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Managing Organizational Identity

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Course: Managing Organizational Identity

Professors Majken Schultz and Mary Jo Hatch

Copenhagen Business School

Department of Organization

Kilen 14 A, 2000 Copenhagen F

Contact mails:









Slides for this course will be uploaded during September 2008

on Majken’s web-site: http://www.majkenschultz.com
Course: Managing Organizational Identity

Professors Majken Schultz and Mary Jo Hatch

Copenhagen Business School


1. Competence Profile

Students in this course will have the opportunity to engage in the cross-disciplinary study of organizational identity and its implications for management practice. The implications section of the course will focus on corporate branding.  The course defines the foundation for understanding organizational identity as a phenomenon with relevance for both internal and external stakeholders and invites students to explore how the conceptual complexity of organizational identity is translated into managerial practice in different organizations.


2. Course Description

Identity is important to organizations because it affects their competitiveness and ability to attract stakeholders. We will examine how organizations understand and define who they are and discuss why their identity is a source of differentiation and belonging for both internal and external stakeholders. The course will show how identity provides a foundation for strategy and why managing their identities gives organizations a competitive advantage. The course draws on different perspectives on identity within organization studies and includes examination of theories offered by other disciplines, such as corporate identity and brand identity from the disciplines of marketing and communication. We will study the ways in which organizational identity is related to other concepts, such as stakeholder images, reputation and organizational culture and discuss why it is best conceptualized as dynamic. Students will examine the implications of organizational identity theories for doing empirical research as well as for management practice. The course will use case studies and student generated observations to provide empirical data for analysis.  In particular, the course will explore the importance of identity to corporate strategy and discuss examples of identity-driven management practices. Students will be encouraged to debate the opportunities and limitations of organizational identity management. 

The course readings will be about 650 pages, some of which are rather extensive.



3. Exam


The exam will be an individual written project (max 15 pages) based on an analysis of a case company. There will be different forms of reports from classical analysis to other ways of inquiring about ‘what is going on’ and what can be done about it from different perspectives. All project types will be subject to explicit reflection and use of models and theoretical perspectives or schools from both courses.



4. Course Outline

Teaching Theme




September 10: 8.55 – 11.30

Schultz & Hatch


1. What is identity?

How do you manage your identity? How do you influence the identities of others?

Identification, how do organizations influence who we think we are?

Introductory lecture

Class outline

Obama case example

Facebook Assignment in working teams

Formation of working teams

Mead (In Reader)

Brewer & Gardner (In Reader)


September 16: 8.55 – 16.05

Schultz & Hatch


2 + 3. Organizational Identity: Can it be managed?

Corporate vs. Organizational Identity

Identity Dynamics and their Dysfunctions

Lecture & Case Discussion What did the Facebook Exercise do for your identity?

Discussion of Port Authority Case

Student Assignment:

Narcissism & Hyper-adaptation Assignment

Albert & Whetten 1985 (In Reader)

Hatch & Schultz, Chapter 3

Dutton & Dukerich (In Reader)


September 18: 8.55 – 11.30


4. Identity Dynamics & Identity Threats

Lecture & Case Discussions

Case: Bang & Olufsen


Jesper G. Frost
Manager, Brand Communications
Bang & Olufsen      

Ravasi & Schultz

Elsbach & Kramer (In Reader)

Hatch & Schultz Chapter 6


September 25: 8.55 – 11.30


5. Putting Identity to Work: Corporate Branding as an application of organizational identity theory

The role Vision plays

Lecture & Case Discussion

Brand analyses of companies of your choice

Gaps of corporate branding


Hatch & Schultz Chaps 1 and 4


September 26: 8.55 – 11.30


6. Culture as a foundation for Identity and Branding


Lecture & Case Discussion

Case: Disneyland Artifact Hunt

What is organizational culture? How does identity influence organizational culture and vice versa?

