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Using the past to create the future with Davide Ravasi

Using the past to create the future with Davide RavasiHow do organizations use their history to understand and reform identity to support transformation?   Radical change can often be destructive so it is interesting to note how organizations look back to their history to create continuity in org identity while changing. Davide’s more recent research identifies the variety of historical mechanisms that organizations use to shape identity. One way is using collective memory – the shared memories of communities that get passed down, the rituals of remembrance, and symbolic objects and places to embody collective memory. For example, corporate museums are places that give quite a bit of evidence of how an org may be engaging in their history and identity.   Davide studied a set of these museums in his research. What were the variety of forms of engagement with history and memory in these museums? There were three different processes: Identity Stewardship: who we are is answered by looking for connections to the past; looking for patterns and continuity; emotionality is admiration and awe; Identity Evangelizing: who we are is answered by looking for distinctive features; looks to other groups and compares and creates pride and passion. Heritage Mining: answers the question of who we are by looking back to find meaningfulness in past; creates aesthetic excitement and intuitive re-contextualization. Some big takeaways are that objects and “material memory” are sources of inspiration for future-oriented activities for orgs. Organizational memory is not storied in “bins” is socially constructed using material memory. And this material memory can be boundary objects – shared with other stakeholders and communities to build shared understandings. As More »

Organizational Identity, Culture & Change with Davide Ravasi

If org identity is a self-reflective relatively mindful answer to the question of who we are as a org, were does this come from? Davide work into organizational identity has examined various aspects of an org such as the emotional conceptualization, what is central and distinctive, deeply held beliefs, and claims and narratives that are reflective in the commitments.  Interestingly, he has found that identity is revealed through conflict – when resources are scarce, when there is urgency, when there is some event that causes disruption.   Also, foundational traits are acquired at the beginning of the organization: they are early imprints.   I wonder: how can we use crises as a way to understand and reinforce who we are?   Organizational identity serves functions that get in the way of change. Identities give: Sensemaking: sense of stability and stability. Change creates confusion. Enhancement: members feel good about themselves. Change creates loss. Political: gives status and resources. Change creates fear.   And one can see similar dynamics in political changes, such as Brexit in the UK.   But how are organizational identities created? Davide laid out some basics of organizational identity formation. Who we are (identity) comes from interactions among who others say we are (image), the way we do things (culture), and who we have been (memory).   Culture is widely understood as relatively shared assumptions and values, embodied and manifested in a web of formal and informal practices, and discursive and material artifacts. It has ideational and material components. Culture is a referent for determining who we are. And identity, particularly organizational identity, More »

Who are we? Organizational Identity content and its effect on members’ identification.

Shelley Brickson – University of Illinois-Chicago   Shelley shared her work on organizational identity, which is a member shared understanding of what is central to an organizational character, distinct and relatively enduring about the organization. These can be “what we do” and/or “who we are.” The latter is more character-based and describes commitments, values, etc.   How does identity shape patterns of behavior? This is a driving question of her research.   First we should understand, “who is the organization?” This involves identity orientation. I key idea is that people have different senses of self: individualistic, relational, and collectivist.   Shelley’s work examines how these senses can also be extended to organizations. That is, organizations can have individualistic, relational or collectivist orientations.   Individualistic– salient traits distinguish it from others, primary motivation is self-interest, and self evaluate in comparison to other orgs.   Relational – salient traits are connecting people, motivated by other’s interest, evaluate with roles to others.   Collectivist – salient traits are connecting to larger whole, motivated by greater collective interests, evaluated in contribution.   To test this Shelly did field research to see how organizational members describe their organizations. She found evidence that these orientations existed and, more interestingly, that there were correlations between individual and organizational orientations. That is, if you’re individualistic you also tend to be in an individualistic organization.   While hybrids of these orientation exist, but they vary in sectors. For example, Law firms had 13% of individualistic-relational orientations, while beverage companies had 0%.   Based on this information, she wondered what predicts purity vs. hybridity in organizational orientations? Some of it is sector More »

Can we measure collective intelligence in teams?

