Do Aesthetics Influence an Organisation's Purpose?


  • Artur Deus Dionisio University of Vienna



With a market cap of around 100€ million a year, the corporate team-building industry is dwarfed by the team collaboration software industry (which stands at 11.65 billion). Within the hypercompetitive corporate world, every compound advantage is leveraged to foster productivity. However, ”scholars have yet to build a coherent, integrative body of research for understanding the work of aesthetics in organisational life”  [1]. Understanding the role and impact of aesthetics in organisations could yield gains in innovation, social interaction and mental health, and perhaps make more things work beautifully.

A growing angle has been experimenting with framing aesthetics within a productivity context, with Barnard going so far as to claim that management was “aesthetic rather than logical” [2].


There is something phenomenological which varies in degree and quality, that both potentially impairs and enables performance. Making this tacit perception explicit and usable — with the goal of yielding advantages in corporate culture, productivity and dynamism — means improving organisations and those who compose them [3]. But first, one has to understand the role, context and extent of aesthetics in organisations, leading to the questions: “do aesthetics influence an organisation's purpose in practice?”; and, sustaining this question, as aesthetics are necessarily and inseparably connected to experience, “how can we make aesthetic perceptions and aesthetic knowledge explicit (i.e. tangible)?”.


To address this, semi-structured interviews are conducted with the members of two or three organisations, and the interviews then screened for similarities, differences and conceptual networks, within a grounded theory approach, across individuals (five to ten per organisation). At an hour-long interview, the subject is asked about its aesthetics perceptions in relation to the meaning and purpose of the organisation.


We expect this line of inquiry to leverage individual aesthetic experiences within organisations. It could provide an initial approach for building a lens through which to analyse this characteristic, yet elusive, phenomenon at a corporate level, so as to benefit from it. 


[1] G. Baldessarelli, I. Stigliani, and K. D.Elsbach, “The Aesthetic Dimension of Organizing: A Review and Research Agenda,” Academy of Management Annals, 16, no. 1, pp. 217-257, 2022.

[2] C. Barnard, “The functions of the executive,” Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, pp. 235, 2005.

[3]H. Hansen, A. Ropo, and E. Sauer, “Aesthetic leadership,” The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 544, 2007.