The idea that organizations need to adopt structures and practices that facilitate ‘creativity’ has become a central theme in theories of managing organisational innovation and success. This idea has been deployed in organisational theory, HRM, marketing and other domains of organization studies. For many theorists and practitioners in this area, organisational creativity is something to be distilled and managed as an element of organisational performance.
We argue, however, that this process of appropriation from the creative arts is subject to a number of problematic transitions. Our starting point is the notion of creativity itself. Within the creative arts, the question of what constitutes creativity and its relationship to artistic practice is subject to considerable debate. This debate centres on the question of whether creativity represents an essentialist and inexplicable (even spiritual) component of artistic practice or whether creativity is a trait of work and cannot be attributed as a unique aspect of art.
However it is defined, we argue that the notion of ‘creativity in business’ conveniently ignores essential elements of what constitutes creativity. In the process of being appropriated from the arts, the concept of creativity, we argue, has been ‘hollowed out’ and refashioned to suit the structures of organization as institution, and its needs as a business organization. This appropriated view of creativity has, in turn, been imposed on arts organisations, which are impelled to see themselves as ‘creative businesses’. In both cases, the mantra of creativity provides nothing more than a means to control individuals and provide them with a false hope that contributing to the success of business will provide a means to self fulfilment.