Using rhetoric to put the structure back in the garbage can

J.A.A. Sillince, P. Jarzabkowski, D. Shaw

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    This empirical case study of a business school internationalisation process investigates the relationship between rhetoric, ambiguity and strategic action in a garbage can context. Our data showed that rhetoric structured the garbage can and reduced the randomness of the strategy-making process in two ways. First, rhetoric enabled actors to distinguish between two uses of ambiguity - maximising ambiguity to avoid action, and minimising ambiguity to enact action. Rhetorics that maximised ambiguity were most frequent at the start of the strategy process; rhetorics that minimised ambiguity were most common later in the strategy process. Second, rhetoric provided structure by linking solutions, problems and participants to choice opportunities to enable action and by negating links between solutions, problems and participants and choice opportunities in order to enable inaction.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008
    Event24th EGOS colloquium - Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Duration: 10 Jul 200812 Jul 2008


    Conference24th EGOS colloquium
    CityAmsterdam, Netherlands


    • rhetoric
    • ambiguity
    • garbage can
    • strategic action


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