Schein, 2004, Chaps 2-4

Van Maanen (1991)


September 30: 8.55 – 16.05

Schultz & Hatch

7 + 8. How Identity and Branding Relate to Stakeholders

Dilemmas of branding and identity management

Lecture & Discussions

Brand Communities:

Student exchange of experiences of community involvement.


Case: Novo Nordisk

Guest speaker from Novo Nordisk on Changing Diabetes

Nick Adams, Director Corporate Branding

Hatch & Schultz Chap 7

Muniz & O’Guinn (2001)

Article from Wired 2006

Novo Nordisk case


Self presentations



October 1: 8.55 – 11.30


9. Identity Change and Leadership: The case of LEGO Group


Lecture & Discussion

Take a closer look at www.lego.com and the strategy statements by their CEO

Think of companies with strong leaders: What makes them strong??

Hatch & Schultz Chaps 5 and 8


October 3: 8.55 – 11.30


10. Identity and implications for  strategy

Future perspectives

Lecture and Discussion:

Learning points from the class

What is the role of identity in sense-making and sense-giving?

Hatch & Schultz, Chap 9

Gioia & Chittipeddi






5. Preliminary Readings & E-resources. All e-resources in Business Source Premier


Two books should be bought:


Hatch, M. J. & Schultz, M. (2004) Organizational Identity: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Hatch, M.J. and Schultz, M. (2008) Taking Brand Initiative: How Companies Can Align Strategy, Culture and Identity Through Corporate Branding. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Other Course Readings:


Albert, S., & Whetten, D. A. (1985). Organizational identity. In L. L. Cummings & B. M. Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior, vol. 7: 263-295. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. Printed in Hatch, M. J. & Schultz, M. (2004) Organizational Identity: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Dutton, J., & Dukerich, J. (1991). Keeping an eye on the mirror: Image and identity in organizational adaptation. Academy of Management Journal, 34: 517-554. Printed in Hatch, M. J. & Schultz, M. (2004) Organizational Identity: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Elsbach, K. K. & Kramer, D. (1996) „Member’s responses to organizational identity threats: Encountering and countering the Business Week Rankings. Administrative Science Quarterly vol 41: 442-476. Printed in Hatch, M. J. & Schultz, M. (2004) Organizational Identity: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Gioia, D. A., and Chittipeddi, K. (1991). Sensemaking and sensegiving in strategic change initiation. Strategic Management Journal, 12: 443-448.

E-resource: Sensemaking and sensegiving


Koerner, Brendan I. (2006) Geeks in Toyland. Wired. Issue 14.02



Mead, G. H. The Self: The “I” and the “Me”. Reprinted from Mind, Self and Society (1932-193-179). Printed in Hatch, M. J. & Schultz, M. (2004) Organizational Identity: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Muniz, A.M. & O’Guinn, T.C. (2001) Brand Community. Journal of Consumer Research. Vol 27: 412 - 32. Brand Community


Ravasi, D. & Schultz, M. (2006) Responding to identity threats; Exploring the role of Organizational Culture. Academy of Management . Vol 49/3: 1 – 30. Exploring the role of Organizational Culture


Schein, E. (2004) Organizational Culture and Leadership. (3rd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Chapters 2-4 (Printed in hand out)


Van Maanen, John (1991) “The Smile Factory”. In P.J. Frost et al. (eds.), Reframing Organizational Culture, pp. 58-76. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. (Printed in hand out)


Schultz, Majken, Rubin, James and Hatch, M.J. (2004) Novo Nordisk: Focusing the corporate brand. University of Virginia Darden School Foundation. Case #UVA-BC-0192. Includes teaching note.


APPENDIX: Some Sample Assignments and Exercises We Use in Class



Assignment: Make A FaceBook Profile (assign during the first class, present during second)


This is a small identity and branding exercise that requires student participation. Present it as an experiment to see what branding feels like on an individual level, how at its root branding is based in identity.


The foundation for all brands is identity, whether branding is done on an individual, product or organizational level. Present your FaceBook profiling experience and listen to others experiences doing the exercise. Reflect on who are you and how you expressed who you are in comparison with others. Discuss this and then extend it to corporate brands. How would a company express itself based in its identity? What might be involved?


