Deep thoughts on: Identity (Part I)
(Image courtesy of S K Signs)
How we define ourselves, both individually and socially, has been an important and recurrent theme in human thought. For philosophers, discussions regarding ‘Personal Identity’ are still highly poignant, and remain a central topic in contemporary debate. As an organisation, engaging with the concept of identity is also crucial to managing a strong brand. Here and in the pieces that follow, we want to examine this idea and, in the process, demonstrate that it is not as simple as ‘painting a picture’ of your organisation that you think reflects it best.
We believe that your identity as an organisation is largely constituted of three acutely interrelated features. Far from being merely the sum of your parts, it is the wholly unique way that these are assembled and how they interact with the world around them. More than that, it is the narrative of your organisation; the story that the organisation has written for itself and the way that this is interpreted by others. Additionally, an organisation’s identity will involve evolution. It is not simply a case of maintaining the status quo, but continuing that narrative with candour and consistency, whilst ensuring the organisation stays true to its purpose and its values.
Identity is not one-dimensional; it is multi-faceted. When we instantiate the concept in the day-to-day we often fail to grasp its true complexity. You might believe the above characterisation to be too simplistic, or indeed, you may think it too complex! That’s great – identity is clearly important to us, and we are all different. Thus in trying to talk about it in a productive manner it is prudent to be as broad as possible. Perhaps then, the three key features of organisational identity outlined above should be seen not as strict parameters that constitute a conclusive definition, but rather, the focal points for an enquiry.