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date: 27 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter integrates three approaches to the question of why successful identities—individual and organizational—generally involve a balance between conformity to others’ practices and differentiation from them. An entertaining model is employed to highlight the limitations of the “optimal distinctiveness” and the “different audiences” approaches. A third approach—“two-stage valuation”—is then shown to address these limitations. It is also demonstrated that this approach provides a general foundation for understanding the balance between conformity and differentiation. The advantages of this framework are (a) parsimony, as it requires no unnecessary behavioral assumptions; (b) generality, as it applies at both the individual and organizational levels of analysis and is capable of incorporating the distinctive observations of the other two approaches; and (d) extensibility, as it is capable of illuminating outstanding puzzles, such as why closely resembling others may sometimes convey legitimacy but may sometimes be a problematic sign of inauthenticity.

Keywords: conformity, differentiation, valuation, identity, audience

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