Can we measure collective intelligence in teams? Until recently, organizations thought that if they wanted to create “smart” teams, they just had to hire smart individuals and put them together. But researchers have discovered that is not the case. Other explanatory factors account for the performance of teams more than simply the combined intelligence of individual team members. Anita Woolley has specifically focused on examining if there is an underlying collective intelligence (CI) that lets some teams perform better than others and, if so, can we measure it, use it to predict team future performance, and reliably create More »

Towards Collective Mindfulness – Michael Pirson

Towards Collective Mindfulness – Michael PirsonThe world is full on complex problems, ranging from global warming to economic disparities, to ongoing ethnic conflicts. Michael reminded us that mindfulness approaches involve contemplative action, restoring harmony, and questioning status quo. Mindlessness approaches are easier and involves apathy and actionism, questioning harmony and resorting status More »



Our Current Focus

  1. 2018-2019 LILA Theme: Collective Mindfulness – Shaping the Human Systems in Organizations

    Drawing on the fields of cognitive psychology, neurocognitive science, collective mind theory and organizational science we will explore questions such as what are the mechanisms that support collective mindfulness? How might we shape the social systems to create thriving ecologies? How might the macro and micro narratives come into conversation to further strategic paths? How can collective mindful organizing amplify the desired states? We will engage the theme through these three topics.

  2. LILA Theme for 2016-2017

    Every year, the LILA community focuses on a particular theme of interest to members that will help them advance their thinking regarding the initiatives they are leading in their organizations. The 2016-2017 theme is Adaptive Cultures: How Institutions Set the Conditions for Success.

  3. Managing Complexity – How Organizations Navigate Strategic paradoxes

    Managing Complexity – How organizations navigate strategic paradoxes Dynamic work environments are complex and the changing conditions of ambiguity, uncertainty, conflicting goals, contradictory messages, and competing perspectives create barriers to effective performance. We are asked to take a long-term view and to make short-term decisions that increase profits. We are asked to learn new things and to perform at highest levels. We need to innovate and to operate in predictable ways. We oscillate between centralized and decentralized operational structures. We organize work closely for control and want people to show initiative and self-organize. We encourage collective identity and reward individual...

  4. Last Year’s Focus

    The starting point for our exploration of flexpertise was recognition of the incredible power of expertise. Our world runs on expertise – technical, political, economic, management, etc. Any one of us can live a good life knowing only a little about microcircuits or international finance or water shortages because other people know a lot, and we benefit from their knowledge. Departments in organizations can get away with knowing only a bit about X or Y because some other department or an outsourcer does it expertly. It’s a wonderful and amazing system. However, as individuals and organizations, we often don’t make...

What’s New

  1. What do the members in your organization actively do to pick up weak cues signaling threat and/or opportunity?

    During the December 2018 LILA member call, Professor Claus Rerup provided some insights into these questions. His research focuses on what he identifies as attentional triangulation – how a group of people (e.g., teams and organizations) avoid missing cues about threat or opportunity. Paying attention to the right kinds of cues is likely a mechanism toward achieving this year’s theme of collective mindfulness. When teams and organizations do not act in collectively mindful ways and are on autopilot, it is likely at least in part through lack of attentional triangulation.

  2. LILA Thematic Arc for 2017-2018: Emergence in Organizations: Shaping the Future as it Unfolds

    Emergence in Organizations: Shaping the future as it unfolds We live in a transformative time – one where often, old paradigms no longer help us solve the challenges we face and where new ways have not fully evolved. There is much we do not know about how to perceive, understand, and approach the issues we face. In past years, LILA has embraced themes addressing this dilemma, themes such as Unlearning, Managing Complexity, and Adaptive Cultures. For the coming year we outline another such theme, one that directly engages organizational structure and structuring in the context of continuous change and distributed...

  3. The social structure of cultural change: Damon Centola

    A dominant theory cultural norms are functional, but Damon provoked us to consider that there are cases in which norms are not functional at all, and can even be dysfunctional. Conformity norms stifle speaking up, for example which is seen in the Emperor’s New Clothes story and Stalin’s Russia. Such norms often comes from some sense of exogenous authority that dictate a behavior (political science), or sense of what is better (behavioral economics), or snow-ball effects of what’s popular (sociology). But all of these explanations assume there is awareness of all these things and they are valuable in some way....

