Conformity and differentiation are strategies that organizations pursue to improve key organizational outcomes. Conformity implies behaving in accordance with a set of norms, standards, or policies, while differentiation means to stand out as different from others with respect to certain attributes. Both strategies emerge from different theoretical positions, are selected on the basis of different strategic considerations, and are generally assumed to have different effects on reputation. This entry discusses conformity and differentiation’s linkages to reputation and legitimacy and the balancing of conformity and differentiation in reputation matters.


The standard approach to conformity found in the early institutional literature in organizational analysis described conformity as a nonstrategic response to institutional pressures. According to this perspective, organizations operate in institutional environments characterized by strong pressures and logics ...

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