Experience offerings with a purpose? Aesthetic innovation and organizing with duality.
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Organizations and communities pay for lectures and facilitation processes where a well-paid lecturer talks to people who are paid to listen. This practice finds little support in organizational theory. Hence, it may make more sense to view these products as experience offerings. The main question of this thesis is: Can such experience offerings lead to changes in organizations, and hence be used with a purpose? The answer is a conditional yes, and demands a theoretical shift towards experience as aesthetic. Aesthetic here means that which effects the senses and affects the imagination. Experiences are not things, but relationships: between an experiencing subject and whatever is experienced. This relationship forms a duality that cannot be reduced to units without loss of content. In this dissertation, a new theoretical foundation for the study of experience offerings is presented. However: to make an instrumental theory based on relationships such as experience offerings, demands using an ironic approach. Ironic here means that one has to concede the fact that one has to use the language at hand even though it is flawed and can never describe reality completely. In this case, dualities are used as a unit, even though that by definition is impossible. Experience offerings allow for an exploration of difficult topics, because they allow talking about something problematic. They “have” dualities that allow distance to reality. If innovation is something new that works, an aesthetic innovation enables people to imagine themselves as putting the new to work. Put simply: to do something new, people need ways to think about it that make it possible. When experience offerings enable that, they are aesthetic innovations. People are better able to reflect and then act on their reflections from such experience offerings. Organizations face some particular challenges in handling duality needed for experience offerings to have effect. Duality may for example be quenched by an effort to make precise decisions. When experience offerings work in organizations, it is because duality is sustained beyond the first interaction with the offering.