Facing paradox at the dark side of project management culture

CULTURAL STUDIES (kulturwissenschaft)

A project undertaken within the Cross-Cultural Complex Project Management program, find out more at

at the Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt (oder), Germany


"I looked, and looked, and this I came to see :

That what I thought was you and you,

Was really me and me."


(old proverb)


This research focused on the “darker” or undebatable aspects of project management culture. For that it used the Jungian concept of the “Shadow” (“the thing a person has no wish to be”, Jung, CW16) as a frame to look at underlying premises and hidden beliefs that motivate and often deter projects. Examples discussed are the confidence we hold in the idea of man as a rational actor and how that limits human agency and potential; the myth of control, the hubris of management and the dark-side of leadership.
The researcher looked both at the psychodynamic expressions of the life of groups, and to the overall discourse. Following a multi-method qualitative approach, findings are presented after the study of an array tools (called “transformative practices”) designed to handle the non-conscious aspects of groups, as well as interviews conducted with practitioners from across four main realms (therapy, coaching, the arts and spiritual practice). All this was done in order to better understand how the Shadow can be handled collectively and how projects are better stirred to success.


_ illustration by Francois Boucq for Alejandro Jodorowsky's "The Shadow's Treasure"


(earlier work involved the more creative aspects of the Shadow, see prior descriptions, as below)

Working Title // CCCPM PhD Programme : April 2010

Shadow work and noetic skills in the management of creative projects,
A developmental stage model for the creative unfolding in projects

How is the softer, more complex and non-linear side of projects tackled in art-driven ventures, where such noetic variables (creativity, awareness, depth, empathy, intuition, sound interdependence, ability to deal with uncertainty and chaos and integration of individual and collective shadows) are of the uppermost importance and often the focus of the group's work?

What lies behind the belief that projects can or should be orderly managed and always run as smooth as possible?
Could some of our underlying operational premises place chaos, unmanageability, instability, conflict, strong emotions, affects, desires and immoral human drives - out of the scope of projects?
How do we bring unspoken & unseen aspects of experience back into discourse, into awareness and part of our practices?
How do we handle and discuss the complexity of undesirable topics, drives and feelings?

This research focuses on the confidence we hold in “man as rational actor” - not to attain that it is incorrect, only that it is limited in scope. We often presume that our decision-making processes are entirely rational and consciously driven. What if they're not? Research today still makes too little space for the existence and the impact of subconscious drives and unresolved emotions.

in Cross Cultural Complex Project Management




A short video explaining the basis of Shadow-work