Exploring the dark side of the firm: Arts and aphorisms in management education and development

Claudio Baccarani, Federico Brunetti, Chiara Rossato


Purpose. Our paper aims to answer a basic but fundamental question: how can we understand the business world in order to propose a wider, deeper and wiser management education and development approach that is not limited to a technical perspective?

Methodology. The paper relies on both a theoretical approach and an experiential approach in education and management development and operations.

Findings. In order to understand the business world, the usual technical approach is not able to capture the firm in its different aspects because a firm is not a simple technical system; but first of all, is a living system and life demands a softer analysis through the arts in their different forms. The aphorism throws light on this emotional ‘dark side’ of the firm.

Practical implications. Aphorisms can help management activity in several ways:

-    they produce a series of thoughts that trace maps on territories that are barely considered and in fields of knowledge that are not knowingly possessed;

-    they favour open-minded examination of problems from a different point of view;

-    they make values clear inside an organisation;

-    they communicate the corporate identity to people inside and outside the organisation;

-    they generate critical dialogue within the management team about strategic decisions.

Originality/value. We have observed a gap in the literature pointing to the value of aphorisms in management training and to their use as a training technique, in addition to the more traditional techniques.


enterprise; technicalities; arts; aphorisms; management education; management development

Full Text:



Agosti A. (2001). Cinema ed educazione, percorsi per la formazione degli adulti, Padova: Cedam.

Alavi M., Gallupe R.B. (2003). “Using information technology in learning: Case studies in business and management education programs”, Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2: 139-153.

Alavi M., Yoo Y., Vogel D.R. (1997). “Using information technology to add value to management education”, Academy of Management Learning & Education, 40: 1310-1333.

Anderson L. (2006). “Analytic autoethnography” Journal of contemporary ethnography, 35(4): 373-395.

Armstrong D.A. (1992). Managing by Storying around: A New Method of Leadership. New York: Doubleday.

Baccarani C. (2011). Pensieri per il management nel tempo dell’imprevedibilità e delle sorprese, Torino: Giappichelli.

Baccarani C., Bonfanti A., (2016). “Business theatre in management studies: a structured literature review and future research directions”, International Journal of Managerial and Financial Accounting, 8 (3/4): 334-360.

Baccarani C., Brunetti F. (2002). “The use of movies in management education”, Proceeding of 13th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, Jacksonville, Florida, 9-13 April, 7-26.

Baccarani C., Brunetti F. (2003). Dalla penombra alla luce: un saggio sul cinema per lo sviluppo manageriale, Torino: Giappichelli.

Baccarani C., Castellani P., (2006). “Planning and improvisation in services”, Proceedings of 9th Toulon-Verona Conference – Excellence in Services, University of Paisley, 7-8 September, 46-53.

Barry D., Elmes M. (1997), “Strategy Retold: Toward a Narrative View of Strategic Discourse”, Academy of Management Review, 22(2): 429-452.

Boje D.M. (1991b). “Learning Storytelling: Storytelling to Learn Management Skills”, Journal of Management Education, 15(3): 279-294.

Boje D.M., Fedor D.B., Rowland K.M. (1982) “Myth Making: a Qualitative Step in OD Interventions”, The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 18(1): 17-28.

Boje, D.M. (1991a). “The Storytelling Organization: A Study of Story Performance in an Office-Supply Firm”, Administrative Science Quarterly, 36(1): 106–126.

Cajiao J., Burke, M.J., (2016) “How Instructional Methods Influence Skill Development in Management Education”, Academy of Management Learning & Education, 15(3): 508-524.

Canova G, Salvemini S. (2011). Il manager al buio: da Benvenuti al Sud a Il discorso del re : quando il cinema racconta l'economia, Milano: Rizzoli.

Carley M.S. (1999). “Training go to the movies”, Training & Development, 53(7): 15-18.

Cerni E. (2010). Dante per i manager. La Divina Commedia in azienda, Milano: Il Sole 24 Ore.

