It is hard enough for companies to define themselves; they spend millions attempting it and once finally defined, they employ public relations and advertising to promote the new identity, while they strategically apply it to certain areas of activity. For example, at Makovsky our identity is “specialized thinkers.” We apply it through vertical specialization, e.g. health, financial services.
But what about the individuals in the company? How do they define themselves, and do they also strategically apply it?
Well, a friend of mine, Larry Ackerman, who wrote two corporate identity books, Identity is Destiny and The Identity Code, conducted a mini-survey of a cross-section of people. The exact question, “What do you believe is the single, most important application of identity in people’s lives?” Or – once you have determined your identity, where do you apply it?
Of the 100 identity-aware individuals asked, 50 responded and half of them generated valid responses which, while the numbers are small, may indicate how a larger population might respond.
The respondents generated four distinct identity application categories:
- forging relationships (in particular with family)
- understanding the essence of one’s self
- providing a guiding force
- influencing one’s career
Here are some summaries of what was found.
About one-third of the respondents replied that the main application of identity is how it influences and is influenced by one’s relationship with others—i.e
“I become manifested through, and see my self through, the eyes of others”
“My sense of identity derives from my connection with (significant) others”
“I identify myself as a mother, wife and friend”Understanding the essence of one’s self:
Some said that a person’s identity represents his/her “profound self” or as Socrates
understood, know thyself.
“(The) clarity of purpose in one’s life”
“The single most important application of identity in people’s lives, is achieving insight and clarity about the deepest level of one’s own personal ‘inner truth’ and ‘reason for being’”
“(The) most poignant application of my identity resides in feeling inner peace”Providing a guiding force:
About a quarter of the people said that the most important role of identity is as a guiding force in their lives. That is, a person knows who he is and that his identity shows him the way through life. As an old Dannon Yogurt commercial claimed, If you take care of the inside, the inside will take care of the outside.
“If we are identity-driven and therefore true to our self, we have a clear roadmap”
“I have a strong sense of identity that drives and guides me and the choices I have to make”Influencing one’s career:
Many saw their profession as the main expression of identity—through work and the impact it has on others.
“So much of who you are is tied up with what you do”
“Work is the ‘application’-or the part of my life-where my identity can contribute most, where I like myself the most”
Larry concludes: Although it isn’t explicit from the survey, it is compelling to note that people who are more aware of identity have developed well-formed ideas about its purpose and benefits – in short, identity has become a conscious part of how they live their lives.
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