Organizational character: On the regeneration of camp poplar grove

Jeremy P. Birnholtz*, Michael D. Cohen, Susannah V. Hoch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


We analyze organizational regeneration using case materials from a study of a children's summer camp. Each year members of various types of seasonal organizations, such as summer camps and ski areas, come together to bring these organizations "back to life" after many months of dormancy. Because many staff members are new and other conditions vary, the result of this regeneration process is necessarily different from the previous year's organization, but it is nonetheless recognizable to repeat clientele as a familiar instance of "the same" organization. We use this rarely examined process of regeneration to explore the question of how we can regard an organization as being the same entity over time. We suggest that this sameness stems from a coherence and similarity of actions at the organizational level that is analogous to the psychological notion of individual character. Just as individual habits cohere in the character of an individual and allow us to recognize and predict future behavior, we argue that organizations are systems of interacting dispositions to act in a particular way. It is the mutually adapted content of this ensemble of action dispositions that constitutes what we present here as organizational character. We argue that such an ensemble of dispositions is coherent, persistent, and necessary for seasonal regeneration. This work contributes to an ongoing discussion of organizational action and similarity over time. Our focus on regenerative processes in a seasonal organization provides a distinct and informative perspective on these issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-332
Number of pages18
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Culture
  • Identity
  • Learning
  • Organizational
  • Practices
  • Regeneration
  • Routines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Organizational character: On the regeneration of camp poplar grove'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this