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Culture and Organization, September 2005, Vol. 11(3), pp. 195–208

Fiction and Humor in Transforming McDonald’s Narrative Strategies DAVID BOJE*a, MICHAELA DRIVERb and YUE CAIa
a Department of Management, MSC3DJ, New Mexico State University, P.O. Box 30001, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001, USA; bDepartment of Management and Marketing, East Tennessee State University, Box 70625, Johnson City, Tennessee 37614-0625, USA dboje@nmsu.edu +1 Department DavidBoje of Management, 0 300000September 11 (505) 646-1201 2005 Originaland Organization 1475-9551 Francis Ltd Culture&Article Group 10.1080/14759550500203151 GSCO120298.sgm2005 Ltd (online) Taylor and (print)/1477-2760MSC3DJNew Mexico State UniversityP.O. Box 30001Las CrucesNM 88003-8001USA 646-1372 Francis

The article builds on and expands a narrative perspective on strategy. Specifically, we develop a more Bakhtinian model in which corporate fiction and humor serve the firm’s strategic dialogic imagination. We develop this model through an analysis of the McDonald’s corporation. Through the grotesque humor of its fictitious Ronald McDonald world, McDonald’s develops its dialogic imagination and transforms its strategic narratives. That is, strategic transformation is enacted narratively in and through its corporate fiction regenerating and revitalizing existing strategic narratives. Implications for research on McDonald’s in particular and strategy in general are discussed. Key words: Strategy; Narrative; Bakhtin; Humour; Fiction; McDonald’s Corporation

INTRODUCTION The view that strategy is a type of narrative seems to have arrived in mainstream organization research (Barry and Elmes, 1997). Since then linguistic and discursive analyses of strategy have been undertaken. For example, Rindova, Becerra and Contardo (2004) analyzed the language games of competitive wars and Starkey and Crane (2003) examined environmental strategy relative to narrative constructions of firm identity. These studies seem to validate Barry and Elmes’ (1997) view on strategy in which multiple voices, such as authors and readers, co-create narrative fiction, which then can be examined, like fiction, in terms of various genres and attributes of success, such as credibility and novelty. Building on this narrative perspective and particularly the Bakhtinian view, that strategy is a dialogical rather than a monological narrative, that is, a co-construction of various voices rather than one singular voice of some strategist for example (Barry and Elmes, 1997), we examine one voice that seems to be missing from the strategy discourse to date and that is the voice of corporate fiction and humor. While Bakhtin’s theory has been applied in management studies of humor before, for example in Rhodes’ (2001) study of carnivalesque grotesque humor in Homer Simpsons’ popular culture and Boje’s (2001) study of activist carnivalesque street theatre of resistance to Nike Corporation, we do not focus on humor as mocking, degrading debasement of corporations (nuclear power plant in Simpsons; Nike by the activists), but rather focus on the positive force of self-renewal and self-regeneration in fiction and humor and the role this plays for strategy.

*Corresponding author. Tel: + (505) 646-1201; Fax: + (505) 646-1372; E-mail: dboje@nmsu.edu

ISSN 1475-9551 print; ISSN 1477-2760 online © 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd DOI: 10.1080/14759550500203151

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DAVID BOJE, MICHAELA DRIVER AND YUE CAI

Specifically, we will focus on the case of the McDonald’s corporation to use Bakhtin’s (1968) method as an illustration of how corporations may use narrative fiction to develop dialogic imagination and novel voices in strategy narratives. Using the cartoon series produced for McDonald’s, the McDonaldland videos, we explore how grotesque humor degrades fictitious actors as they descend into a world of lower bodily functions, degenerating into grotesque and ridiculous caricatures of themselves. But because of and through...
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