Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Don’t wipe out divergence

By D. Murali

This is ‘the Age of Identity’ proclaim Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly in The Soul of the Corporation ( They find that identity is increasingly problematic across all levels of human organisation, owing to globalisation, M&As (mergers and acquisitions), disruptive innovation, accountability and more.
To respond effectively to these challenges, leaders have to see if they can leverage their identity as an asset. The I*Dimension, as the authors explain, is the set of shared beliefs, both implicit and explicit, that gives the visible elements of the firm coherence and ‘puts boundaries around how much change is possible without altering its essence.’
Just as an individual’s identity can be anchored in gender, nationality, social group, educational credentials, or particular skills, the I*Dimension of an organisation ‘resides in multiple anchors,’ such as core business, knowledge base, operating philosophy, a legendary founder, and a governance structure.
“Leaders who are sensitive to the I*Dimension focus on where and how to drive a company to high convergence among key stakeholders about its essence,” the book states. “As long as identity is in harmony with the firm’s industry and with the wider environment, it is a very effective compass for management.”
But don’t wipe out divergence, Bouchikhi and Kimberly caution. “Extreme convergence in an organisation’s identity brings about narcissism and insulation from the outside world.”
Leaders should therefore strive “to maintain some tension between the two forces to achieve the minimum of consensus without which collective action is impossible, and the minimum of dissent without which change is impossible.”
I*Dimension has both pluses and minuses, the authors find. The positives include loyalty and commitment, cooperation, guidance for problem-solving, recognition, predictability and so on.
And the ‘dark side’ of the dimension has identity conflict (caused by mutually exclusive views of the employees), drift (with a clear and consistent identity progressively losing focus), and fragmentation (arising from individuals and groups identifying more with subunits than with the organisation as a whole).
The authors compare corporate identity change or rebranding to an individual changing his appearance by changing the clothing, makeup, cosmetic surgery or name. In contrast, changing the I*Dimension reaches much deeper, say Bouchikhi and Kimberly.
They note that the substantive levers of identity change are decisions about the firm’s more tangible dimensions. “Among all substantive levers, however, the choice of the chief executive has the highest potential impact on a firm’s identity.”
There are five ingredients of successful identity change, the authors list, as follows: vision, effective communication, consistency, leadership continuity, and luck and positive signals.
You may count yourself lucky if you can lay your hands on the Soul.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Soul of The Corporation on the

„The soul of the corporation: How to manage the identity of your company?“ von Hamid Bouchikhi und John R. Kimberley, Professoren an der Essec Business School, beschreibt systematische Ansätze zur Schaffung eines Firmenimages. An Hand zahlreicher Beispiele zeigt das Buch, dass Identität zum Trumpf, aber auch zum Nachteil für ein Unternehmen werden kann, falls diese nicht richtig gemanagt wird.
„Moral Foundations of Management Knowledge“ enthält 12 Beiträge zu den moralischen Grundlagen der Betriebswirtschaftslehre. Das Buch geht zahlreichen Fragestellungen nach: Wie lautet die Definition von „gutem Benehmen“ im Gegensatz zu „schlechtem Benehmen“ in den Managementtheorien? Welche Vorstellungen von der menschlichen Natur und der sozialen Realität prägen die modernen Managementtheorien?
Das Werk wurde im Anschluss an ein internationales Seminar realisiert. „Das Buch verdeutlicht den humanistischen Ansatz an der Essec Business School zur ethischen und verantwortungsbewussten Verankerung von Management“, kommentiert Marie-Laure Djelic, Professorin an der Essec Business School und Koautorin des Buchs.
In „La médiation, modes d’emploi“ erklären Alain Pékar-Lempereur, Professor an der Essec Business School und Direktor des Institut de recherche et d’enseignement sur la négociation en Europe (Iréné) und seine Koautoren, wie Schlichtung, das heißt, die gütliche Einigung in Konfliktfällen, in Beruf und Alltag funktioniert. Anhand von konkreten Beispielen weisen sie ihren Erfolg und dessen Grenzen nach. Die verschiedenen Schlichtungsarten werden vorgestellt und interpretiert.
Die Bücher sind auf Anfrage erhältlich.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Review by Donald Mitchell

