Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson

A growing number of organizations are meta-organizations; rather than individuals they have other organizations as their members. This comprehensive book explains, in-depth, the unique way in which meta-organizations function, how they differ from organizations with individual membership, and how they are crucial agents in the process of globalization.

Chapter 6: Conflicts and Decision-making Problems

Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies


5. Similarity, dissimilarity, and identity formation The high degree of differentiation among organizations requires that each meta-organization take a stance on the type of organizations that will constitute its members. As mentioned in the last chapter, membership is normally based on the members being similar in some respect. They are all a certain type of state, a firm in a certain industry, a certain type of association. If the aim is to strengthen a sense of shared identity or status, it is necessary for the members to be perceived as similar. Even when the purpose is collaboration, meta-organizations usually aim at collaboration among equals. In this chapter we discuss identity formation in meta-organizations in more detail and we will highlight both how meta-organizations deal with similarities and dissimilarities among their members. When collaboration between organizations concerns their differences rather than their similarities – different competencies or specialities, for instance – it would be unusual for them to choose an association in which to conduct their business. It would be more common for them to establish a joint venture or create a project based on limited-duration contracts that do not give rise to formal organizations. There are exceptions, however. One example is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), in which environmental organizations almost succeeded in gathering the organizations of an entire field – voluntary organizations, companies, and government agencies – into one organization in order to reach agreement on how to conduct forestry. Another example is KRAV, which began as a traditional meta-organization among equals – ecological...

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