Champoux J.E. (1999). “Film as a teaching resource”, Journal of Management Inquiry, 8(2): 206–217.

Champoux J.E. (2001). Animated Films as a Teaching Resource, Journal of Management Education, 25(1): 79-100.

Corrigan P. (1999). Shakespeare On Management: Leadership Lessons for Today’s Managers, London: Kogan Page.

D'Incerti D., Santoro M., Varchetta G. (2007). Nuovi schermi di formazione. I grandi temi del management attraverso il cinema, Milano: Guerini e Associati.

Drechsler Sharp M., Riera J.L., Jones S.R. (2012). “Telling our stories: Using autoethnography to construct identities at the intersections”, Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 49(3): 315-332.

Exley E. (1993). The best of business quotation, Exley Publications: New York.

Gambirasio G. (2009). 1000 Aforismi e citazioni ad uso aziendale e non solo. Per riflettere su: motivazione, leadership, gestione del tempo, successo, teamwork, comunicazione ed altro ancora, Bergamo: Olympos Group.

Gold J., Holman D. (2001). “Let me tell you a story: an evaluation of the use of storytelling and argument analysis in management education”, Career Development International, 6(7): 384-395.

Harrington D., Short J.C., Hynes B., (2015). “Changing times for management educators: Rethinking engagement with participatory form of knowledge production”, Irish Journal of Management, 34(1): 51-59.

Harris C., Brown W. (1989). “Teaching business ethics using fiction: A case that failed”, Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal, 13: 38-47.

Hytti U., O’Gorman, C. (2004). “What Is Enterprise Education? An Analysis of the Objectives and Methods of Enterprise Education Programmes in Four European countries”, Education and Training, 46(1): 11–23.

Jones M.O. (1991). “What if Stories Don't Tally with the Culture?”, Journal of Organizational Change Management , 4: 27-34.

Kelliher F., Harrington D., Galavan, R. (2009). “Spreading Leader Knowledge - A Proposal for Practitioner-Academic Partnership in Disseminating Leader Knowledge”, Irish Journal of Management, 29(2): 103–21.

Koppett, K. (2001). Training to imagine: Practical improvisational theatre techniques to enhance creativity, teamwork, leadership and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Kowalewski S.J., Waukau-Villagomez L. (2011), “Storytelling and career narratives in organizations”, Global Journal of Business Research, 5(4): 83-92.

Leonardi E., (2008). Azienda in Jazz. Regole e improvvisazione, emozione e tecnica: come vivere il lavoro con ritmo, Milano: Il sole 24 Ore.

McGrath J. (2017). The Little Book of Big Management Wisdom: 90 important quotes and how to use them in business, Edinburgh: Pearson Education Limited.

Miglietta A., Romenti S., Sartore A. (2015), “Entrepreneurial narratives for resource acquisition in the Italian creative industries. A qualitative study”, Sinergie Italian Journal of Management, n. 98, September-December.

Mitev N., Venters W. (2009). “Reflexive Evaluation of an Academic Industry Research Collaboration; Can Mode Two Research be Achieved?”, Journal of Management Studies, 46(5): 733–754.

Mitroff I.I, Kilmann R.H. (1975), “Stories Managers Tell: A New Tool For Organizational Problem Solving”, Management Review, 64(7): 18-28.

Mockler R.J. (2002). “Using The Arts to Acquire and Enhance Management Skills”, Journal of Management Education, 26(5): 574-585.

Morgan S., Dennehy R.F. (1997). “The power of organizational storytelling: a management development perspective”, Journal of Management Development, 16(7): 494-501.

Moshavi D. (2001). ““Yes and ...”: Introducing improvisational theatre techniques to the management classroom”, Journal of Management Education, 25(4): 437–449.

Murnighan J.K, Conlon D.E. (1991). “The Dynamics of Intense Work Groups: A Study of British String Quartets”, Administrative Science Quarterly, 36(2): 165-186.

