Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Soul of The Corporation at Wharton Alumni Magazine


The Soul of the Corporation: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company By Hamid Bouchikhi and John r. Kimberly

In the burgeoning Age of Identity, competitive advantage is shifting from what a product is to the identity of the firm that markets it. More than ever, a firm’s identity shapes the results it can achieve. The Soul of the Corporation: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly offers managers a systematic, accessible, management-oriented way to understand, control and leverage 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 if not managed well. Using the strategies illustrated by the authors, managers will discover how their organization’s identity is related to and different from its organizational culture, brand positioning and reputation. Methods for managing the unconscious shared beliefs that give an organization coherence as well as how to face the identity challenges that arise in mergers, alliances, spin-offs and acquisitions are also addressed.
The Soul of the Corporation offers business leaders a set of actionable ideas and guidelines that can be used to enhance their ability to diagnose and manage identity issues. Business leaders should be aware of the following, for instance:
Be sure that the organizational identity projected through branding efforts is real. If it is not real, if it is mere sloganeering, competitors or other unfriendly stakeholders may turn these branding efforts against you. Failure to observe this rule has exposed the British Petroleum Company (BP) and its top management to a storm of criticism since the 2005 explosion at the Texas City, Texas, refinery where 15 workers lost their lives.
Ensure the consistency of corporate branding efforts targeted at various stakeholders. The risk of adapting each message to its recipients is that multiple, and sometimes conflicting, images may be projected, leading to confusion in the marketplace.
Carefully align your own behavior and decisions with the organizational identity claims you make inside and outside the firm.
Strive to realize synergies between handling identity at the level of the organization as a whole as well as at the level of individual brands under which your firm’s products and services are marketed.
Co-author Hamid Bouchikhi is a professor of strategy and management and the director of the New Business Center at ESSEC Business School in Cergy-Pontoise, France. John R. Kimberly is the Henry Bower Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Wharton as well as professor of management, health care systems and sociology.