| Organization Science
Relaxing the Taboo on Telling Our Own Stories: Upholding Professional Distance and Personal Involvement
Scholars studying organizations are typically discouraged from telling, in print, their own stories. The expression "telling our own stories" is used as a proxy for field research projects that, in their written form, explicitly rely on a scholar's personal involvement in a field. (By personal involvement in a field, I mean a scholar's engagement in a set of mental activities that connect her to a field.) The assumption is that personal involvement is antithetical to maintaining professional distance. In this paper, I argue that the taboo against telling our own stories stems in part from an epistemological misunderstanding. Learning from the field entails upholding both distance and involvement; the two dimensions should not be conceptualized as opposite ends of a continuum. Moreover, I suggest that the taboo has become too extreme and stifles our collective capacity to generate new insights. To make this argument, I start by discussing the general taboo against telling one's own stories. Second, I focus on the rationale set forth to justify not only the taboo but also its limitations. Third, I examine what distance entails and how involvement, far from lessening distance, creates opportunities for generating potentially strong theoretical insight. Fourth, I showcase several areas of theoretical development that might benefit from revisiting the taboo. I conclude by reviewing key practical implications of such a shift for our profession and by arguing that organizational scholarship could gain a great deal from relaxing the taboo.