Contradictions between identity and image of an organization: Exploring responses in new entrepreneurial ventures
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Organizational identity, defined as members’ constructions about who we are as an organization (Gioia & Patvardhan, 2012), is considered as the core of organizational cognition and action. However, the understanding of change and evolution of organizational identity is limited. Particularly, studies about multiple and competing influences on organizational identity are sparse. Literature in this domain largely focuses on incongruous identity claims influencing organizational identity, whereas, considering the social embeddedness of organizations, contradictions between an organization’s identity and image demand greater attention. Secondly, while organizational identity continually evolves through constructions of members, identity change processes have largely been studied in context of singular, standalone events. Organizational identity change that is anchored in everyday situations finds limited attention in literature. Therefore, this study focuses on organizations’ responses to common identity-image contradictions and influence of such incongruities on organizational identity. New Entrepreneurial Ventures (NEVs) continually struggle with satisfying competing internal and external demands; a venture’s survival is often contingent upon successfully addressing such expectations. These inherent, common and ongoing internal-external tensions make NEVs an apt context for studying identity-image incongruities. Accordingly, this study focuses on how identity-image incongruities are addressed by NEVs, as well as their influence on the venture’s identity. Following a multi-site, in-depth study design, four NEVs that were experiencing ongoing identity-image incongruities were studied. Both, social and commercial NEVs were studied. Data comprising of in-depth interviews, non-participant observation, and publicly available archives were collected from each NEV. A progressive focusing approach (Parlett & Hamilton, 1972) was adopted to analyze data to develop an understanding of processes through which NEVs address their identity-image incongruities and influence of such contradictions on venture’s identity. By iteratively engaging with findings, literature and contextual information, four themes representing constructions of organizational identity and image, responses to identity-image incongruities and leaders’ influence on such incongruities, are identified and discussed. These themes contribute to understanding of ongoing identity processes, as against extant literature’s focus on singular events of identity-image contradictions. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the few studies that focus on organizational identity in context of new ventures. Therefore, this study also contributes to understanding of entrepreneurial behavior in early stages.
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