chapter  4
37 Pages

Strategy/creativity dialectics applied

One of the key tenets of this work is the equivalence of strategy and creativity. It is argued that creativity has to be strategic in order to bring sustainable results and that strategy is inherently creative. While in the area of cognition, components of decision-making can be seen – implicitly or explicitly – as ‘strategic’ (Harris and Sanborn 2013; Heilman 2006; Wilhelms and Reyna 2014), Bilton (2007, 2009) draws significant correlations between the processes of management and the notion of creativity, utilizing various cases in culture and creative management to embark on such explorations. Covered elsewhere in this book is the truly pioneering work of Bloch (2012), who dedicates an entire tome to the reconciling of artificially imposed disciplinary tensions between the respective paradigms of natural and social sciences. These are epitomized in deceptive dichotomies, defined as any of the following signifiers: positivistic vs. interpretive, hypothetico-deductive vs. inductive, measurable vs. descriptive, quantitative vs. qualitative, cognitive vs. cultural, etc. (Anthropology and the Cognitive Challenge). Implicit in this argument is a worthy debate on reconciling paradigmatic tensions, and possible contributory causes stemming from (post-) industrial divisions of labour, which not even intellectual work has evaded. For the purpose of this monograph, however, it is more than satisfactory to construe and benefit from overarching methodologies. As said in Chapter 2, these are postulated on the foundations of Kantian transcendental illusion/synthetic a posteriori, paradigmatic shifts noted by contemporary authors (following Kuhn 1962) – evidenced in industry practice – and Bloch’s persuasive, powerfully thorough examination of multidisciplinary links between seemingly opposing paradigms of science, culture and, by extension, the arts. There is adequate and growing evidence of the logical soundness of such approaches, found in the work of many contemporary analysts, and most importantly, field practitioners. Cognitive aspects of such strategic practice are explored elsewhere; it is now worth focusing on their organizational and interpretive counterparts, especially those focusing on the subject areas of culture and creativity. Notably, Bilton (2009: 30) cites the shift in the advertising industry from the aesthetics and individuality of creative concepts to the more integrated, strategic approach of the sector that defines creativity as

business model innovation, thus elevating the notion of creativity from individual to institutional, and from campaign (tactic) to brand (strategic). Indeed, in this book it is argued that a systematic and encompassing approach that characterizes strategy is required for formulating and developing creativity in an artistic or scientific sense, and that the same is the case for being able to label a business decision or process ‘strategic’. Namely, it is suggested that strategic processes are those which overcome, go beyond the generic and replicable character of project administration and day-to-day maintenance of business operations, whereby even incremental change requires the kind of reasoning that can be (conditionally) labelled ‘creative’ due to its cognitive characteristics. Extensive fieldwork conducted for this book suggests that there are evident tensions between different ways of understanding creativity within the varied organizations that embark on strategies defining creative industries and sectors. In fieldwork, these notions of creativity have been seen to range broadly. The span covers respondent data/accounts, ranging from institutionalized models of organizational practice (including organizational learning), value structures and market operations (Bilton 2009: 31-35), to those of inherently individualistic decision-making processes. The latter sets of cases are especially notable in those areas where the value of the product, service or experience is a direct function of managing ideas and turning them into physical (whether material or digital) or cognitive (conceptual) form. The former, organizationally construed models of operational practice and value structures are more frequently, not surprisingly, a feature of corporate structures and approaches. The latter, inherently individualistic processes of creative strategy decision-making are more frequently adopted in small to medium-sized organizations frequently characterized by the focus on entrepreneurial leadership of managers, who tend to be creative specialists trained or educated within the actual core processes of value creation within the industry, sector or niche they occupy. However, drawing clear, binary contrasting delineations between ‘institutional’ and ‘individualized’ creative strategies would oversimplify the subject matter and not do justice to the complex nature of both strategy and creativity. Similar findings can be accounted for in other works (e.g. Bilton 2007, 2009; Pratt and Jeffcutt 2009; Christensen 2006: 39-41, 45-47, 54), leaving aside for the moment distinctions and nuances between the respective definitions of creativity and innovation. Moreover, this can be seen in other important treatises that define the links between business modelling, innovation and strategy and the adoption of novel operational models. This is especially the case in the broad, emerging pattern of sweeping transformation of entire sectors and industries where technology is the key driver of such change. Seeing change, strategy and innovation as a totality of all the fundamental transformations, encompassing all levels from the minutiae of operations to global paradigm shifts, makes it difficult to draw a clear distinction between the underlying technology strategy substructure and the business strategy superstructure (e.g. Casadesus-Masanell and Ricart 2010;

