Organizational Icons as Symbols of Organizational Identity: Research paper

by cv harquail on January 11, 2011

I was sending this paper off to some colleagues who are studying the role of symbols and organizational flourishing, and thought I’d post it here for the more academic readers…. just for fun.
Making Use of Organizational Identity:
Icons as symbolic identity proxies

Organizational identities serve important functions for an organization’s members as a collective.

Although the functions that organizational identities serve are critical to the organization’s overall ability to understand and direct itself, identities can be hard to articulate, hard to externalize and hard to share. However, using symbols to represent the organization’s identity can facilitate making claims about the organization’s identity and making decisions through “identity-referencing discourse” (Whetten, 2006). Moreover, organizational identity can have a stronger influence when symbols are used as its proxy, because symbolic proxies make it easier for members collectively to articulate, externalize and share identity beliefs and claims.

This paper identifies key functions of organizational identity and explains the difficulties inherent in making claims and having conversations directly about the organizational identity per se. I introduce the construct of an organizational icon, a human personification used to represent what members believe defines the organization. I propose that the organizational icon not only facilitates basic functions of organizational identity but also adds to the overall usability of organizational identity. To illustrate the ideas and their implications, the paper draws on practices and consequences of using an organizational icon as an identity proxy at the (pseudonymous) Heartland Corporation.

Download here:   Making Use of OI symbolic proxies.doc

November, 2006. Working paper prepared for workshop with colleagues at the Institute for International Business, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden.

Please note that the ideas presented here are preliminary. Comments and suggestions are invited.

Please cite only with permission.

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