Advancing Polyphonic, Multi‑layered and Authentic Narrative Inquiry: Actor Sensemaking during Transformational Change


  • Sally Eaves
  • John Walton


Keywords: narrative inquiry, authenticity, polyphony, sensemaking, transformational change, STRIKE


Abstract: This paper foregrounds multi‑layered and polyphonic narrative inquiry to elucidate an authentic representation of the intersectional sensemaking processes of organisational actors. This can afford particular value during the complex and dynamic circumstances of transformational change, as exemplified within the narrative tension of the joint venture Communications Sector Provider case examined in this study. The approach is panoptic and deeply situated within the context of understanding meaning‑making. This is achieved by adopting a multiplicity of embedded, creative and integrative approaches to narrative elucidation, evaluation and articulation, supported by robust triangulation and process transparency. The original framework STRIKE ‑ STructured Interpretation of the Knowledge Environment is demonstrated to afford particular value as a diagnostic and prescriptive observational tool, based on Wittgenstein's (2001) picture theory of meaning. With notable attention to non‑somatic artefacts, STRIKE surfaces actor sensemaking and emergent narratives in situ. In addition, creative art and visualisation techniques optimise the conduits for direct participant expression, augmenting the traditional focus group method to enhance the capacity for all voices to be heard. The collocation of narrative data within context benefits authenticity and advances the production of coherent and cohesive findings. A holistic, multi‑dimensional, multi‑textured and representational understanding of the problem situation emerges. This brings the criticality of human interaction with the physical as well as the social environment in order to create meaning to sharp focus. It is through an intersection of human‑material, social‑technical dialogue, across physical, textual, linguistic and visual dimensions, that organisational actors maintain, recreate and reinterpret their individual and collective identity as a means to navigate and make sense of, the complex self and group challenges catalysed by transformational change.



1 Dec 2013