3.5 A Place View on Creativity in Brand Management
To understand creativity in brand management, one has to first ask what organisational creativity is. In their much-quoted paper Woodman et al (1993, p.293) define it as follows:
In this context, creativity is defined as a subset of innovation, which itself is defined as a subset of organisational change. The conceptual links between individual, groups and organisational behaviour are shown in Figure 6 below.
Figure 6: Conceptualisation of Organisational Creativity, taken from Woodman, Sawyer and Griffin (1993, p. 309)
Woodman, Sawyer and Griffin (1993, p.309) conceptualise creativity in an organisational setting along three major categories. Creativity as the trait of individual people is applied in concrete group situations that are formed by organisational characteristics. Individuals, groups and organisations together form the traits of the creative process that then leads to an output. Creativity is here seen as both the trait of an output as introduced in the preceding chapters and as ‘creative behaviour’ in the context organisation. This chapter will focus on the organisational traits that influence the latter.
The history of corporations’ relationship with creativity isn’t necessarily friction-free. Feldwick and Heath (2008, p.29) use the information processing paradigm and the case study of an advertising campaign not at all suited to this paradigm for their analysis of creativity in an organisational context. The TV commercial they refer to contained no information as such about the product and used a pop song and surreally linked scenes to advertise a snack food product. In the subsequent testing of the commercial by market research, questions were asked to measure constructs such as ‘ease of understanding’, ‘believability’, ‘relevance’, ‘branding’ and ‘persuasion’ (ibid.) and the research report then followed with conclusions that are included here in full for better understanding:
To sum it up, research conducted with the information processing model in mind would have recommended not to run the ad, because it doesn’t persuade and doesn’t transfer a message.
Feldwick and Heath (2008) now argue that it is not the research that is unusual in this particular case but the fact that the advertiser ran the ad, for reasons of timing. After it had a chance to be seen in the real world by real people, the campaign was a massive success.
Why, then, was the research done this way? They argue that marketing organisations still hang onto the information processing model, while the majority of advertising practitioners – and academic researchers building on researchers like Krugman (1965) or Kroeber-Riel (1975) – believe that advertising works on an emotional – and not necessarily message based – level. This, in turn, leads to
If creativity is important and the message perhaps less so, then the question why the information processing model persists. According to Feldwick and Heath (2008) the reason for this has to be looked for in the underlying organisational culture of business. They point out that these cultures are based on “modernist principles of order, control and rationality, with a strong realist ontology and a positivist epistemology (Alvesson & Deetz 2005, p.61)” (p.47). They tend to rely on argument, analysis, measurement and factual proof, “however illusory the practice of these may be” (ibid.). While these practices can be highly effective in administration and the refinement of processes, they are “very badly adapted to dealing with creative processes, with emotional decisions or in general with anything that cannot explicitly be verbalised and/or measured” (ibid.). The information processing model presents the consumer choice behaviour as a rational and fact based process and therefore allows organisations to bring the logic, words and analytical thinking they value so much into an otherwise “chaotic, intuitive” (ibid.) process.
Creativity, as an outsourced process and output is attached to a model that appears “simultaneously rational, replicable, ownable and controllable” (ibid.) and is rarely discussed between agencies and clients (Heath & Feldwick 2008, p.36). This practise, then, is the same that is also present in many practitioners’ brand management models, that mostly willingly ignore environmental complexity, relationships and communication and present themselves to brand managers as controllable solutions.
Analysing creativity and innovation in corporations beyond advertising and brand management, Martin (2009b) argues like Feldwick and Heath (2008) that corporations are built and managed as a means to guarantee reliability. They have refined and pushed forward analytical thinking – deduction and induction – and each year graduates trained in business administration stream into the corporate world. He describes a paradoxical context in which companies long for strategic innovation while at the same time abductive thinking, the thinking style balancing analytical thinking and intuitive thinking, is still largely ignored (Martin 2009b; Johansson & Woodilla 2009). Operating in the realm of “what might be – a realm beyond the reach of data from the past” (Martin 2009b, n.p.) isn’t what most business are good at, or even trying to do. Martin therefore argues for a balance between the two approaches for more creative results.
As argued before with Nussbaum (2011), the results of the design thinking movement so far have been limited, as the topic that this discourse really is about – creativity – has been largely circumvented. A description of the state of creativity in organisations by one of its widely acknowledged researchers reads like this:
Amabile (1998, p. 81) also argues that the practices responsible for inhibiting creativity in corporations are systemic, widespread and hardly even challenged and suggests management principles that have shown to bring about higher levels of creativity in the workplace. She suggests that “people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself – and not by external pressures” (p.79). In general, “challenge, freedom, resources, work-group features, supervisory encouragement, and organisational support” (p.80) are managerial categories that can positively – or negatively – affect the ability of employees who are otherwise knowledgeable and posses creative thinking skills. However, compared to the underlying the culture of business and brand management described by Feldwick and Heath (2008), Martin (2009a) and Nussbaum (2011), Amabile’s (1998) prescriptions for managers appear to be a minor issue in the bigger picture.
In reviewing the role of creativity from a product, process, person and place perspective, a number of conclusions have been drawn. The following, concluding chapter will now merge the findings in the chapter about brand management with those about various aspects of creativity.
Alvesson, M. & Deetz, S., 2005. Critical theory and post modernism: approaches to organizational studies. In C. Grey & H. Willmott, hrsg. Critical management studies: A reader. Oxford University Press, USA, , S. 60–106.
Amabile, T.M., 1998. How to kill creativity. Harvard business review, 76(5), S. 76–87.
Heath, R. & Feldwick, P., 2008. Fifty years using the wrong model of advertising. International Journal of Market Research, 50(1), S. 29.
Johansson, U. & Woodilla, J., 2009. Towards an epistemological merger of design thinking, strategy and innovation. In 8th European Academy of Design Conference.
Kroeber-Riel, W., 1975. Konsumentenverhalten, München: Vahlen.
Krugman, H.E., 1965. The impact of television advertising: Learning without involvement. Public Opinion Quarterly, 29(3), S. 349.
Martin, R., 2009a. The design of business: why design thinking is the next competitive advantage, Harvard Business Press.
Martin, R., 2009b. What is Design Thinking Anyway? Observatory: Design Observer. Available at: http://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=11097 [Zugegriffen März 14, 2011].
Nussbaum, B., 2011. Design Thinking Is A Failed Experiment. So What’s Next? Co.Design. Available at: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663558/beyond-design-thinking [Zugegriffen April 18, 2011].
Woodman, R.W., Sawyer, J.E. & Griffin, R.W., 1993. Toward a theory of organizational creativity. The Academy of Management Review, 18(2), S. 293–321.
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