What Does a Company Stand for in Peoples' Minds?, January 21, 2008
Donald Mitchell "Adventures of an Optimist Au... (founder of the 400 Year Project to demonstrate how to make improvements 20 times faster -- -- in Boston)
See all my reviews

For centuries, corporations have been treated as "fictitious persons" for legal purposes. Since the mid-20th century, academics have been interested in "corporate culture" and how that influenced performance by employees. In the late 20th century, people began to write books about the customer, employee, and stakeholder benefits of companies standing for accomplishing something more than making a profit . . . citing firms like Timberland, Ben and Jerry's, Starbucks, and other consumer products and services firms. With The Soul of the Corporation, identity is separated from reality to explore as a central manifestation of these and other effects on living, breathing people who are somehow affected or influenced by corporations. The concept is encapsulated into something called The I*Dimension which is the cumulative effect of shared values and beliefs; structures, systems, and policies; ownership mode and governance structure; goals and strategies; products and technologies; and people characteristics and skills feeding back into shared values and beliefs again. Is it real or is it an academic concept? My experience suggests it is real. When I start working with a new client company, I interview the leaders I will be working with to see what the shared values and beliefs are. I always find a very strong core of those values and beliefs . . . as well as assumptions about the world and the future. Usually, the leadership team is unaware of this consensus because these areas aren't much talked about. When you do surveys of customer and potential customer perceptions, there is usually a strong identity among the customers that's different from the non-customers. And on it goes. This is the first book I've read about identifying, managing, and improving identity as opposed to the company's purpose. I thought it was a useful addition to the literature with its examples and paradigm. I suspect that an in-depth study of how one company changed all of the elements will be needed before the field will seem very meaty. I hope the authors will have a chance to explore such a situation and report on it to us.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Comment from

Is there a difference between corporate identity and corporate brand?
December 14th, 2007 · 1 Comment

This question is addressed in a new book, Soul of the Corporation: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company. It was written by two academics, John Kimberly of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Hamid Bouchikhi, a professor at International Business School in Eurpoe (ESSEC).

An interview with author John Kimberly is available at Knowledge@Wharton. But if you don’t have time to go there, here’s my interpretation of his answer to the question: is there a difference between company identity and corporate brand.

The answer: it depends.
Sorry to be wishy-washy, but it really does depend. It has to do with corporate culture, heritage, management, vision, mission, philosophy, structure and drivers. (That’s my opinion, not necessarily John Kimberly’s.)

In France, since all McDonald employees, execs on down, are French, and since they only buy French ingredients, is the image/identity French, American or global?
A Chinese company called TCL is the largest TV maker in the world, yet it only sells through marketers worldwide by the brands of the marketers – RCA is one of them. So does TCL have an identity? It surely does foe TV marketers, it sure doesn’t for TV consumers.
Last example: Johnson & Johnson has a strong corporate identity which it has acquired through its products while their products have acquired an identity from the company. Yet Johnson & Johnson also have product lines distinct from the corporate identity, mostly acquisitions they have let alone as far as brand association, management and operations.
Two things the interview left me thinking were: 1) identity can be elusive but is terribly important to structure in any company, and 2) identity is a strategic issue that should be on the agendas of executive board meetings.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Summary at Accountability Central

Does your corporation have a soul?

Review at by Charles Ashbacher

Read it because corporations do indeed "have personality", November 5, 2007
By (Marion, Iowa United States( -

