Narrative and the construction of myths in organizations

Maxim Ganzin, Robert P. Gephart , Roy Suddaby

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores how organizational myths are created and sustained in organizational settings. Organizational, sociological, and anthropological literature on myth and mythologizing are reviewed to create a framework for the analysis of mythologizing in organizations. The chapter applies this framework, using a qualitative-interpretive perspective, to analyze the famous 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech by the late Steve Jobs, creator of Apple Computers, who was one of the most successful myth creators in the contemporary business world. His example of myth creation is vivid and allows for analysis of how myths are created and distributed in organizational settings. In the analysis, we identify and explore three domains or layers of complexity uncovered in the speech: (1) narrative and rhetorical devices used in the speech, (2) role and features of the monomyth or hero’s journey in the speech, and (3) mythological archetypes or “mythemes” that Jobs draws on to narrate his journey at Apple computer and in his broader life. The speech creates Jobs as a mythical hero and relates Jobs’s accomplishments to broader social myths. The chapter contributes to process organization studies by developing a process-oriented framework for understanding how myths are created and used to legitimate organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage and communication at work
Subtitle of host publicationdiscourse, narrativity, and organizing
EditorsFrançois Cooren, Eero Vaara, Ann Langley, Haridimos Tsoukas
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages42
ISBN (Print)9780198703082
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • organizational myths
  • narrative
  • rhetoric
  • archetypes
  • monomyth
  • hero’s journey
  • legitimation


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