Online Rhetorical Histories of Fortune 500 corporations”.

Diego and Roy’s research program focuses on how managers make sense of and represent the past to achieve things in the present. The past is an important source of material but also contain symbolic resources for organizations. The more skilled an organization is in appropriating and creatively exploiting its past for present purposes, the more it will generate distinctiveness and competitive advantage.

This award-winning paper looks for an answer to the question of how historical narratives work. Many large, Fortune 500 organizations, invest in preserving their histories. Corporate archives are kept and many historical products are developed based on the records from the past. Among these products, the most significant are the narratives about the corporate past that companies exhibit in their websites and history books.  Although stakeholders value this engagement with the company’s past, there is still not a good explanation of what makes a good corporate history. This paper looks for an answer to the question of how historical narratives work. In this paper, the researchers argue that the persuasiveness of an organizational account of its past lies in its ability to connect with broader issues valued by the society. In addition, they identify that the use of symbolic words known as ideographs are the main strategy they use to frame their histories in ways that make they appear relevant to multiple stakeholders at the same time. It is through the use of powerful words as freedom, war, and revolution, that organizations produce the linkages between issues in the corporate past with important elements of the society.

The Management History division’s domain includes pragmatic investigations into the historical evolution of managerial thought and action.