Friday, October 24, 2008

individual groups

Was talking to a friend this morning about his multiple identities... "Friend" has 2 Twitter accounts: 1 personal, 1 corporate. He was reflecting on the different ways he's perceived (or perceives he's perceived) when operating as each distinct identity.

"People give me the cold shoulder when I'm using my corporate account, they're surprised and delighted when I relay the same content from my personal one."

So the enterprise becomes a group of individuals, and we redefine the collective identity or personality of that enterprise.

What happens when an individual leaves? Do they take that piece of corporate personality with them? What's the impact on the enterprise? 

Reminds me of the relationship literature: how we are like overlapping venn diagrams of "me" and "romantic partner" and therefore suffer greatly upon break up. Part of you disappears. 

More important than departures, companies could face some serious identity crises in the near future as we figure out the balance between collective and individuals. Rolling people up into a 'greater sum' preserving their freedom to act as individuals... If not marriage counselors, maybe we can look to sports' coaches for advice.


Peter Kim said...

Speaking of sports, Boston has experienced great success this decade in baseball and football. In an era of free agency, Boston's success is notable given the "one team" approach of the Patriots and Red Sox. Superstar players are often let go rather than receiving outlandish new contracts. Not to say that players with top ability are not necessary or not welcome - it's more about their mindset and contribution to the franchise.

kate said...

interesting... and so organizations will end up losing superstars as their personal brands override the enterprise. Of course, that assumes there's some universal inverse correlation between ability and success on a team (with a one-team approach). Provocative angle to take, I know...

Marc said...

This question has been bandied around a ton recently by such thinkers as Jeremiah Owyang (, Oliver Ding (, and Chris Brogan (

To take the sports analogy a little further, it would seem that companies are like baseball's farm system. Players will outgrow a current team, division, league as they improve or they will theoretically rise to the best of their abilities. At the end of the day, "superstars," like all self-invested individuals, will make the choices that best reward themselves. So it becomes up to the organization to provide an environment that rewards and retains the best talent required to provide their services/products.

And to Peter's example, that may mean a strong utility team, as opposed to one driven by a single identifiable element (a la Steve Edelman or Derek Jeter).

kate said...

Marc - forgive my delayed response. I think organizations definitely need to think about "environments that reward and retain." The leverage of an organization needs to prove advantageous. Also, I would argue it's not just "to provide their services/ products," but being malleable enough to enhance and transform the offerings as a result of the superstar's and others' contributions.

Marc said...

No worries on the delay, sometimes I leave comments around the interweb like seeds in a forest. The notification option is uber valuable.

Spot on about the point that organizations need to continually grow and improve or stagnate and die. And that their talent pool has to be capable and incentivized enough to do so.