Leadbeater’s (2000) metaphor of “a new economy living on thin air” gives a good idea of how to conceive of the knowledge economy. Whereas conventional economies trade with actual commodities, physical products, money, or capital, the knowledge economy implies production, commodification, and economically beneficial use of a merely abstract entity – knowledge. Creative economies and industries can be considered subsets of the knowledge economy. In the context of globalization and a dynamically evolving economy, the creative sector and the creative industries have recently fuelled profound changes (Bilton, 2010), impacting spheres beyond their own sector.
The creative industries used to be conceived of as a narrow economic branch within the media, entertainment, and arts-sector. However, the tendency of creativity and the creative industries to foster ingenuity tends to feed into all industries (Bilton, 2007). Creativity has transferred from being characteristic for particular niche industries to an overarching, critical, and peculiar feature to the entire economy (Pratt & Jeffcutt, 2009). In fact, it in order to sustain a growing economy, creativity is considered to be one of the most important factors (McGregor, 2006) concerning the ultimate goal of most organizations – profit.
Whenever creativity is involved, however, a rather unpredictable variable comes into play. A prevalent challenge within the extremely heterogeneous creative industries is to find managerial approaches that account for both end points and achieve a proactive balance for a successfully functioning organizational philosophy. In this guise, organizations have been trying to find management solutions and entrepreneurial approaches to fruitfully implement creativity and balance the innate tensions between creativity, control, and organizational structure (Baucus, 2007; Bilton, 2007, 2010; Mumford, 2000; Powell, 2008; Sutton, 2002; Wilson & Stokes, 2005).
The essay at hand provides solutions to the aforementioned dilemma and identifies starting points for implementing key characteristics and management strategies of creative organizations into creatively managing non-creative organizations. The subject matter will be discussed along the lines of the following set of interrelated of questions.
- What exactly is creativity, where does it come from and what is its significance in an organizational management context?
- What constitutes creative organizations and where does innovation fit in?
- To what extend has creativity forged new forms of organizations or has been beneficially implemented by technically non-creative organizations?
- What are some innovative and collaborative approaches by organizations to take advantage of the collective nature of the knowledge economy?
The proposed questions evolve around creativity and its proactive managerial implementation in creative and non-creative organizations. They will be answered by first distinguishing creativity and innovation in an organizational context and discussing the different schools of thought concerning the origin of creativity. After an exploration of selected key characteristics of creative organizations, the extent to which an implementation of such attributes has spawned new and creative business forms and approaches will be assessed. Finally, a thematically corresponding illustration of exemplary organizational case studies will prepare the development of the main argument.
What is creativity? What is innovation?
In the context of organizational management, it is difficult to adequately differentiate between creativity and innovation. Howkins (2001) provides a good working definition of creativity being “the ability to generate something new. It means the production by one or more people of ideas and inventions that are personal, original and meaningful” (p. 23). It is important to note that this definition accounts for the possibility of creativity being a collective process by more than one individual. By the same token, innovation is the exploitation of the creative idea with an economic intention (Wilson & Stokes, 2005). Facing organizational challenges, it is intriguing to explore how creativity can be implemented without losing the innovative drive of non-creative organizations, or, optimally, how innovation can be enhanced through creative adaptations.
“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”
The creative industries are characterized by a dichotomy of creativity and innovation, the former being the creative idea or spirit by individuals, and the latter being the economic exploitation of that idea. Yet, creative and innovative organizations are not mutually exclusive. The fine line between creativity and innovation within organizations is blurring (Alves, Marques, Saur, & Marques, 2007; Martins & Terblanche, 2003; Mumford, 2000). In order to be creative and forge new ideas and novelties, creative organizations need not necessarily be innovative. However, innovative organizations are mostly creative. In the modern business world, it is hard to distinguish a creative organization from an innovative one. As innovation is generally recognized as the exploitation of the creative idea with an economic intention, or harnessing creativity to make a product, innovation cannot take place with out creativity. There can be, on the other hand, a purely creative organization without innovation in the sense of creativity for its own sake. As soon as creativity is embedded in business, however, it begets innovation by necessity.
The origins of creativity: Lone genius versus motley crew
Considering management of creative organizations and managing creativity within organizations, the origins of creativity and causes for its sometimes unsuccessful or jejune implementation have been fuelling a much contested debate between two camps. At one end, the individual, creative mind is supposed to be the sole origin of valuable creative ideas that yield profitable outcomes and organizational innovation (Amabile, 1988). At the opposite end, creative teams of diverse individuals with numerous external linkages and networks were not only seen as more productive and efficient, but also as capable of augmenting genuinely creative output that facilitated more profitable, innovate outcome (Barlow, 1990). Bilton (2010) conceptualizes this discrepancy by juxtaposing an individual, “heroic model of creativity” in opposition to a collective, “structural model of creativity” (p. 4).
In philosophical terms, the conventional, heroic model of creativity allots essential importance to the individual, creative genius and its ideas. Echoing the central role of the single creative genius, Banaji and Burn (2006) mention Kant’s Critique of Judgment, which classifies creativity as being a few gifted individuals’ special abilities and qualities.
The origins of creativity and its organizational relevance
In terms of organizational management, the heroic model of creativity similarly emphasizes the significance of the creative genius. It entails that the management of an organization focuses predominantly on individual talent and creative ideas that have transforming, beneficial power for the entire firm while remaining the intellectual, creative effort of a single individual (Bilton, 2010). This conception is in line with the independent, ‘lone genius’ behind a creative idea and resembles Wilson and Strokes’ (2005) argument, which signifies independence as still being of major importance for the preservation of uniqueness and individuality in business settings, and, ultimately, for organizational and entrepreneurial success.
The validity and genuine organizational value of the heroic approach has been much critiqued in recent years (Alencar & Bruno-Faria, 1997; Singh & Fleming, 2010; Sutton, 2002). This contributed to a tendentially increasing recognition and popularity of the structural model of creativity, which substantiates collaboration and process-oriented organizational structures “beyond individual, person-based approaches towards collective, process-based models” (Bilton, 2010, p. 5). This clearly entails a deconstruction of the lone genius (Montuori & Purser, 1995) and strikes a chord with Schoonhoven and Romanelli’s (2001) contention of the ‘lonely only entrepreneur’ merely being a myth.
The tendency to reconfigure old norms and organizational values (Pratt & Jeffcutt, 2009) also unfolds in strong dissonance to the heroic model of creativity. Anti-mainstream maverick approaches and unconventional business models have been fomenting competition beyond the creative economy (Sutton, 2002). Trends and phenomena from popular culture, such as Wikinomics and Crowd sourcing, as well as open source, network-based organizations, such as Google, prove that a relational and collective advancement of knowledge is potentially advantageous for many individuals as well as organizations.