Bilton, C. (2012) ‘Manageable Creativity’. International Journal of Cultural Policy – Special Issue on ‘Creativity and Cultural Policy’ ed. C. Bilton,Vol. 16, No 3, pp. 255 – 269.
Dealing with Creativity
I feel that the notion of ‘creativity’ is a very perplex term – it appears to be used in a manner of ways, which adds to the confusion. Though, Bilton addresses this: ‘paradox and contradiction are at the core of most theoretical definitions of creativity.’ (2012: 28) Bilton’s argues that within cultural policy there is an ‘assumption that original creative ideas and talented individuals will have a transforming effect on the wider creative economy.’ (2012: 30)
Bilton’s article argues that the idea of ‘manageable creativity’ can be traced back to a ‘heroic’ and a ‘structural’ model of creativity. He explores how these two models translate into management and policy. The key theorist Bilton utilises is Levitt, applying the notion of destructive creativity to these two models.
This model highlights the transforming impact of a dynamic, visionary creative individual on a business. The heroic model is in favour of an individualistic, trait-based theory of creativity. Though, as Bilton highlights, the heroic model is based upon a perception of ‘creativity’ that originates from a business view – there is a lack of focus or analysis of creative processes and products. Bilton argues that this model has already been ‘widely discredited’ yet the assumptions behind this model continue to influence the attitudes in managing ‘creativity’.
Bilton’s Key arguments on heroic creativity:
- Heroic creativity represents a one-sided definition of creative processes and people.
- Heroic creativity locates creativity within a minority of exceptional individuals.
- Heroic creativity is likely to be concentrated within certain organisations (Apple/Google), geographical territories or in specific communities and cultures, rather than as a distributed ‘normal’ human trait.
- Heroic creativity is hierarchical – because it is innate to an individual or specific place.
- Heroic creativity assumes that these individuals transform the world around them.
‘Today’s managers regard the effects of creative destruction and disruption as essentially benign, and the creative individual as contributing to the greater good, not driven by essentially selfish or self-actualising motives.’
(Bilton, 2012: 29)
One particular statement which stood out for me is the following:
‘Because creative individuals are both privileged and marginalised, they find themselves insulated from the realities of the business, much like a ‘gifted and talented’ child among their peers. Not surprisingly this isolation can lead to dysfunction and self-destruction.’
If managerial actions are still being influenced by heroic creativity then one questions what is being done – if anything – to counteract the previous statement. Does this tie in with the drive for economic growth as a key focus of creative work – or does the management of creativity demonstrate a ‘human’ notion, in the sense that managers consider wellbeing?
Interestingly Bilton suggests that within the heroic creativity ‘creative individuals remain for the most part outside the policy process.’ (2012: 32) Suggesting that the managerial approach to heroic creativity is a kind of non-management, laissez-faire attitude – then does heroic creativity complement the notion of art for art’s sake?
‘Theories of creativity have moved beyond individual, person-based approaches towards collective, process-based models.’ (Bilton 2007/2010) This is a significant shift as it paves the way for theoretical literature and a focus on an interest in ‘teams, networks and organisational environments as sources of innovation.’ (Bilton, 2012: 28)
My interpretation of the structural model is largely influenced by the notion that ‘creative processes rely upon our knowledge and experience within this field, and networks of like-minded others help us to access these resources.’ (2012: 33) Bilton refers to the structural model as a ‘sociocultural’ model of creativity, which – in my opinion – sums up the model perfectly when one considers the heroic model. Does the structural model accommodate to those whom the heroic model fails to serve? Or does it consider creativity as a larger, communitarian process?
‘The sociocultural model of creativity fits with a growing emphasis on organisational culture as the source of organisational mission and purpose, with a ‘transformational’ model of leadership.’
Bilton implies that a shift towards ‘collective creativity’ (structural creativity) is apparent in the creative industries, and that there is an emphasis in terms of management on creativity and systems which facilitate creative talent as opposed to the heroic model – the creative talent itself.
Key arguments concerning the structural model:
- The structural model assumes a predictable relationship between inputs and outcomes.
- The model locates individual creativity in a broader context of a creative economy based on knowledge, ideas and innovation – creativity is made manageable – but loses it’s critical, disruptive edge as highlighted by Levitt.
- Creative systems and their outcomes are assumed benign.
I question whether structural, sociocultural creativity in relation to cultural policy fails to consider the purpose of the art (in a sense that it is for personal development, spiritual gain etc.) Or does the structural model consider the purpose of art solely as an output from a collective of creatives whom work toward a capitalist gain? Bilton discusses NESTA’s argument for ‘a connection between creativity and ‘innovation’, where artistic creativity is seen not as an end in itself but embedded within a process of innovation and entrepreneurship.’ (2012: 34) I feel here that the term creative is suitably positioned in the term ‘creative industries’ – art is for an industrial purpose, whether that’s through a heroic, individualistic model, or a collective-creativity, sociocultural focused model of managing creativity – does cultural policy cultivate this?