Organizational Identity Work for Optimal Distinction

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Organizations pursue optimal distinctiveness to satisfy divergent expectations of different audiences and to demarcate their distinctiveness relative to other organizations in the same industry. In pursuit of optimal distinctiveness, they engage in organizational identity work, that is, deliberate efforts to form, repair and strengthen their distinctiveness. In this paper, we investigate how organizational actors develop identity claims aimed at achieving optimal distinctiveness. We collected real time data in the form of observations, interviews and archival material from the Carlsberg Group, a global beer producer, at the time when they engaged in organizational identity work to face the issue of ‘alcohol-related harm’. The findings consist in three related processes of organizational identity work, which organizational actors engaged in internally to gain optimal distinction from other beer producers: (1) authenticating key identity resources; (2) aligning them with the issue and established practices; and (3) enrolling organizational actors with ties to different audience groups. We also identified the externally oriented process of (4) communicating externally their new identity claims to different audiences. Based on our findings, we offer a process model of organizational identity work that outlines how organizational actors develop new organizational identity claims for optimal distinctiveness. Our research theoretically connects the literatures of organizational identity work and optimal distinctiveness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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