The Uniqueness Paradox in Organizational Stories

The Uniqueness Paradox in Organizational Stories

By Joanne Martin, Martha Feldman, Mary Jo Hatch, Sim Sitkin
1983Working Paper No. 678

Organizational cultures, and in particular stories, carry a claim to uniqueness - that an institution is unlike any other. This paper argues that a culture’s claim to uniqueness is, paradoxically, expressed through cultural manifestations, such as stories, that are not in fact unique. We present seven types of stories that make a tacit claim to uniqueness. We show that these seven stories occur, in virtually identical form, in a wide variety of organizations. We then suggest why these stories have proliferated while others have not.