Author(s), Title and Publication:

Wines, W. A., & Hamilton III, J. B. (2009). On changing organizational cultures by injecting new ideologies: The power of stories. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(3), 433-447.


Organization culture is an organization’s invisible, intangible, yet most powerful force. Occasionally, organizations will need to initiate a change of organization culture, at times when corporate legal and ethical meltdowns create harm to companies and society. Conventional wisdom suggests that a successful change of organization culture requires massive personnel layoffs, which is undoubtedly expensive in financial and human terms. The authors propose a possible alternative way of changing organization culture, by suggesting the use of new corporate stories infused with new ideologies. Specifically, they argue that a genuine change in organizational culture requires an empowered, autonomous, and well-funded ethics office to actively endorse the organizational change. And more importantly, it requires corporate employees to master the vocabulary of ethics as part of the organization culture and corporate management to treat ethics as an important factor for strategic business decisions and for rewarding and advancing employees.

To achieve such change, the authors advocate the power of storytelling, as stories/myths can cover the cultural DNA of an organization and transmit it to its employees with a set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites, and custom that inform and give the pivotal sense of meaning and direction. And an understanding of corporate mythology can be used to explain corporate culture, to predict large patterns in corporate behavior, and even to change corporate culture by changing the dominant corporate stories, legends, and myths.

Implications for Practitioners

To effectively tell stories to achieve organizational culture change, organizations should make sure that 1) the new stories are compatible with the accepted larger stories, legends, and myths of the industry or society, 2) the history of the corporation support the new stories, which may require a careful articulation of corporate history at the first place, 3) the new stories demonstrate the application of desirable, morally positive, values to issues typically arising in the corporate ventures, and 4) new stories aim for emotional impact to be better remembered, more often told, and more quickly assimilated into the organizational culture.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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