The claim that a corporation has a soul is one that many commentators and capitalist watchers will consider absurd to the point of stupidity. In their minds, a corporation is a callous non-entity, given legal rights but existing only to further its' own economic advancement by whatever means. While true to a large extent, the cynical exploitative actions of the leaders of Enron are the prime example; many corporations do have a collective identity with a moral compass. It is the expression of that moral compass that is the purpose of this book. Many founders of corporate organizations did so because they truly had a vision for what they wanted to do, and that vision was positive. Corporations have been formed where the goal was to heal the sick, produce food that was cheap enough so that formerly hungry people could eat and to make other positive changes in the world that would benefit all. The early workers joined those companies believing that what they were doing mattered more than simply bringing home a paycheck where the numbers were bigger than they could get elsewhere. This book is about those companies and others where there is a common and somewhat noble purpose to what the company does. It is also about the collective personality that a company can take on early and over time and how new blood can come in and believe that they can change it into something that it has not been before. While the new management sometimes is able to make the changes, in many cases they find that the end result is early success and then a greater disaster than if they had never set foot in the door. The authors refer to the collective soul of a company as I*Dimension, and they list several case histories where they describe the I*Dimension of a particular company and how that feature has successfully been altered by persons or altered those who tried to alter it. In their hands, it is not some mystical entity, hard to define but easy to "see." As the authors relate it, I*Dimension is the expression of a personality, which like living personalities can be a formidable force for positive or negative change. Managing that personality correctly can lead to a dynamic and growing company; but if it is mismanaged, a company can grow just as dysfunctional as the most disturbed human psyche. Crowd psychology is a well-known and heavily studied phenomenon. However, when the crowd is composed of the people who work for a corporation, much less is known. In this book, the authors trek into that unknown arena and conclude that distinct personalities can emerge. Those personalities must be understood and managed if that company is to succeed and reading this book is the first step on that route.

The Soul of The Corporation shortlisted by CEOREAD for 2007 Best Business Books

Review at by Thomas Duff

By Thomas Duff "Duffbert"

The Soul of the Corporation: How to manage the identity of your company by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly is one of those books that seems like it will be dealing with a lot of ethereal concepts and not much in the way of hard facts. Surprisingly, the book was far more reality-based than I expected, and business leaders would do well to consider their business in terms of its identity. Contents: Leadership Challenges in the Age of Identity; The I*Dimension; The Bright Side of the I*Dimension; The Dark Side of the I*Dimension; Casualties of the I*Dimension; To Blend or Not to Blend - Identity Integration in Mergers and Acquisitions; When Should the Cord Be Cut? Managing Identity in Spin-Offs; Identity in Strategic Alliances and Joint Ventures; Managing the I*Dimension at Organizational and Brand Levels; Masters of the I*Dimension; Diagnosing Your Firm's Identity; Leading in the Age of Identity; Epilogue; Index For better or worse, your business has an identity in the eyes of the employees and the public. It's quite possible that those two identities are complete mismatches when it comes to reality. Bouchikhi and Kimberly examine how an organization's identity comes into play in the global marketplace, as well as how that can be a strength or weakness. For instance, Phillip Morris had an identity tied to tobacco sales and products. Not a good thing with today's view of smoking. The Board felt that a name change to Altria could help remove that association in the mind of the public. But in reality, they still continued to market heavily in tobacco. As a result, their identity change failed. On the flip side, the change of BSN to Danone marked the shift from manufacturing to food production. This identity shift was highly successful, as it marked the end of an old mindset (and product focus) to what the company had become. Obviously, there's a lot more to identity than just the name of a company, but the authors do a very good job in exploring all the facets of corporate identity. They use a wide number of examples, so very little of the book came across as "theory" rather than fact-based practice. In addition, the examples are global in nature, so the concepts span cultures and geography (which is good given the global and cross-culture nature of so many businesses these days). It's tempting to look at a book like this (or any other book that focuses on a narrow element of business) and declare this the missing link in the success or failure of an organization. The authors acknowledge that other factors can be in play, but argue that the identity factor is more important than many think. In hindsight, it's easy to pick out the winners and losers in the identity battle, while it is far harder to tell how those decisions will play out over time when they are made. Still, taking the time to consider identity issues can't help but increase the chances that your organizational moves will be successful. You may still make some bone-headed mistakes, but at least you'll be able to recognize them... :) Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone in the executive suite of a company...

Summary posted on Chief Officer

Summary by The Business Digest

The Soul of the Corporation: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company Pour Hamid Bouchikhi et John R. Kimberly, l’identité de l’entreprise est un actif concurrentiel décisif sur lequel il est indispensable de capitaliser. Il est donc fondamental, selon eux, d’en prendre toute la mesure et d’apprendre à la gérer en accord avec les objectifs stratégiques de l’ Hamid Bouchikhi, John R. Kimberly, paru chez Wharton School Publishing - octobre 2007 Ouvrage présenté en bref.

