Baert, Caroline; De Stobbeleir, Katleen; Debruyne, Marion (2017)
In industries disrupted by technological innovation, strategic industry change may affect professional identity. This study explains the dynamic processes through which the professional identity of a collective of professionals evolves and transforms. To study such continuous transformation of a shared identity we engaged in a longitudinal qualitative study of the discursive practices of professionals in the newspaper industry. Professionals renegotiated core elements constituting their identity by converting old understandings of professional identity into new ones and by expanding understandings of professional identity by means of new elements. As such, they engaged in dynamic identity reconstruction processes allowing the reconstruction of a coherent professional identity, congruent with the strategic industry change at hand. Our study reveals the importance of recursive interrelationships between identity, cognition and strategic industry change: professional identity defines professionals’ cognitive interpretation of industry change, yet in parallel strategic industry change shapes professionals’ cognitive understanding of their identity. We contribute by highlighting the value of intertwining professional identity theory and strategic change research to better understand industry dynamics.
We examine the evolutionary process of decision-makers’ framing of strategic change to understand its contribution to the development of cognitive inertia. Cognitive inertia refers to decision-makers’ incapacity to timely challenge existing cognitive understandings in a context of disruptive change, resulting in a slower pace or lack of adaptation of those understandings and, ultimately, strategic inertia. Managerial cognition can be understood as a dynamic process of meaning construction, whereby meaning is created via framing practices. As such, framing practices are the interface between cognition and strategic responses. Adopting a grounded, interpretative case-study approach, we examine the framing practices of two media groups’ decision-makers as they frame the implications of digitization, a disruptive technological change, and develop strategic responses. We identify alternative framing paths and define the evolutionary process of framing. As such, we extend theory on the impact of managerial cognition on incumbent inertia in the context of disruptive technological change by unpacking the framing processes that relate to strategic inertia.
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