Anti-identity Strategizing: The Dynamic Interplay of “Who We Are” and “Who We Are Not”

Sarah Stanske, Madeleine Rauch, Anna Canato

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In this article, we investigate the strategy–identity nexus by illustrating the interaction between organizational identity, anti-identity, and strategy. While extant research illustrates the potentially constraining role of organizational identity on change trajectories, less is known about the role of organizational anti-identity. Drawing on a qualitative case study of a leading German distributor’s 32-year history, we highlight the importance of organizational anti-identity for both continuous and discontinuous change initiatives, and illustrate how organizational members can overcome identity ambiguity by referring to “who we are not as an organization” rather than to “who we are as an organization.” We further show how managers who draw on identity reservoirs may have greater leeway when exploiting anti-identity, and how ambiguity and resistance may be overcome by referring to “who we are not” as an organization. Our findings broaden our understanding of the role of anti-identity for strategy selection and contribute to the burgeoning literature on the strategy–identity nexus.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStrategic Organization
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)136-170
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 20. June 2019


  • Anti-identity
  • Identity reservoir
  • Organizational identity
  • Strategizing

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