All organizations have their stories. Stories help us cope with life's challenges and create maps for how to proceed into the future. Yet people continue to apologize for their use of story in organizations with phrases like "it is only a story," and very little systematic research has been done to shed light on how story and narrative really works in organizations, which is unfortunate because stories open valuable windows into the emotional, political and symbolic lives of organizations in uniquely illuminating ways.
Organizational stories and narratives reflect the living, vital essence of organizations. A cycle of narrative meaning develops in organizations as people use stories to make sense of the past, cope with the present, and proceed into the future. This cycle of narrative meaning repeats itself as the present becomes the past, and the future becomes the present, with stories ebbing and flowing between sense making, defining reality, and providing maps for how to proceed into the future. Stories travel in a non–linear fashion through organizations, facilitating connections between people and creating meaning.