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Collective Sensemaking: The Cave within the Cage

Olivier Baly
Frédéric Kletz
Jean-Claude Sardas


Situated cognition and neo-institutional theory have revived two fruitful allegories of collective sensemaking within organizations: Plato's Simile of the Cave and Max Weber's Iron Cage. Scholarly efforts to combine these two approaches have converged towards a shared vision of collective sensemaking as an interaction between institutionalized cognitive schemas and contextual grounding. Nevertheless, the mechanisms framing and shaping the outcome of this contextual cognitive interaction, i.e. the collective meanings actually produced and institutionalized, have remained largely unexplored. We aim to address this common gap by examining how the interplay of institutional and contextual factors determined the collective sensemaking of an emergent occupational group, namely, management controllers in French hospitals. Comparing the results from a two-year focus group study held in a community of practice and survey data from 163 respondents, we draw consistent findings indicating that a similar position within supervision micro-structures, which we label isothetism, contributed to shaping the group's transactive memory and to framing the institutionalization of its cognitive schemas. We conclude by discussing the implications of isothetism for future research on the meaningfulness of organizations.
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hal-01305315 , version 1 (23-04-2016)


  • HAL Id : hal-01305315 , version 1


Olivier Baly, Frédéric Kletz, Jean-Claude Sardas. Collective Sensemaking: The Cave within the Cage. 76th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Aug 2016, Anaheim, United States. ⟨hal-01305315⟩
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