A historic turn in organization studies requires a basic theoretical understanding of 'doing history' and an appreciation of the centrality of narrative in history. Following the cultural turn in history, narrativist historians and philosophers of history such as Hayden White, Frank Ankersmit and Paul Ricoeur have made the case that narrative is an essential and unavoidable component in history. We demonstrate the persuasive capacity of narrative through a narrativist critique of three best-selling 'management gurus'. This analysis illustrates the following: (1) the narrative features of popular organizational theories; (2) the basis of the success of guru literature; and (3) why gurus and organizational scientists themselves do not understand the narratological mechanisms behind their success. Finally, we maintain that historical narrativism offers the possibility for positioning organizational history as a highly relevant field for management academics, gurus and even managers, providing support for a historic turn. © The Author(s) 2012.