Emerging Ideas

This past few weeks I have been working on my preliminary literature review chapter, attempting to summarize much reading since December, to explore and explain the identity field, and seek out contemporary issues in Project Management (see last blog entry) with the idea of fleshing out the research topic and justifying the problem/question.


To call it a Literature review is a stretch.  I’m not trying to undermine my effort, it is only that at this time it is still rather superficial and broad, and I have not had the time to really explore and get critical in the specific literature – importantly because I have not chosen what that area I should be diving into deeply.


There has been a plethora of terms that have to be placed in their respective locale such as identity construction, work, regulation, identification, dis-identification, organizational identity, corporate identity, culture, and sense making.  Interestingly so far, exploring identity concepts and definitions has highlighted three important considerations:

  • The wide theoretical perspectives in identity research seems particularly extensive and pertinent.  It not only determines what people have researched before, how they have researched, and what sort of questions are relevant, but even the definitions can change depending on your angle..  To say the least – there are some real divisions between the essentialists, constructivists, critical-ists, post modernists etc.
  • Identity being entitiative or processual is another important distinction, i.e. seeing identity as a ‘thing’ or seeing it as a constructed, ongoing, negotiated process.  This is on one hand directly related to theoretical perspective but on the other hand it can be different or have multiple theoretical perspectives also e.g. you could take a critical view of organisational identity (essentialist) on project teams (using social constructivist methods).
  • Identity entitative, or processual can exist at multiple levels be it at a macro, meso or micro level entity i.e. organization, group (project team), or individual.  Here it seems important to ask what level of unit analysis am I interested in pursuing?


Well, after much reading, mapping, and writing – I have hit a bump or is it an opportunity?  Up till now my research questions have been:


  1. “How and why might using the identity lens be salient for project management theory and practice?”, and


  1. “How are identity construction processes employed within and around projects?”


At this point in my literature review I get the sense that the question how might the popular identity lens be used in project management might be better thought of as an overall aim rather than a research question requiring empirical research.  It might even be possible to answer this question first as a product of the literature review and a conceptualization of identity theory.


The Project Management and Identity conceptualization process is still on-going, nevertheless, it is now pointing to new questions on what to research.   Within the boundary of project management, I cross referenced Identity Concepts with Theoretical Perspectives and placed throughout (well trying to) some new questions that could be manageable and interesting.  With respect to the second question (which was included in the cross reference), ‘How are identity construction processes employed within and around projects?’, while it stands up as a research question, and sits within the social constructivist, interpretivist, and perhaps pragmatist perspectives.


However, I find myself asking, is it an interesting and worthwhile question?  Is it the ONE that I want to continue further in this project?  For example, just one quick idea – if I took a critical perspective then I might explore how individual project team members or project managers might be exploited by their organizations project management practices, or the project management discipline’s discourse.


It is to my great surprise and dismay that I’ve come around a full loop since the December Research Philosophy Course.  I thought I had moved on from that subject.  But within Identity research there seems to be a critical need to consider the theoretical perspective as you can’t even reach a set of definitions until you do, not to forget the implications for the research aims, questions and design.


From last week’s blog, one of the issues in Project Management is 1) the lack of critical work on the dominant rational discourse, and 2) the lack of exploration on social and behavioural perspectives that accompanies practice.  Can I kill two birds with one stone, namely using an identity concept as that stone, do I need to keep reading and writing, or should I consider some preliminary empirical research to help answer this question?


Love to hear from you.  Let me know your thoughts on this stage in the journey!

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