Unlocking Creative Management – by Chris Bilton and Stephen Cummings

commerce court, CIBC

photo credit: Paul Bica via Flickr cc

Creativity is not a tangible asset like mineral deposits that can be hoarded or fought over or even bought or sold. We must begin to think of creativity as a common good, like liberty or security. It is something essential that belongs to all of us, and that must always be fed, renewed and maintained—or else it will slip away” (Florida, 2002: xxvi).

Managers aspiring to maintain and renew this asset will find much food for thought in the recently published Handbook Of Management And Creativity, which draws on current research and case studies to consider creativity across four aspects of business: innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and organisation.

In the following article, the editors Chris Bilton and Stephen Cummings explain the importance of adopting an integrated approach.


In 2004 the UK Design Council published a study that outlined a ‘Design Index’. It showed that the share price of firms that won design awards in the UK clearly outperformed those that did not. It went further, showing that the design award winning firms were the only ones who could keep pace with an ‘emerging countries index’. The message: if you can’t compete on low cost, you must innovate through good design or perish.

Cover of the Handbook of Management and Creativity10 years on, one of the starting points in the new Handbook of Management and Creativity is a more detailed study of companies in four countries (Australia, New Zealand, USA and the UK). This shows that on average winning design awards made no difference to share prices.

The world has changed. Good design is no longer the preserve of rich countries, and innovation alone is not enough to create lasting value. The Handbook outlines how what matters now in creating lasting value is an integrated or strategic approach.

The integrated approach outlined in the Handbook brings innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and organization to the same table. While business books, sub-fields seeking to assert themselves in academia, and MBA programmes tend to separate out these elements and deal with them independently, we argue that organizations need to join them up into one framework.

The Handbook provides such a framework, and within the four elements of this integrated framework contributors from acclaimed professors to chief executives, from both the worlds of business and the creative arts, provide a range of insights, many of which challenge conventional wisdom.

For example:

  • the so called ‘creative industries’ are not necessarily more creative than other industries;
  • innovation may come from not sticking to the script, but you still need a script;
  • effective entre- or intra-prenuership requires a paradoxical combination of aloof dilettantism and single-minded engagement when a good opportunity is seized upon;
  • leading creativity over the long-term requires not leading from the front or ahead of the organization, or from sitting back, but by continuing to place oneself ‘in the middle’ of things;
  • a playful approach can help develop creative ideas, but this play should be structured or directed; and
  • open plan, fun work environments are not necessarily related to creative outcomes – they may actually diminish creativity.

Click here to download the foreword to the Handbook from Professor David Wilson.

‘Chris Bilton’s and Stephen Cummings’ Handbook of Management and Creativity collects some of the very best research on creativity and why and how it matters to companies and their management. It is an important addition to our understanding of the management of creativity and talented and creative people.’ – Richard Florida, University of Toronto, Canada, New York University, US and author, Rise of the Creative Class

Chris Bilton photoChris Bilton is director of the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies at University of Warwick. He is author of several books and articles on creativity and management including Management and Creativity: from creative industries to creative management and Creative Strategy. He established the MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at Warwick in 1999. Before coming to the university he spent ten years working in community arts, theatre and arts development.

Stephen Cummings photoStephen Cummings is Professor of Management at Victoria Business School. He has authored and edited a number of books, including Strategy Pathfinder, Creative Strategy, Images of Strategy, Recreating Strategy and the forthcoming Strategy Builder. His research on strategy, change, creativity and the history of management has been published in a range of academic journals including Academy of Management Learning and Education, Academy of Management Perspectives, JORS, Long Range Planning, Organization and Organization Studies.

Also available as an eBook for subscribing libraries on elgaronline

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  1. Finding the fruitful intersection of ideas and organisation | sticK – science, technology, innovation & commercialisation KNOWLEDGE - February 17, 2014

    […] of the thinking, outcomes and research behind the LDP is no doubt included in Stephen Cummings and Chris Bilton’s ‘Handbook of Management and Creativity’. (Check near the end of the blog and you’ll find a link to a discounted early-bird […]

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