Some Reflections on Organizational Communication Theory

One of the interesting aspects of Communication Studies as a field is the sheer volume of theories generated and accepted to describe what’s happening within (and sometimes across and between) organizations. It’s tempting to believe there are so many floating around you could find a theory to apply to almost any situation, without ever having to formulate a new one.  Perhaps, there’s simply no need for more…although, most likely, there is plenty of room for expansion and synthesis, and maybe even something new, in the long run.

Among the ones that I’m following most closely are structuration, organizational identification, and continuous change.

Structuration, in a tweet, is the theory that society is made up both of the group and of individuals, acting together.

Organizational identification is a developing line of inquiry that attempts to study and measure how individual’s identity overlaps with an organization’s.

Continuous Change is Brown & Eisenhardt’s notion that social change is not so much punctuated as in evolutionary theory, but constant…and suggests that managing time consciously is a way to succeed.

Part of what’s delightful about this field is the acceptance of constructivist, narrative paradigms. While there is clearly a split between qualitative and quantitative mind-sets—as there seems to be in nearly every field of inquiry at present (perhaps with the hard sciences and arts and humanities at either ends of the spectrum)—there appears to be room and appreciation for them both: the golden chalice of mixed methods.

A kid walks into a candy store. She counts her pennies: three. She chooses a chocolate kiss, a root beer stick, and gives the third penny to the jar at the register to help local children left homeless by a fire. At the counter register, the mustached storekeeper gives her a piece of salt-water taffy, with a smile and a pat on the head.

We all need both numbers and letters to understand the world clearly and communicate it to each other, to remember a meaningful past, live fully in the present, and create futures we can be proud of.