In this chapter, we consider the second of the dominant metaphors of institution – the notion of organization-as-organism. This metaphor underpins a great deal of both theoretical and practitioner work in the domains of human relations, human resource management, organizational development, and the more humanistic approaches to organizational change. Specifically, we:

Reflect on the implications of seeing both organization and health in terms of effectiveness, adaptability and growth, in contrast to the efficiency and reliability criteria of the machine (Chapter 1).

Propose that discourses of organism shift attention towards a positive concern for health, rather than the repair of malfunction, both at the level of the individual human being and at the level of the organization.

Introduce the heuristic that health through the prism of the organismic metaphor is an injunction to ‘flourish!’ rather than the more mechanistic notion of ‘fix it!’.

Consider how discourses of organism give health and well-being an aesthetic dimension, concerned with beauty, growth, and the achievement of potential, not just functionality.

Start to explore and problematize the question of responsibility for health – a central theme of the book.

Introduce and start to challenge the assumption of synergy between individual and organizational health.