The Norwegian success story : narrative applications of interpretation, understanding, & communication in complex organizational systems
Stories about the oil and gas industry are made for drama; these are tales of unimaginable wealth, unimaginable power, and oftentimes, unimaginable deeds. But what should we make of an oil and gas narrative without a blood feud or villain? This is the story of the Norway Model, a unique system of natural resource management responsible for this country’s transformation since 1969 when massive oil reserves were discovered on the North Sea continental shelf. After centuries of foreign occupation, the Norwegian government has built a thriving petroleum sector to fund its social welfare system beyond even the highest expectations; somehow, this nation of five million people grew from a poor maritime society to a global leader in environmentally conscious energy production with the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Despite these results, this oil economy faces new challenges in the coming years; as North Sea production declines, Norway increasingly looks north for fossil fuels in the Arctic and how these resources are discovered, produced, and regulated will require new innovations to ensure the sustainability of this welfare state. Thus, the next chapter of the Norwegian success story remains to be written and this dissertation explores how narratives about the past, present, and future of the Norway Model will shape the course of natural resource management policies. In presenting the case of Norway’s success from a narrative perspective, this research breaks new ground in both applied and theoretical territories. As perhaps the most successful system of its kind in the world, scholars and policy makers alike have much to learn from studying this model. But when it comes to understanding the dynamic connections between energy management, international policy, and global warming, positivistic models for prediction and causality have fallen short (Smil, 2005). In contrast, narrative can communicate nuanced meanings in complex systems of organization. Therefore, this research explores the connections between narrative and complexity, as well as the communicative applications of narrative for understanding and organizational decision-making. Overall, conceptualizing this model’s evolution as a narrative offers tangible entry points for understanding how one country’s story can change the world.