02 April 2010

Belonging and Identity

BoingBoing links to "What will the Net do to institutions in the next 10 years?" and highlights a quotation asking--we've proven we can grow a corporation to behemoth size; now, how do we take it apart?

This sort of talk, of the Net making companies smaller, has been around for a while (don't ask me to reference, I've recycled those 1999 books). Will it happen?

I think it depends on where people focus their identity. Belonging to a corporation gives identity--ask Japanese workers, or the old guard workers at Ford versus GM. When we go to work, we get reassurance as to part of our identity, where we belong. The lack of this is one of the devastating impacts of unemployment. When we're introduced to someone new, what do we ask? "Where do you work?"

Issues of identity and belonging don't need to revolve around our employer. Religion is an obvious alternative. So is any issue you're passionate about. But if you want to break apart a behemoth corporation, you need to tread softly in this area of employee identity and their sense of belonging--otherwise they are left devastated and feeling betrayed.

In fact, you have to gently detach their sense of identity and belonging and offer them a new, satisfying place to cling. People want to know their world values them (the wage packet is a measure of this value).

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