47: Organizational Identity — Albert & Whetten

Stuart Albert

David Whetten

“Who are we?”

The pursuit of an answer to this tantalizingly simple question began with a book chapter written in 1985 by organization theorists Stuart Albert and David Whetten. “Organizational Identity” established the construct of identity at the organizational level and described it as the sum of three types of claims — claims of an organization’s central character, claims of its distinctiveness from other organizations, and claims of temporal continuity that tie the present organization to its history. The chapter also raised the idea that organizations can have multiple identities, which each being more salient at different times. With seven key research questions and thirty-three hypothesis, the chapter also laid out a far-reaching research agenda.

But as we discuss in this episode, the twenty years that followed saw much of the research yield lots of confusion and consternation. David Whetten would prepare a follow-up commentary in 2006 to clarify and update the construct while addressing the conflicts.

So how useful is it? Listen in as we grapple with answering questions like, “Who are we as the Talking About Organizations Podcast?” using Albert & Whetten’s construct as a starting point. We then follow with examples, case studies, and uses of organizational identity in both scholarship and practice. We hope you enjoy the discussion and find it useful for understanding the deep culture of organizations.

You may also download the audio files here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Read with us:

Albert, S., & Whetten, D. A. (1985). Organizational identity. Research in organizational behavior, 7, 263-285.

Whetten, D. A. (2006). Albert and Whetten revisited: Strengthening the concept of organizational identity. Journal of management inquiry, 15(3), 219-234.

To Learn More:

Whetten, D. A., Godfrey, P. C., & Godfrey, P. (Eds.). (1998). Identity in organizations: Building theory through conversations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Galvin, T. (forthcoming, about Dec 2018). Two case studies of successful strategic communication campaigns. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute.