The Aesthetics of Organizational Purpose


  • Auguste Ball University of Vienna



The experience of aesthetics is not only limited to the perception of the visually beautiful, but can also be understood in a broader sense. What is special about the aesthetic experience (AE), is that it has hedonic properties and by the possibility to provide self-rewarding cognitive operations, this experience generates a sense of meaning and purpose [1]. In an organizational context, the objects of aesthetics can be the product, the work environment and the organizational culture [2]. If the aesthetics of organizations should not just be an abstract construct, the question is whether and how the members perceive their organization and their purpose as aesthetic. To answer this question, it is crucial to explore the link between AE and organizational purpose. Since perceptions regarding aesthetics are mostly tacit, this research project wants to investigate how an AE and the purpose of an organization can be identified, shaped and enacted. A further application-related research question is: How does aesthetics influence the form and enactment of an organization’s purpose in practice?


In order to investigate this research question, the method of Straussian grounded theory is chosen. This approach makes it possible to pursue exploratory questions with great openness and enables theory generation [3]. In order to get a holistic impression of an entire organization, three small companies with five to ten employees are examined following a theoretical sampling strategy. The analysis of the first interviews guides the selection and analysis of the following ones leading to an iterative research process. The data stems from narrative interviews that also include a specific inquiry phase. The interviews last about an hour and ask about the personal aesthetic perceptions and the sense of meaning and purpose in the organization. When evaluating these interviews, it will be revealed whether there are similarities in the answers within a company and if something like an aesthetics of the specific organization and its purpose can be derived from this.


The goal is to find an operationalization for aesthetics in organizations. In the next step, concrete possibilities can then be shown to make the purpose of a certain organization tangible. When this knowledge of the aesthetics and purpose of an organization is applied and cultivated, it can help guide organizational decisions and actions.


[1] H. Leder, B. Belke, A. Oeberst and D. Augustin, “A model of aesthetic appreciation and aesthetic judgments,” British Journal of Psychology, vol. 95, no. 4, pp. 489–508, 2004.

[2] A. Strati, “Aesthetic Understanding of Organizational Life,” The Academy of Management Review, vol.17 no. 3 pp. 568– 581, 2006.

[3] A. Strauss and J. Corbin, Basics of qualitative research: techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Sage Publications, 2014.