Garnham 2005; Markides 2006; Graham et al. 2004; Graham and Hardaker 2000). A relation of equivalence is drawn between (scientific) creativity and attainment of new forms of human capital (Garnham 2005: 21) while cautioning against the simplification of actual complex correlations between radical innovation in business modelling, technology and product design (Markides 2006) and understanding that this occurs on several planes and structural levels (Casadesus-Masanell and Ricart 2010; Graham et al. 2004). In fact, some of the most noteworthy cases of strategic transformation that can be accounted for as ‘creativity’, ‘innovation’ and conceptual transformations of fundamental character can be seen as result of successfully managed sets of intersections, or intentional convergences of scientific, intuitive and pragmatic thinking. Some of those examples are so ubiquitous that they may not stand out: in digital media, search, communications and strategy tools as well as within the more traditional domains of product/service innovation. Global examples include Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, Angry Birds (mechanics!), but also Lego, IKEA, the London tube map and even entire classes of culture-, experience-and service-oriented types of iconic product designs including skateboards and snowboards, the value of which is frequently more cultural, psychosocial and experiential than evidentially utilitarian. Many of the respondents in this study referred to the links between creativity and strategy, their responses ranging from pragmatically utilitarian (e.g. A. Bogucki, C. Price) to abstract and values-driven (e.g. M. Gallego, S. Funk). In some cases, components of the cognitive process were revealed – the strategy as a cognitive methodology in project planning, product/service development and matching of outcomes (e.g. A. Asshuach, D. Serrano). In other cases still, respondents referred to the inherent cognitive components of business model design, whereby business models are supported by an operational substructure that is entirely determined by ICT, and would not have existed without contemporary interactive technologies (e.g. A. Goodyer, T. Georgiev). Nonetheless, as argued in several places in this book, the interactivity of digital, ICT-driven models was created, designed and developed because of the inherently determined human need and ability for social interaction, which can be facilitated by ICT in such ways as to reinforce and create new forms of intrinsic value which can be consequently commercialized. Such need, desire and ability to interact is covered in numerous treatises; one case where its complexity is of particular relevance is the aforementioned work by Bloch (2012). Though not obviously related to business notions of strategy, tactics, modelling or commercialization, the fundamental philosophical, methodological and paradigmatic structures underlying this work reflect the need for business studies in general, and the notion of strategy in particular, to develop in tune with the times and realities of practice which is multidimensional, complex and therefore effective. The dialectic relationship between innovations in technology and creative business strategy can also be read in reverse, in order to identify governing principles and patterns of development. Why would this be of importance? One of the

key tenets of well-construed strategy is its professed ability to anticipate and influence future moves and outcomes by understanding the role of abstract notions in concrete contexts. Strategic insight cited elsewhere in this book includes the understanding that led to the Apple vs. Apple case, brought about by the foresight1 that music and computing would converge at a point at which there would be little distinction between the role of a record company and that of a computer-driven business. This is not fundamentally dissimilar from the ability of advanced theorists to anticipate changes in technology that would make an impact on both creativity and business, or the artistic vision which may lack the appropriate vocabulary – as the technology has not been invented yet – but which can anticipate major innovations in form, format and corresponding market strategies. Notable examples of this include Andy Warhol’s ‘15 minutes of fame’ (the attribution of authorship and meaning of which are still contested), anticipating reality television, advanced celebrity culture and value capture thus attained. The leader of the Doors, Jim Morrison, reportedly anticipated the rise of sampling and musical forms such as rap and EDM (during a television interview); Adorno’s prediction of internet/network-driven, content-focused and decentralized heterotopias has been mentioned elsewhere in this work. None of these people had access to information that would pertain to particular technologies, most of which were fully developed long after their deaths. Consequently, the vocabulary they used was conditioned by the technology of their own lived time era, yet this did nothing to undermine Walter Benjamin’s understanding of possible consequences of format convergence coupled with potentially infinite copying of work, or Paul Valery’s disconcertingly accurate predictions of what we now call ‘streaming’ media. It matters little that most of these insightful individuals seldom focused on commercial implications, not having much interest in such outcomes or developments within the phenomena under their gaze. The ability to explore such complex phenomena through a seemingly paradoxical combination of immersion and detachment may be of great significance for future strategists. The strategic impact of technology on a market for creative products, services and experiences should not be overlooked in cases where key innovation occurred in the distant past, as it may lead to a heightened capacity for understanding fundamental forces driving the patterns of strategic change. An obvious, relatively recent, and well-documented (even overdocumented) example of multichannel recording technology is frequently discussed on all levels of understanding. Multichannel audio technology transformed entire product ranges, markets and underlying strategies in the 1960s and 1970s, giving rise to the power of global record labels (Frith 1990). Its increasing ubiquity and consequent reduction of cost, especially of digitized tools (and ‘prosumer’ product pricing), can be seen as one of the causes of the perceived loss of value in audio products. This was becoming evident even before the early Web, as compression formats and peer-to-peer networks beginning with Napster heralded ‘the culture of free’, as referred to by one

