Evaluative Practices in Creativity

I’m now in Copenhagen, where I’ve been participating in a fascinating workshop at the Copenhagen Business School. It’s sponsored by a research group titled “Creative Encounters”; they brought together 13 separate researchers, each one presenting a case study of the creative practices in one company. This workshop may be the single most stimulating event I have ever attended. As I listened to the descriptions of how new things are actually created, in world-class organizations, I realized that this type of study has almost never been done! When you find out what really takes place when things are created, many of our most simplistic ideas about “creativity” fade away. I’d like to see a lot more studies of the creative process in creative industries. When you read this list of the 13 case studies, you’ll share my excitement. Do you know of any similar case studies? Please share them with a comment!

1. A study of how the Amsterdam edition of the Lonely Planet travel guide is generated, and how travel reviewers evaluate hotels, restaurants, and other establishments (by Ana Alacovska).

2. A study of how the historical novel, Jarrettsville, was acquired, edited, and written (by Clayton Childress).

3. A study of how the advertising firm BBDO came up with a successful HBO campaign in 2007, HBOvoyeur.com (by Timothy de Waal Malefyt).

4. A study of how a team of five fashion designers at Hugo Boss developed a new “funky formal” line for the Boss Orange brand (by Kasper Tang Vandkilde).

5. A study of the design process at Bang & Olufsen, how it has changed over time, and how the rise of software and user interface design has challenged their process, focusing on the development of the BeoSound 5 audio player in 2008.

6. A study of how the Ursula line of faience tableware was designed and emerged within Royal Copenhagen (by Brian Moeran).

7. A study of how the Berlin Philharmonic auditions and selects new musicians (by Birgit Stober).

8. A study of how the contemporary Chinese composer Hoh Chung Shih developed a commissioned work for the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (by Can Seng Ooi).

9. A study of how four string quartets came together in London to perform a new composition by the British composer Sir John Tavener, that required all four quartets to play together, but by positioning themselves at their discretion into the architectural spaces of each performance location (by Shannon O’Donnell).

10. A study of the origin of “New Nordic Cuisine” and the founding, and response to, the gourmet Copenhagen restaurant NOMA, with a focus on the evaluative processes of the San Pellegrino and Michelin rankings, and also on newspaper and magazine reviewers (by Bo Christensen).

11. A study of how film festival prize juries select and evaluate the award winners (such as at Cannes, Toronto, Sundance) (by Chris Mathieu).

12. A study of how artists make career creative choices as they negotiate their careers (by Nina Poulsen).

13. A study of how auction houses and antique dealers value antique handwoven Oriental carpets, and how the values (and tastes) have changed over the decades (by Fabian Faurholt Csaba).

The 13 case studies will eventually be published together in a book (I’ll be writing the conclusion chapter). But this material is so rich, so stimulating, so unique and valuable, that one book will just be the tip of the iceberg. Each study could be its own book!

I hope we see many more studies like these, so we can continue to increase our understanding of the creative process, the design process, and how new things are made. Kudos to the organizers of the workshop, Bo Christensen and Brian Moeran!

6 thoughts on “Evaluative Practices in Creativity

  1. This sounds right up my street! I am currently doing anthropological fieldwork on the creative process in the formation of the Manchester Day Parade (http://themanchesterdayparade.co.uk/), which brings together artists, council officials, funders and community groups to produce floats for a mile-long parade.

    Are there any papers I could see in advance of the book? It would be very useful for my research..

    1. Your research sounds fascinating! Yes, you should get connected to this group of scholars. I believe that one of the organizers, Brian Moeran, also has an interest in festivals. You can find his email through an Internet search, and also he would be a good person to ask about seeing drafts of the papers. However, the papers are not anywhere near completion; for this conference the researchers generated relatively rough drafts, so they might not be ready to share them until the final drafts are done, which is planned for Fall 2011.

  2. Is there any way you might be able to add me to a mailing list for an advance copy of this book? I produce the Amplify Festival ( see http://www.amplifyfestival.com.au ) and also lead a large number of creativity practices in my organisation in Australia as part of culture change processes, and would be MOST interested in reading more about these?

    1. I’m not surprised that there is so much interest in this project. I suggest that you contact Brian Moeran at Copenhagen Business School to be on the mailing list.

  3. a question? why no examples from architects, urban designers, landscape architects?

    my bias revealed in my question…

    1. I agree this would have been a perfect case study! In addition to architecture, you can make a very long list of creative industry firms that were not included in this one workshop: music production, TV shows, movies, videogames, computer software, newspapers and magazines, etc. So of course any choice of 13 case studies will leave out even more. I think the organizers were trying to identify organizations that generate products, rather than services firms like architecture firms (I hope the organizers might respond to your comment too!).

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