Conducting Research on Organizational Identity
The concept of organizational identity has its roots in the exploration of identity in an individual level. The concept of organizational identity was introduced by Albert and Whetten in 1985. They suggested that organizational identity embodies the characteristics of an organization, that its members perceive to be central, distinctive, and enduring (or continuing) in an organization when past, present and the future is taken into account. Organizational identity seeks to answer to the question of “who are we as an organization”. Researchers have explored the characteristics of organizational identity. Especially the features “distinctive” and “enduring” as characteristics describing organizational identity has been subjects of critical investigations. At the individual level, identity research has been conducted rather extensively in the fields of psychology, social psychology, symbolic interactionism, and psychodynamics. Recently more and more research has been conducted at the organizational level. However the concept itself still has varying meanings and interpretations to it. Conceptually, two levels (that have a reciprocal relationship) of an organizational identity can be recognized, the inner level and outer level. The levels limit the main interest area of the researcher and the study in hand. In addition, differing statements among organization theorists and researchers trying to analyze organizational identity arise from differing paradigmatic assumptions about the ontology and epistemology of organizations. When organizational identity is being studied through different basic assumptions, it is being understood differently both in terms of a concept and as a phenomenon of social reality. Therefore studies leaning to different paradigmatic assumptions have different interests in terms of objectives of the study. Identity is a multilevel notion that can be explored at individual-, group- and organization level. Organizational identity can be considered as a construct, question or as a metaphor. Organizational identity has found to lend insight into the character and behaviour of organizations and their members. There are several intriguing and current questions related to identity at organizational level that seem to be as yet inadequately explored but which constitute an ambitious agenda. In addition it is also significant to continue exploring the concept theoretically.