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This is the first in a monthly series of blog posts featuring the Fellows of Fielding’s Institute for Social Innovation.

Established in 2002, the Institute for Social Innovation (ISI) supports research, professional development, and organizational consulting projects that aim to produce more effective, sustainable, or just solutions than current approaches. Learn more about the ISI below.

Erika Jacobi, PhD

ISI Fellow Erika Jacobi, PhD, researches Cognition, Language, and Identity in Successful Organizations.

Bio: Dr. Jacobi is the Managing Director of LC GLOBAL®, a change, growth, and innovation consulting firm with offices in New York City and Munich Germany. She specializes in adaptive organization design and dynamic growth strategies. Her clients have included companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Sony Mobile Communications, and members of the United Nations. She also enjoys working with small to mid-size as well as not-for profit companies and executives. With innovation initiatives on three continents, Erika – who lives in NYC – believes that a leader is anyone who wishes to co-create desired future states, and that organizations can change one conversation at a time.

Research Approach: Erika used archived interviews from three self-described successful companies that were also financially successful. The companies operated in fundamentally different sectors but were all believed to be successful because of their outstanding culture. In those archived interviews, she looked for spontaneously voiced identity claims (i.e., “We are …”; “This is how we do things here”) and analyzed them by their repetition rate of cognitive linguistic patterns.

Goal: The goal of her research was to understand to which degree self-described successful companies have a clearly identifiable cognitive linguistic collective identity. By which degrees do they show thought diversity versus thought homogeneity and which other patterns might be observable?

Findings: Ultimately, it was not the branded values that were found in the spontaneously voiced identity claims (neither the verbiage nor the underlying condition), but actively experienced ones. Furthermore, the study showed that alignment in identity-relevant matters might be overrated. To drive innovation and renewal, a measurable “creative tension” was deemed crucial.

Benefit to Organizations: The study helps to explain why culture branding initiatives often bear so little fruit. Advice might be to rethink culture initiatives completely. The outcome of this study showed that it is more about how the nuances and “in-betweens” of “Who we are,” “What we do,” and “What we can be in the future” are lived and practiced than how we talk about them. Last, dissonances and the clear capability to balance extremes as a collective need to be a constant part in this understanding of our organizational identity.

Future Plans: More socio-cognitive linguistic studies are needed on successful companies as much as a comparative study on struggling organizations. More data and research could ultimately lead to the design of an organizational assessment tool.

About the Institute for Social Innovation

With a mission to turn knowledge into action, Fielding’s Institute for Social Innovation (ISI) taps Fielding faculty, students, and alumni across the globe to create opportunities for professionals to create sustainable change in their workplaces and communities. ISI also serves as an incubator for Fielding programs; the university’s successful Evidence Based Coaching program was born out of the ISI in 2005.

The ISI Fellows program provides IRB and grant seeking support, jointly sponsored continuing education offerings through alumni consulting businesses, expanded library access, and membership in the Alumni Association. In these and other ways, Fielding engages with alumni to further their professional accomplishments.

Learn more on fielding.edu.