The four steps of this exercise:

  1. You need to create a space on FaceBoook for the class and send everyone in the class the link.
  2. Each student in the class creates their own profile on FaceBook as a personal branding tool (give a deadline for completing this step)
  3. The members of each study team are to provide constructive feed-back to each of the other members of their group focusing on ways to improve their personal brand (another deadline given, both to be completed before class meeting in which assignment is used)
  4. In class, hold plenary discussion on the experience of defining yourself as a brand: What is identity and how did you express it? What makes your expression a branding process? What did you learn from seeing the ways in which others interpreted you as a brand? Speculate on what this exercise suggests about corporate branding.


Assignment: Involving Stakeholders in Corporate Branding (stakeholder class)


As preparation for this class, each student selects a brand community. It can either be user- generated or supported by a company, and can be based on affection or dislike of the brand. In any case, take a look at what goes on at the website, notice what are people talking about, what types of activities they engage in, get a little involved and see what you think!


If you have no idea of what to do, try one of the LEGO communities at http://www.lugnet.com


When we meet in class we will:

-         Form discussion groups to reflect on your experiences

-          Debate the substance and role of brand communities.


Plenary will focus on


-         What is a brand community?

-         Why do people engage in communities

-         What are the strengths and weaknesses of the brand community seen from the company’s perspective

-         Can communities be managed and if so, how

Exercise: Artifact Hunt (Culture Class)


Start this class with a review of Schein’s model of culture as assumptions, values and artifacts and explain that though culture arises from assumptions that produce values and only then manifests in artifacts, to study a culture requires moving in the opposite direction. This we will practice by doing an artifact hunt on Disneyland.


The Artifact Hunt entails finding as many verbal, behavioral and physical artifacts as possible using the In Search of Excellence video clip on Disneyland and in Van Maanen’s 1979 article “The Smile Factory”. First do the hunt on the video clip, then have the students review “The Smile Factory” for more artifacts to emphasize that culture has both light and dark sides (get both lists on the board, grouping artifacts in the categories of verbal, behavioral and physical). As the students offer up artifacts provoke them to explain how members of the culture seem to be using these artifacts to make meaning but do not allow the students to make evaluative comments or interpret the artifacts, when they do so, point out that this is premature, they are only to describe at this stage of the analysis).


Once you have 50 or so artifacts listed in the three categories of verbal, behavioral and physical (more is better, but don’t drag this out too long), ask the students to pick an artifact that speaks to them (but not to try to say why it speaks to them yet) and then choose 3 to 4 more artifacts that intuitively belong with this one. Then have them chose a totally different artifact and another 3-4 to go with this second one. Show them how to arrange the groups of artifacts in a spiral leaving the center of the spiral open.


In groups of 2-4 (you want about 15 groups), the students then share their spirals and pick the best two from their group based on which ones they find most interesting or surprising rather than most obvious (though they should not choose spirals that are incoherent), again they should be intuitive. Then ask them to put their best spirals on the board. After intuitively grouping their sets of artifacts into spirals, have the class speculate on what theme each of them suggests and write the theme in the center of the spiral and draw a circle around it.


Once the spirals are finished, draw a line connecting all the circled themes and point out that this web of themes begins to suggest how complex culture can be and how this process begins to get you under the surface, revealing values and assumptions, though it will never be possible to state with confidence what the assumptions truly are. You can bring in Geertz’s Indian fable at this point. The tells how the world rests on the back of an elephant that stands on a turtle, and after that it is turtles all the way down. Geertz uses it illustrate that you can study culture forever and never get to the bottom of it, though the journey takes you ever deeper into cultural understanding.


I also like to point out that you can analyze culture forever but until you get into the mix of using a culture’s symbolism to communicate with its members, you will never truly grasp culture. Culture occurs in acts of symbolization, not in acts of analysis. Though analysis can be revealing, managing requires engagement, and good managers are alert to culture building opportunities.



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