So while we have generally spoken of the two extremes along the segmentation--integration continuum, clearly family businesses can exist toward the middle of this continuum, in a state we call "differential permeability." We define the state of differential permeability as the firm containing some elements of integration and some elements of segmentation.
Differential permeability can occur both within and between aspects of family business identity (image, culture, personnel, ownership/governance, and financial/contractual relations with family).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Differential Permeability
As discussed earlier, in the state of differential permeability as opposed to full integration or full segmentation, each aspect of the continuum (e.g., image culture, personnel policies) as well as manifestations within each aspect might be at a varied level of integrating the family and business identities.
Advantages to Differential Permeability. One key advantage to the state of differential permeability is that the firm is able to keep negative aspects of one domain from spilling into the other while also being able to integrate positive or strategically advantageous aspects of one domain into the other.
Disadvantages of Differential Permeability. One key disadvantage of differential permeability is that this "cherry picking" approach requires work--boundary work--and therefore will incur costs to the organization in terms of cognitive attention, behavioral effort, and potential emotional toll.
As another disadvantage to differential permeability, the dimensions can come into unintended conflict with one another, creating inconsistencies in the firm's work climate, policies, etc.