From Executive Books Summaries

Drawing on real-life stories from the world’s most prominent companies, The Soul of the Corporation shows how identity can be an extraordinarily valuable asset — and how, if not managed properly, it can become a huge liability. Discover how your firm’s identity is related to — and different from — its organizational culture, brand positioning and reputation. Learn how to manage the unconscious shared beliefs that give your organization coherence. See what you'll learn in this summary

From The Board Agenda

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRAND AND IDENTITY? The concept of branding has become so central to discussions of marketing that we must all know what it means. Or do we? In a world where a lot of companies seem to live only for their brands, you occasionally have to wonder what lies at the heart of the enterprise. A corporation like, say, The New York Times Company means something larger, more important, than what we would normally call a brand. Nike, by contrast, is a brand. But if there is a distinction, what's the dividing line? A couple of academics with quite different backgrounds – Hamid Bouchikhi of Essec in France and John Kimberly at the Wharton School in Pennsylvania – make the case for a "soul" of the corporation. In an interview, Kimberly said that soul is tied up in the company's identity. "Companies can have a variety of phenomena in which their identity is anchored: It may be a brand, it may be a mission, it may be a particular form of business. But every company has a constellation of things which, together, define an answer to the question, Who are we?'," he said.
How does identity become a source of competitive advantage? Kimberly says identity "acts as a focal point for people's motivation and energy", creating convergence internally around this questions of "Who are we?" and "Why are we here?" Kimberly continues: "What that does is act as a force for bringing people together around a common purpose. And at the end of the day, that's what makes a company go, when people come together around a common purpose and are motivated in the same direction. It sounds very simple. Of course, it's a lot more complex than that, but at the most general level, that is, I think, the answer to the question," he said.
The two scholars have teamed up for a book on these ideas, giving examples of companies like TCL and Lenovo, whose brands mean little but which have identities, and those like Harley Davidson, where the brand and identity merge. "And in the mind of the consumer, when you buy a Harley-Davidson, you're buying into the organization that is behind the brand," Kimberly says.
Perhaps. Remember that a lot of Harley Davidson merchandise is made by organisations that have nothing to do with motorcycles but who merely license the brand. Consumers are buying the lifestyle, but are they really buying into the organisation? Or is the organisation – internally – struggling to make sure it still buys into the consumer's image of the brand? If so, where is that "soul" Bouchikhi and Kimberly think they've found?
Source documents: The interview and podcast are available from the Knowledge@Wharton website. You can also buy the book The Soul of the Corporation by Hamid Bouchikhi and John Kimberly.
04 January 2008

Thursday, January 3, 2008

From Media Tampa Bay

Philadelphia, PA – In the Age of Identity, the basis of competitive advantage is shifting from what the product is (intrinsic features of a product or a service) to who (the identity of the firm that markets it). Leaders who realize the potential of identity as a competitive weapon will be far ahead in the race to create sustainable advantage. THE SOUL OF THE CORPORATION: HOW TO MANAGE THE IDENTITY OF YOUR COMPANY (Wharton School Publishing, $29.99, ISBN: 0131857266) by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly, gives them a systematic, accessible, management-oriented way to treat their organization’s identity.
Drawing on stories from organizations such as McDonald’s, Lenovo, Ford, and the Catholic Church, THE SOUL OF THE CORPORATION argues that while identity can be an extraordinarily valuable asset, it can also become a huge liability when not managed properly. Using the strategies illustrated by the authors, readers can discover how their organization’s identity is related to and different from its organizational culture, brand positioning and reputation. Readers will also learn how to manage the unconscious shared beliefs that give their organization coherence and how to face the identity challenges that arise in mergers, alliances, spin-offs, and acquisitions.
Identity is everywhere, but the “average” business manager is poorly equipped for sensing and dealing with it. If they don’t want to suffer the detrimental consequences of identity in their organizations, managers need to master this additional, very challenging, dimension. THE SOUL OF THE CORPORATION opens the “black-box” and offers business leaders a set of “actionable” ideas and guidelines they can use to enhance their ability to diagnose and manage identity issues in their organizations.