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Dissertation: Sarah Stanske

190913-01_158_Sarah_Stanske ©MATT STARK Photography

Sarah Stanske: Born out of Boredom: Tracing Identity-Challenging Innovations in an Established Organization

While past studies have highlighted how established organizations struggle to realize innovations which challenge their understanding of ‘who are we as an organization?’, less is known how existing organizations can embrace such innovations proactively. Indeed, past studies indicate that companies have difficulties in seeing, understanding, and embracing innovations which are beyond their traditional home turf, even when their respective environments have already acknowledged such new ideas. At the same time, innovations become ever more important in today’s environment, rendering established organizations thus more vulnerable when missing such trends. Therefore, the question of how an established organization can embrace identity-challenging behavior proactively is an important one to raise. I conducted an ethno-graphic case study in a German system integrator which proactively engaged in two identity-challenging innovations. I discerned four micro-processes, namely identity decoupling, identity recoupling, identity lagging, and identity resynchronizing. I explain the relationship between these micro-processes in terms of organizational identity, time and temporality, and internal legitimizing and theorize my understanding in a process model. The findings indicate (1) the importance of boredom for the distancing of an organizational present, (2) the importance of distinguishing between frontstage and backstage conversations in sensegiving processes, and (3) the emergence of internal illegitimacy perceptions and their revision after perceiving positive external cues from the wider environment.

Copyright Foto: MATT STARK Photography