  4. Where the tipping point missed the point

    Damon Centola’s work unpacked assumptions in networks that related to how ideas/behavior spread through networks via “strong vs. weak” ties.  For many years, and argued well in Gladwell’s Tipping Point, the belief was that all ideas spread like viruses through networks. Daemon’s work points out that what is important is the distinction between simple contagions (ideas/actions that requires a single contact) vs complex contagions (ideas/actions that require multiple contacts and social reinforcement). Many cultural practices require social reinforcement, particularly when there is uncertainty & risk, run against norms, or interdependence with other technologies. What is important to know is how complex...

  5. Why tightness is terrible and terrific

    Michele Gelfand’s work in social psychology explores how micro changes in behaviors connect to larger shifts in values in cultures.  Her work has looked the effect of social norms across cultures. Her concept is that there are qualitative differences in tight groups (with strong norms, litter tolerance for deviance, more orderly) vs. loose groups (weak norms, high tolerance for deviance, less orderly). Her research showed that tight groups coordinate well amidst threats of survival, both human made (e.g. tribal conflicts) and natural (e.g. natural disasters).  Tightness can be activated, too, by real of natural threats. And the situations, such as libraries...

  6. What We Learned About Unlearning To Learn

    This brief represents the culmination of our year of exploring the theme of unlearning to learn together. Over the course of the year, we have explored how we can best define, understand, and foster unlearning. Unlearning is learning to think, behave, or perceive differently, when there are already beliefs, behaviors, or assumptions in place (that get in the way), at either the individual or the organizational level. It becomes important when individuals, groups, and whole organizations have to find ways to effectively support change, overwrite old habits, surface and supplant entrenched ways of thinking, and develop new ways of working...

  7. Journal of Workplace Learning Publishes LILA Research on Informal Learning Conversations

    Informal learning conversations with colleagues is a powerful yet understudied source of self-directed, professional development. This study investigated the types of learning 79 leaders from 22 organizations reported they learned from 44 peer-led conversations over a two-year period. Survey data suggests empirical evidence of five learning outcomes – informational, conceptual, operational, reflective, and social learning. The study describes these categories, the overall distribution of these types of learning in the community, and how most conversations were “rich” in a particular outcome. It concludes with possible explanations for these patterns as well as potential lines for future research.

  8. Leaders as Problem Finders

    The LILA Community explored the Problem Finding Organization. Michael Roberto shared his finding that leaders at all levels must hone their skills as problem-finders to identify and correct problems and prevent catastrophe.

  9. Critical Knowledge Transfer by Dorothy Leonard

    As you may recall, Dorothy Leonard who is the William J.Abernathy Professor of Business Administration Emerita at Harvard
    Business School joined the LILA Community during the last several years as part of her research into the recently published book "Critical Knowledge Transfer." It is based on original research, numerous interviews with top managers,and a wide range of corporate examples, When highly skilled subject matter experts, engineers, and managers leave their organizations, they take with them years of hard-earned experience-based knowledge—much of it undocumented and irreplaceable. Organizations can thereby lose a good part of their competitive advantage.

Upcoming LILA Events

  • September 27, 2018 Member Call on September 27, 2018 @12:00 pm
  • October 2018 Gathering on October 16, 2018
  • November 1, 2018 Member Call on November 1, 2018 @12:00 pm
  • December 13, 2018 Member Call on December 13, 2018 @12:00 pm
  • January 10, 2019 Member Call on January 10, 2019 @12:00 pm
  • February 2019 Gathering on February 5, 2019
  • March 14, 2019 Member Call on March 14, 2019 @12:00 pm
  • April 2019 Gathering on April 10, 2019
  • May 23, 2019 Member Call on May 23, 2019 @12:00 pm
  • 13th Annual LILA SummitJune 12th & 13th, 2019

Latest from Twitter

RT @PorathC: This @TEDTalks ties to @amyjcuddy article & findings on how warmth --and competence-- matter and highlights how little actions…
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RT @MicheleJGelfand: @LILAHarvard @simonschuster Thanks so much! LILA members inspired so many ideas in the book!
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Congrats to LILA Faculty Alum Michele Gelfand on her new book! Michele engaged us in thinking about Tight/Loose cul…
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Marine litter: A teenager’s plan to trawl for plastic in the north Pacific gets under way via @TheEconomist
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RT @MDaimler: Three things all great cultures must have. My latest from HBR.
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Harvard Graduate School of Education