Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Psychogeography – Providing a Lens on Corporate Culture and Its Potential Impact on Career Success: A Novel and Efficient Approach

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Psychogeography – Providing a Lens on Corporate Culture and Its Potential Impact on Career Success: A Novel and Efficient Approach

Article excerpt


The research was undertaken at a large pubic Western Australian (WA) university. The university was piloting a career and leadership development program for senior academic women (the Program) that linked with the SAGE Athena SWAN initiative ( launched in Australia in 2015. The Program was part of a broader gender equity strategy and was linked to research aimed at exploring the enablers and barriers to career success for academic women at the university.

One of the traps in gendered work that we were very aware of is the focus on 'fixing' women ( Ely & Meyerson, 2000) to enable them to fit into existing cultures, structures and practices. That is, women are expected to conform to the existing organisational practices and their lack of career success can be ascribed to their lack of conformity with the established norm. Our focus was on the systemic and more complex issues that impact on academic women's careers.

As a result one of the elements we were interested in exploring as part of this research was the impact of the work environment and how this acts as an enabler or barrier to women's career success. We were interested to explore the full extent of the enablers and barriers and felt that semi-structured interview techniques alone may not reveal their full extent and impact. One of the authors was introduced to the dérive and psychogeography methods through the work of Hindley et al (2015) at the 2015 European Conference of Research Methodology (ECRM). Inspired by its novelty in a business setting we turned to it as strategy for adding richness to our data gathering.

As noted above we were keen to use a research method that would not only add richness to the interview data but which could potentially provide new or novel insights in relation to gendered workspaces. That is, we were interested in uncovering aspects of the corporate culture that were gendered (Halford & Leonard, 2013) and to which women, especially those that had been at the university for long periods, may have become enculturated. To that end, psychogeography seemed a suitable research method.

Having decided to use psychogeography we were concerned that we should gather and collate the participant's observations in a thorough yet timely manner and not add to their workloads further. To that end we used a focus group with all Program participants immediately at the conclusion of the psychogeography exercise.

This paper reports on the use of an approach to psychogeography coupled with a focus group to undercover aspects of corporate culture that relates to academic women's careers. Psychogeography refers to the loose interface between psychology and geography. Specifically it examines how we impact on the environment and the environment impacts on us. As a process it involves intimately observing the environment and seeing what may have been previously unobserved. Participants then construct meaning from these observations. In this research we invited a group of 25 academic women to participate in a pyschogeographical exercise to observe their environment with 'career success' in mind.

The use of a focus group is a commonly used qualitative data gathering method. In this case we used the focus group immediately following the pyschogeographical exercise to surface and explore the meaning of the academics' thoughts and observations through a structured group discussion in a timely and time efficient way.

When the results of this approach are compared with in-depth interviews covering similar areas relating to career enablers and barriers with the same group of academic women we found that significant depth and another side to the data had been added. This helped to reveal aspects of the corporate culture that the interviews alone did not.

This paper will be of interest to readers who are tasked with gaining insights into corporate culture or those interested in novel research methods. …

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