media respondent (C. Price), and strategically foreseen by a charismatic industry leader (Maurice Oberstein). However, the strategic impact of creativity, or the creative impact on strategy, can be traced into a far more distant past, centuries before Henry Ford’s Model T and the twentieth-century assembly line. Arguably, the commercialization of art and culture is of a more recent date, just as stated by Tom Cardew, an artist respondent who operates in the loosely termed area of visual arts (though his media include non-visual means). A number of respondents, especially those who operate within the more ‘traditionally’ termed areas of art and culture, find the contemporary increased transition towards commercialization, institutional target-driven regulation and industrial professionalization of arts as disconcerting as Adorno, Benjamin and Horkheimer did in relation to the then emerging industrialization of culture and its consequent standardization (form, format, medium etc). Nonetheless, not only can the links between institutions, power and commerce be traced back into the distant past but the technologies now taken for granted played a defining role in this. For example, looking at distant innovations in art technology, now perceived as ‘traditional’, provides examples of format characteristics so deeply ingrained in culture and Western civilization that global markets, cultural practices and audience identities become inherently connected to what was once ‘novelty’. Oil painting was developed during the transition from high Renaissance to early Baroque, and its impact was not confined to style, form and representational aesthetics, all of which were results of improved technology. Qualitative transformation of technique led to the attainment of the illusion of depth, perspective and what was later to become known as ‘suspension of disbelief ’ (Harris and Sanborn 2013: 58), especially important in the age of linear media such as film. Although art theorists or historians seldom if ever speak of any notion of ‘marketing’ in the distant past (e.g. the Baroque and Watteau in McClellan 1996), the ‘trickery’ of oil paint techniques first noted in the work of Van Eyck2 would have subverted the older mastery of technologies preceding it and created a new sense of intrinsic value (e.g. Hewison 2006; Hewison and Holden 2004; Holden 2006; Gibson 2008 etc.), an experiential value previously unknown to audiences, patrons and buyers alike. Such innovation would have had a market effect, though ‘markets’ and especially matters resembling standardization or ‘industrialization’ of art and culture were not part of a common, public discourse of the time, neither quantitatively nor qualitatively close to what featured from late modernity onwards. Technological innovations in art technique or instrument design had a market impact, which needs to be noted irrespective of the necessary caution that one must take when construing a ‘market’ context in relation to a set of historically distant events and processes. The significance of culture and cultural goods during the transition from the late mediaeval age to early modernity and the artisan manufacturing preceding any notion of industrial production would not have been characterized by commercial

signifiers akin to those of late modernity or this current epoch (Epstein 1998; Kieser 1989; Epstein 1991; Richardson 2001; Gustafsson 1987; Farr 2000; Epstein 2002; Pounds 2014). Nevertheless, the technology – including musical instrument design and craftsmanship – facilitated a set of developments that redefined creativity and its impact on the intrinsic value of creative work (extensive debates can be drawn on the basis of the approach for which Marshall McLuhan is famed). A strategy, loosely defined as a means-to-ends control relationship, would have existed, though not in the contemporary sense where all effects are quantifiable and many are means-tested commercially. A pre-modern notion of ‘strategy’, as a different notion of power, skill, control, plan, implementation, impact (etc.) and attaining a desired effect, would have been utilized for different purposes, as pre-modern discourses of strategy would have concerned themselves with religious, political and military power, where art and culture would have been tightly controlled to serve clearly identifiable goals. Such events, processes and discourses are very well documented in history literature (a plethora of texts can be found that reflect this, e.g. Holmes 1995; Stinger 1998; Masters 1996; Shneiderman 2003; Gilbert et al. 1957; Norris 1989; Anderson 1996; Wegman 1995; Leppert and McClary 1989; Dillon and Kallberg 2002; Holsinger 2001; Scanlon 2007). Works on critical approaches to strategy, and to some degree those that deal with more established strategy discourses, examine the term’s military origins. A particularly interesting notion is the analogy that Von Clausewitz, an eminent nineteenth-century military strategist, drew between war and business competition (Levy et al. 2001). Mintzberg’s ‘strategy as ploy’ is an example of one that draws close to battle tactics and ruse. This comparison of business behaviour to military campaigns not only suggests a kinship of purpose between the two but also that they are both arts rather than sciences (Levy et al. 2001). In the ancient Chinese text The Art of War, instructions of a leading traditional school of military strategy are drawn in the style of philosophical allegory and poetic symbolism, with the apparent aim of abstracting the concrete experience and learnedness of the (legendary) author (Tzu 2002). This way of reading strategy as a set of logical riddles applied to different configurations, events and environments seems to have been purposefully designed to survive any particular context the authors may have referred to in their reflection on any actual or current events. Conclusions drawn by the reader may only become concrete through abstraction and understanding of the logical challenge presented in each section, and only then through specific application to the problem at hand. Situations are thus presented through the abstract representation of principles and key forces in a number of hypothetical scenarios derived through reflection. Any concrete situation would differ from the idealized setting of these strategic puzzles, where the moral of the story, the cautionary tale relating to the problem, is the key tool for instruction as it gives the reader insight into what components of the problem are variable and which ones

