Time for Some Course Corrections in Organizations

Blake Ashforth

 

[We’re pleased to welcome Blake Ashforth of Arizona State University, Tempe. Blake recently published an article entitled “Exploring Identity and Identification in Organizations: Time for Some Course Corrections,” published in Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. From Blake:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

When individuals identify with their occupations and organizations, good things generally happen. They tend to perform more effectively, make decisions with the organization’s best interests in mind, and are better organizational citizens. However, after hundreds of studies on identity and identification in the workplace, I think it’s time for some course corrections. Specifically, I argue that we’ve drifted away from the core aspect of identification – that is, the definition of oneself in terms of a target – treating identification as just another attitudinal variable; that the most important target of identification is not the organization per se, but the occupation, relationships, and groups or teams; that there is an important dark side to identification; and that we need to consider perspectives of identity beyond social identity theory/self-categorization theory.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Identity and identification have been vital concepts in organizational studies for decades. My hope is that these “course corrections” will help keep these concepts as vital and generative in the future as they have been in the past.

 


An excerpt from the article:

JLO

Identity and identification remain very popular constructs for organizational scholars, regularly generating a bounty of provocative research. To help maintain the generativity of these root constructs, I suggest four “course corrections” for our explorations, namely, focusing more on (1) the core aspect of identification, that is, the definition of self in terms of a target; (2) other targets of identification aside from the organization; (3) the dark side of identification; and (4) perspectives of identity beyond social identity theory/self-categorization theory.

You can read the article “Exploring Identity and Identification in Organizations: Time for Some Course Corrections” from the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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Historical Bricolage, Or How Companies Mix Past Heritage with Present Organizational Identity

hotel-sign[We’re pleased to welcome Laura Illia of IE University. Laura recently published an article with co-author Alessandra Zamparini in the October 2016 issue of Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Legitimate Distinctiveness, Historical Bricolage, and the Fortune of the Commons.” The interview with Laura:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

We have been previously doing research together in a project related to wineries in Switzerland in which we realized the importance for competing businesses to bond together and build a collective identity at the regional level.  How companies blend their organizational and collective identities through their narratives seemed to be key. When Laura was appointed to IE University and moved to Spain, she met some regional managers and found out that rural hotels in the region of Castilla y León had similar needs to those of wineries in Switzerland. However, what made this case even more interesting was that nobody was working out a collective identity for local rural hotels. No intermediaries were active, neither the small businesses were bonding together.  Despite this, there was an emerging collective identity looking at the narratives of these businesses, so we decided to study which narrative processes were taking place.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?Current Issue Cover

We undertook an exploratory approach to the study. When you do it, all findings are potentially surprising, because you are exploring. However, what probably we found most surprising was the fact that these small businesses were blending  the business and regional  identities through a narrative process that does not only appropriate collective elements but also preserves them . That was the moment in which we started to dim into the literature of commons, i.e. natural, social and cultural resources.  Typically corporations are considered actors that exploit commons, because these are physical resources that are considered limited. However, narratives, themselves, are considered intangible resources that, differently from the physical ones, can be reproduced infinitely. The way these small businesses in our study were re-producing narratives was interesting because they were undertaking a present approach to revisit the past, blending their organizational identity with historical natural, social or cultural anecdotes of the region. We called historical bricolage this process, by which rural hotels were recursively appropriating and preserving the local historical heritage, being able to communicate their belongingness to the region and their unique identities.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

This study reaffirms the relevance of history for organizational strategic positioning, and in particular it opens up new avenues for research on narrative historical commons, which are resources reproduced and revived in organizations’ communications. Research in this direction might extend the understanding of collective identity construction and legitimate distinctiveness, not only in local business communities, but also in all those communities where boundaries are fuzzier, such as virtual communities and project-based organizational networks. On the practical level, we see that historical bricolage might be a useful competitive mean in those contexts where financial resources for collective identity promotion and inter-organizational coordination are limited.

The abstract for the article:

This article analyzes how organizations discursively construe legitimate distinctiveness (LD) by using their own corporate stories in recombination with historical narratives about commons (i.e., cultural, social, or natural resources available in a local community). Specifically, through the study of 55 rural hotels active in Segovia (Castilla y León, Spain), we theorize about how organizations build LD through a different process than the one explained by previous studies: a process of historical bricolage. Two recursive mechanisms constitute this process—namely the appropriation and preservation of historical narratives about natural (e.g., forests, animals), social (e.g., recipes, movies), or cultural (e.g., heritage, kings) commons. This process contributes to current studies because it explains how organizations build LD through the strategic use of history, the preservation rather than the mere appropriation of collective narratives, and finally the production of stories that integrate the organizational and collective selves.

You can read “Legitimate Distinctiveness, Historical Bricolage, and the Fortune of the Commons” from Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay up to date on all of the latest research from Journal of Management InquiryClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

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698.gifLaura Illia is an associate professor at IE University (ES). Her current research focuses on how issues of organizational identity, branding, corporate communication, reputation, and Corporate Social Responsibility are involved in organizational management. She has been doing research at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom), and University of Lugano (CH). Her works are published in journals such as MIT Sloan Management Review, Journal of Business Ethics, British Journal of Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Corporate Reputation Review, Corporate Communications: An international Journal, and Journal of Public Relations Research. She currently serves on the Editorial Board of Business and Society (SAGE), Corporate Reputation Review (Palgrave), and Corporate Communications: An International Journal (Emerald).

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Alessandra Zamparini is a post-doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Communication Sciences of USI Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland, Institute of Marketing and Communication Management (IMCA). Her research focuses primarily on the topic of identity at multiple levels and its implications for corporate and organizational communication. She is especially interested in understanding identity dynamics within local business communities and regions. In this regard, she is currently developing research funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). She has recently published in Strategic Organization, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, and International Journal of Wine Business Research. She holds a PhD in communication sciences and economics and management from USI Università della Svizzera italiana and the University of Padua (Italy).

*Hotel image attributed to Andrew Moore (CC)