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  • Writer's pictureAlex Reizer

Identity Symbols

Updated: Jun 5, 2022

Do you know all those choices the company makes for you when getting you "swag"?

They choose the quality of product for a mug, or a t-shirt, or anything else. They choose what will be written on it. They expect you to take a pic with it and post it with a hashtag.

They chose the company logo.

They chose the slogan.


We love it when we're connected to it, but under a big culture, there is still plenty of room for your individual and team identity.

I think about this like I do about kids. You make a lot of choices for them when they're young, I mean, you literally choose their name. You chart a course you HOPE they might take, and you set some hard boundaries. But at the end of the day, if you want them to be happy, and you want them to want to keep in touch, you need to let them build their own identity, and decide the best way for them, within those boundaries. And often, no matter what you do, they'll "leave the nest". Which is great. You want them to succeed above what you ever imagined for them. And that identity, the freedom to create it, should be enabled by great managers. What I mean by that is:

  1. Managers should actively encourage employees to pick a name, a symbol for their team.

  2. When teammates wish to do this, managers should support this, and help along, not enforce their own opinion.

Management 3.0: "Find an excuse to ask teams, departments, or divisions about a symbol of their identity. Maybe it’s because you need icons on the intranet, or on the website or maybe because you’re creating a brochure for new employees and maybe because each will be presented at the company’s annual event. It might be useful to collect some good (and bad) examples and distribute them for inspiration."

Here's an example. We built a decoupled CMS, called Vulcan CMS. It was called that because of Hephaestus, the Greek god of builders. I couldn't just name it that, no one would be able to pronounce it. So, Vulcan was the Roman equivalent. Whatever I imagined for the logo was irrelevant. When we wanted to create some t-shirts to commemorate the expected launch, the team chose the design themselves, and it wasn't what I would have chosen, but it was theirs. I love that design today. That's something NO OTHER COMPANY I ever worked for did for me. Allow me to pick a t-shirt print. So minor, so seemingly meaningless, and yet it was an expression of team empowerment. What's more, some chose one design, others chose another. It's so simple, so strong, and I wish we could have more variety. See both of the choices below. That strange "bird surfing out of a volcano" print is something ONLY a team could pick to represent a CMS named after the Roman equivalent of a Greek god of blacksmiths and builders.

Identity Symbols

It's a variation of the "IKEA effect", which is proven time after time. When we invest time/labor into something, we appreciate it more. So, if you're a manager, and you wish to move from "management 1.0" or "2.0" to 3.0 (i.e. managing to empower the team, and energize people, and much more), give this a try. I hope that you find that even with a team that's lost hope in having an identity, every small thing counts. Don't expect this to be a silver bullet, but an expression of autonomy and team identity, out of an array of practices you should be implementing from Agile Management. You're welcome to read more about it, here.

You can also talk to me about a Management 3.0 Foundation Workshop, or some individual modules.

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