Nonaka I., Takeuchi H. (1995). The Knowledge Creating Company, Oxford: University Press.

Parkin M. (1998). Tales for Trainers, London, Kogan Page Limited

Parkin M. (2001). Tales for coaching, London: Kogan Page Limited.

Pitcher P. (1996). The drama of leadership: Artists, craftsmen, and technocrats and the power struggle that shapes organizations and society, New York: Wiley.

Reissner S., Pagan V. (2013). Storytelling in Management Practice: Dynamics and Implications, New York: Routledge.

Rousseau D.M., (2012), “Designing a better business school: Challenging Herbert Simon, addressing the critics, and developing actionable knowledge for professionalizing managers”, Journal of Management Studies, 49(3): 600-618.

Shafritz, J. M. (1999). Shakespeare On Management: Wise Business Counsel from the Bard, New York: HarperCollins.

Shaw G., Brown R., Bromiley P. (1998). “Strategic stories: How 3M is rewriting business planning”, Harvard Business Review, 76(3): 41-50.

Shaw G., Locke K. (1993). “Using fiction to develop managerial judgment”, Journal of Management Education, 17: 349-359.

Siegel P.H., Khursheed O., Agrawal S.P. (1997), “Video simulation of an audit: An experimental in experiential learning”, Accounting Education, 6(3): 217-230.

Simon H., Zatta D. (2011). Aforismi per il manager. Le migliori citazioni per ogni occasione, Milano: Hoepli

Turnbull A., Eickhoff M. (2011). “Business Creativity: Innovating European Entrepreneurship Education”, Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 24(1): 139-150.

Vaill P.B. (1981). “Thoughts on using poetry in the teaching of OB”, Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal, 6, 50-51.

Varanini F. (2000). Leggere per lavorare bene: nuovi romanzi per i manager, Venezia: Marsilio.

Varanini F. (2007). Romanzi per i manager: la letteratura come risorsa strategica, Venezia: Marsilio.

von Krogh G., Ichijo K., Nonaka I. (2000). Enabling Knowledge Creation: How to Unlock the Mystery of Tacit Knowledge and Release the Power of Innovation, New York: Oxford University Press.

Walker J. (2016). Inspirational Quotes for Business: The Best Quotes of Famous People about Success and Money, John Walker.

Wall S., (2008) “Easier said than done: Writing an autoethnography”, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 7(1): 38-53.

Wankel C., DeFillippi R., (2002). Rethinking Management Education for the 21st Century, Greenwich, Connecticut: IAP

Wastell D., (2014). “Archarios: A Dialogue Between Socrates and a Novice Manager on the Relevance of Design to Management Practice and Education”, Academy of Management Learning & Education, 13(4): 641-652.

Weick K.E, Gilfillan D.P., Keith T.A. (1973), “The Effect of Composer Credibility on Orchestra Performance”, Sociometry, 36: 435-462.

Weick K.E. (1998). “Improvisation as a mindset for organizational analysis”, Organization Science, 9(5): 543-555.

Weiss J, (2006). The Quotable Manager: Inspiration for Business and Life, Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, Publisher

Whitaker J., New J.R., Ireland R.D., (2016) “MOOCs and the Online Delivery of Business Education. What’s new? What’s not? What now?”, Academy of Management Learning & Education, 15(2): 345-365.

Whyte D., (2000). Il risveglio del cuore in azienda. Poesia e preservazione dell'anima sul luogo di lavoro, Milano: Guerini e Associati

Wilkins A.L. (1984). “The creation of company cultures: The role of stories and human resource systems”, Human Resource Management, 23(1): 41-60.

Wolff M., Clemens J.K., (1999). Movies to Manage By. Lessons in Leadership from Great Films, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Zajdel M.M., Vinton K.L. (1988). “Beyond the story: How to use a literary critic in the organizational behavior class”, Organizational Behavior Teaching Review, 12: 62-67.


  • There are currently no refbacks.