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Identity is the fundamental characteristics of the organization and its members -- those characteristics members most strongly value and form the basis for how they identify themselves. Identity goes hand in hand with values, authenticity, purposeful, and responsible living.

Stacey on identity
Identity defined (Stacey, 2007, pp 240, 435) --
Ralph Stacey puts identity in the context of his responsive processes view of strategy - strategy is the evolving narrative pattern of organizational identity. Strategy is the evolving pattern of what an organization is, its identity.

Identity is human meaning. Human identity has two inseparably interwoven aspects, namely, individual and collective, that which Elias called 'I' and 'we' identities. From a complex responsive process perspective, an organization is evolving identity. In talking about organizations, the normal practice is to focus almost exclusively on collective 'we' identities. The complex responsive process perspective, however, encourages not to lose sight of the fact that 'I' identities are inseparable from 'we' identities.

People undertake joint action pursuing organizational strategies. Actors cause patterns of movement in this activity called organizational dynamics. How actors are engaged in and thinking about this movement gets into who people think they are and what they think they are doing together - who they want to be, what they want to do together, and what they desire to achieve. Put in these words, strategies are fundamentally about the identities of people.

Identity is the answer we give to the question, 'who are you and what are you doing?'

    The answer to this question entails some description of the organization we belong to and what kind of work we do in them. At strategy 'away-days', groups of managers talk about what kind of business they are in and how they might want to change it; what kind of image their organization has, how they might wish it to change and sometimes how they are thinking about all of this. In doing this, they are talking about identity; their own identities. From a complex responsive process perspective, then, strategy content is dynamic patterns of emerging continuity and potential transformation of collective identities which are inseparable from individual identities. Put like this, the distinction between content and process dissolves.

Identity as a sense of self --

  • Feelings are rhythmic variations of the body -- its spatial and temporal dynamics.
    • Each individual has their own unique pattern of bodily time contours.
    • Temporal dynamics, located in parts of the body, mesh into a symphony of rhythms having particular time contours marked by beat, duration, and variations in intensity, constituting what Stern (1985, 1995) calls vital effects, and Damasio (1994, 1999) calls background feelings.
  • Identity --unique bodily time contours constitute a person's feelings as unique experiences of self, or identity. A bodily sense of self is actualized
  • Identity formation -- A bodily sense of self, an identity, is actualized through the way in which others respond to that person's unique bodily time contour and the way in which such responses are experienced.
  • Identity co-emergence --The bodily sense of self emerges in a social process, one in which self is co-created. Identities of individual persons and the collective identities of their groups, organizations, and societies emerge in complex responsive processes
  • Knowledge artifacts, symbolizing identities past, may be used as tools in local communicative interaction in the living present
  • Categorization in identity formation -- see categorization.

Identity and difference --
Identity refers to one side of the paradox of 'identity - difference' - the sameness of identity and difference of changes in that identity - in transformative causality. This variation, difference, is due to micro-diversity.

There are several paradigms, or ways of thinking of organization, why and how organizations become what they become. Identity is a key element of identity-difference thinking.

Complex Responsive Processes of theme and identity formation --
For a discussion of the complex responsive processes view of theme and identity formation see this topic in theme.

Identity is destiny (Ackerman, 2000) --
Identity is a powerful source of energy for innovation and producing value in pursuit of a mission. The organizational identity is reinforced by the wealth that feeds back into the business. Strategic and operational philosophies should be based on the organizational identity. Identity is a ""governing force"" that completely shapes an organization and determines the relationship it enjoys with stakeholders. It can be managed to become a positive governing force. Laurence D. Ackerman identifies the laws of identity and their applications --

  • Law of being -- The organization exhibits the distinct capacities of the individuals who make up that organization. Being is defined by the value it creates in the members of the organization, the marketplace, society, and the business itself.
  • Law of individuality -- The organization's human capacities fuse into a unique discernable identity. Live according to who you are. Live authentically.
  • Law of constancy -- Identity is fixed. How the identity is manifested needs to constantly change. Make change in concert with the identity of the organization.
  • Law of will -- Every organization is compelled by the need to create value in accordance with its identity. Drives people to be the best at whatever they do.
  • Law of possibility -- Identity foreshadows potential. The richest avenues with the greatest potential for growth lie in understanding the natural drive of the organization.
  • Law of relationship -- Organizations are inherently relational, and those relationships are only as strong as the natural alignment between the identities of the participants. Leaders must manage relationships with stakeholders as a whole system, not as a portfolio of separate distinct relationships. Value circle in motion builds relationship momentum that stands the test of time.
  • Law of comprehension -- The individual capacities of the organization are only as valuable as the perceived value of the whole of that organization. We must know who we are before we can build potent relationships with others. (Be authentic).
  • Law of the cycle -- Identity governs value, which produces wealth, which fuels identity. Companies will receive in direct accordance with what they give.

Margaret Wheatley's View of Identity -- Source: Wheatley, 2005, pp 37-39
Identity is the sense-making capacity of the organization. It is the organization's sense of self, the touch point for all decisions and the collective organization knowledge of who it is. This sense of self, i.e. identity, includes vision, mission, values, and plus factors related to the path the organization is on. This worldview includes interpretations of its history, present decisions and activities, and its sense of the future.

Once identity is set in motion, it becomes the sense-making process of the organization. In deciding what to do, a system will refer back to its sense of self. We interpret events and data according to who we think we are. We never simply ""know"" the world; we create worlds based on the meaning we invest in the information we choose to notice. Everything we know is determined by who we think we are.

Identity is reinforced and further discovered by the decisions made and actions taken consistent with the identity. As the organization responds to new information and new relationships, its identity becomes clearer at the same time that it changes.

Other aspects of identity --
Identity and authenticity --
See authenticity -- Elements of authenticity.

Identity and incitement --
Most organization efforts don't begin with a commitment to creating a coherent sense of identity. Yet it is this clarity that frees people to contribute in creative and diverse ways. Clear alignment around principles and purposes allows for maximum autonomy. People use their shared sense of identity to organize their unique contributions.

Organizations lose an enormous organizing advantage when they fail to create clear and coherent identity. In a chaotic world, organizational identity needs to be the most stable aspect of the endeavor. Structures and programs come and go, but an organization with a coherent center is able to sustain itself through turbulence because of its clarity about who it is. Stable and clear clarity of identity sustains the confidence of the organization members as the organization morphs in response to the changing environment.

Related concepts - Identity and worldview are proximate concepts. See worldview and path dependence.