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The Identity Conundrum and an Expanded Framework of Organizational Identity

Thinking about Cognition

ISBN: 978-1-80117-825-9, eISBN: 978-1-80117-824-2

Publication date: 22 November 2021


Although the organizational identity (OI) construct (Albert & Whetten, 1985) is now in its fourth decade, research in the field has been somewhat uneven, particularly with respect to an essentialist view and hypothetico-deductive type of studies. Believing that this stems in large part from insufficient construct clarity (Suddaby, 2010), this theory-development initiative presents an expanded conceptual framework. The authors exploit several key elements of individual identity and make the case for using these as the basis for conceptualizing an organizational-level equivalent. Starting with the premise that an individual’s identity is the product of comparisons, two dimensions are identified: the type of comparison (similarity, difference), referred to as the “identity conundrum,” and the object of comparison (self–other, self–self), referred to as the “identity perspective.” The authors then propose a four-cell distinctive conceptual domain for OI and explore its implications for scholarship.




This essay has evolved over several iterations, benefiting from the feedback and encouragement of many colleagues and session participants. We wish to thank, in particular, Blake Ashforth, Kevin Corley, David Deephouse, Denny Gioia, Juha Laurila, Mike Pratt, Davide Ravasi, Rhonda Reger, Roy Suddaby, and several anonymous reviewers, for their helpful comments, critiques, and suggestions on earlier versions. We also thank our editors, Robert Galavan and Kristian Sund, for their invaluable guidance and support. Prior versions of this manuscript were presented at the Academy of Management and Frontiers in Cognition conferences.


Foreman, P. and Whetten, D.A. (2021), "The Identity Conundrum and an Expanded Framework of Organizational Identity", Galavan, R.J. and Sund, K.J. (Ed.) Thinking about Cognition (New Horizons in Managerial and Organizational Cognition, Vol. 5), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 117-140.



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