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Identity of a System

Here, as so often, the clarifying question is: What is the problem for which the identity (of a person, a team or an organisation) is the solution?

The ‘identity problem’ arises, when a system has to choose between different actions. How, after all, can it, in itself, become identifiable, if different alternatives would have completely different consequences? Then the system needs criteria, so that it can become recognisable again for itself and its environment. “Is that you, Hanna?” is maybe the question, if one meets once again after thirty years and has, in this time, missed many choice processes (dress style, hairstyle, deportment, language, gesture etc.).

However, it only needs ‘identity’ now and again! Namely, it always needs it when special choice processes require an orientation (“Do I buy this vase” or “Shall we develop such a product?”), which refers to the (complex) entirety of the system (“Does this vase fit my decorating style?” or “Does this product fit our portfolio, our customers, our competences, our markets and our budget?”). Thus, identity is necessary to limit possibilities. Otherwise a system would get lost and dissolve in the wealth of variants. Identity is, therefore, not the ‘whole’ which is in front of you but a process which permits the forming of a boundary to the complexity of the world.