Deep Thoughts on: Identity (Part 2c – Projection)

(Image courtesy of Travel Blog)

Now we come to the final Facet of my suggested conception of Identity, that of ‘Projection’. This is perhaps the hardest aspect to elucidate, and arguably the most controversial, but I believe that it would be difficult to account for the notions of Narrative or Present Engagement without it. As far as individual identity is concerned, this would potentially be very dangerous theoretical territory, but given the different nature of organisations when compared to individual persons, I’m of the opinion that similar concerns couldn’t reasonably be raised.

Projection involves some kind of concern for the future of the organisation. By this, we could mean forecasts, share-price projections, monitoring the economic climate etc. At a basic level, what concerns us here is a concern for what is yet to come.

This is perhaps a curious thing to be discussing here; how can projections (as well as desires and ambitions) that have yet to play-out be considered part of an Organisation’s Identity? I believe the answer to this question has much to do with the previous two Facets that I have covered. In particular that of Narrative and the overriding concern this enquiry has had with Purpose. In philosophy, the Ancient Greek term telos, is broadly construed as a sort of goal that one is working towards when one seeks a ‘good-life’ (which as rational being we are naturally preoccupied with etc.) It is both guiding and motivational, and in many ways defines whom and what we are, a uniquely human concern.

I don’t think the exact same term can be applied to business. I do think however, that this way of thinking about Purpose as both guiding and motivational is extremely helpful to our conception of Narrative, and subsequently Identity. An organisation without a clearly articulated Purpose (and an organisation-wide awareness of the Purpose) arguably would struggle to define its own identity. If we think of this idea of Purpose (as derived from Ideas) as being both guiding and motivational, then we can begin to engage with Narrative and, by thus understanding in greater depth, how it is in turn intricately bound to Present Engagement.

This also gives us some from of objectivity, of desire-based projection. It is both a present concern for the future of the organisation, and a continuation of past concerns for the-then future of the organisation. These concerns (financial security, growth, development etc.) draw the organisation’s Identity through time, thus enabling its preservation and indeed its continued evolution.

This projection is, broadly speaking, common to all organisations. Who can honestly claim that their organisation is not concerned, at least in some respect, for a future state of affairs in which that organisation features? Such concerns can only born out of past states of Identity, which were in that past state a Present Engagement with the world in which the organisation was engaged.

I appreciate this is rather abstract, but the key point remains; these three Facets are crucial. They don’t simply provide us with a way to reflect upon and understand Identity, they also enable us to generate values that are pertinent and relevant to everything the organisation stands for. I believe that without an appreciation of the multi-faceted nature of Identity, Organisation will really struggle to identity what is and is not important to their sense of Identity. Such organisations will (and indeed should) always be aware that there are things relevant to their continued operation that they could be missing, failing to understand or ignoring altogether.

To conclude, it is not simply tense I am concerned here, but unity; unity of many aspects of an organisation’s character (many of which will be beyond at least its present control) that together create a truly self-articulated notion of identity. Without Narrative we are but a series of threads unwoven and without constructive direction. Without Projection we are negligent, uncaring for a future in which our organisation could be actively participating. Without Present Engagement, there is no organisation, at least not one that I can think of. We cannot have a notion of Identity without at least these three things; even without one of them the remaining two cease to make any sense.

There may (indeed I suspect there will) be more to say for Organisational Identity, but I will leave these brief, initial thoughts to sink in and perhaps we can revisit this fascinating concept at a later date.

F. Roe