are independent, offering a reflexive tool for understanding context based on supposedly archetypal principles. Frequently, the lesson to be learnt is that the opponents’ strengths may be used against them. In the Western tradition, one of the most notable examples of ancient military strategy is that of the battle of Cannae (Daly 2002; Goldsworthy 2007). The complex ploy behind the tactical manoeuvre on display there was long held an innovative, if not a creative one (it is more than a slight contradiction in terms to call a battle ‘creative’). It should not be lost on the reader that Hannibal Barca explored configuration of the terrain and its east-west orientation in the context of choosing when and where to make decisive moves, analogously to the detailed market and environment research required for any major strategic innovation (Markides 1997) accompanying disruptive innovation in business (Christensen and Overdorf 2000; Christensen et al. 2006; Johnson et al. 2008). It may be ironic to speak of creativity in such destructive contexts, yet this brings up the question of how creativity is defined in such terms. Schools of thought in modern cognition root creativity in regularity of practice and performance, while the term is also allied to the notions of sentient intelligence and talent, which is both elusive and problematic (Subotnik et al. 2005; Sternberg 1985, 1997, 2003). However, one of the ways of defining creative intelligence is that which learns to act in novel situations with very limited aid of prior experience (Heilman 2005: 70, 175, 177; Sternberg 1981: 149-155). The links between such flights of imagination and understanding of the environment would have unsurprisingly appeared inspired to the contemporaries of these early innovators in the field of competition, since there is very little competitive activity as fierce and hotly contested as warfare. The quasihagiographic accounts of modern entrepreneurs of celebrity standing are shrouded in a similar kind of contrived mystery to that surrounding the lives of demigods such as Alexander of Macedon. Relatively recent works on social engineering in public relations are scarce and largely forgotten, and it is important to note that publicity takes a strategic ideological form in business and society alike. An author frequently cited in twentieth-century cultural studies and critical sociology draws inferences from the Renaissance principles of political strategy identified by a much vilified author, whose name became a synonym for duplicity and slyness. The utilitarian principles of discipline and control are explained as a rational exploitation of deviancy, and deviancy depends on context. Such covert organizational solutions as those defined in the panopticon are particularly effective in permeating the observed because they are built in to the minute aspects of a social or material architecture of the controlled environment. This utilitarian leap too represents an innovation corresponding with the increasing role of empirical and rational thought over the punitive ideology of the middle ages which was seen as wasteful in post-Enlightenment Europe. Similarly, the modern panopticon was theoretically postulated in

relation to the internet in early treatises focusing on the web. Having overcome the knee-jerk reaction to peer-to-peer networks of the early share culture, the linear media sectors are assimilating the panopticon model while being assimilated themselves by an innovation pattern that has changed their social, economic, technological, legal and policy environment. In this narrative, the creative – innovative – agents, frequently small groups of individuals to begin with, are credited with the ability to affect major field configurations by changing their viewpoint, reflecting and resolving riddles similar to those found in traditional texts on the philosophy of conflict. Examples are the improbable solution of using printers for the production of physical goods or medical treatment; the idea of systematizing and classifying online data links; or the idea of creating self-regulating peer-review systems of referencing informal user knowledge bases. All of these well-known examples have generated significant economic results, commercial or societal, and are triggering new creative experimentation that has strategic impact. The solutions offered in each of those cases were out of the mundane, repetitive nature of administering and sustaining dominant industry structures. Solutions to logical problems that few thought existed have imposed a disruptive shift of focus, turning the strength of the previous dominant industry paradigm into a threat against it. Whether these metaphorical parallels and links are justified, and if so, what can be learnt from such discursive links to draw conclusions – these questions have methodological implications. The chief methodological consideration is, however, in a set of new equivalences, or dialectic relationships, between strategy and creativity that have been imposed on all actors in creative fields as a result of radical change of environments.