Research: The Dynamic Interplay of “Who We Are” And “Who We Are Not”
Author: Sarah Stanske – European University Viadrina – Department of International Management.
Author: Madeleine Rauch – Copenhagen Business School – Department of Strategy and Innovation.
Author: Anna Canato – Luxembourg School of Business.
In this paper, we investigate the strategy–identity nexus by illustrating the interaction between organizational identity, anti-identity, and strategy. While extant research illustrates the potentially constraining role of organizational identity on change trajectories, less is known about the role of organizational anti-identity. Drawing on a qualitative case study of a leading German distributor’s 32-year history, we highlight the importance of organizational anti-identity for both continuous and discontinuous change initiatives, and illustrate how organizational members can overcome identity ambiguity by referring to “who we are not as an organization” rather than to “who we are as an organization.” We further show how managers who draw on identity reservoirs may have greater leeway when exploiting anti-identity, and how ambiguity and resistance may be overcome by referring to “who we are not” as an organization. Our findings broaden our understanding of the role of anti-identity for strategy selection and contribute to the burgeoning literature on the strategy–identity nexus.
Keywords: organizational identity, anti-identity, strategizing, identity reservoir
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