I have an exciting book on my desk that I’m reading. It’s a collection of business ethnographies–by anthropologists who went into a specific company and closely studied how they get work done. That might sound boring, except that these chapters are each studies of a creative company, and the anthropologists focused on how creative work is done. If you’ve ever wanted to be the “fly on the wall” at the most innovative companies, this is the book for you!
Here’s a sample of the chapters in the book, Exploring Creativity: Evaluative Practices in Creative Industries:
- How editors and publishers choose which books are likely to become best sellers, with a focus on the publication of Cornelia Nixon’s 2009 novel Jarrettsville (by Clayton Childress)
- How creative teams at Hugo Boss develop new clothing brands, such as BOSS Orange (by Kasper Vangkilde)
- How Royal Copenhagen develops new lines of dinnerware, such as Ursula (by Brian Moeran)
- How Bang & Olufsen develop innovative new products, such as BeoSound (by Jakob Krause-Jensen)
- How film festival prize juries rank movies (by Chris Mathieu and Marianne Bertelsen)
- How Michelin and San Pellegrino evaluate restaurants (by Bo Christensen and Jesper Strandgaard Pedersen)
Full disclosure: All of the authors met a few years ago at the Copenhagen Business School, and I was invited to listen to the research and then to write the conclusion chapter for the book. The overall themes that I identify in my conclusion chapter are:
- At what point in the innovation process are evaluative decisions made?
- What “evaluative regimes” are applied when making these decision–aesthetic, craft, manufacturing, brand? And what criteria apply in each of these regimes?
- In creative industry firms, new innovations always are evaluated for how they fit with the existing line of products. How do these firms consider the relationship between new innovations and existing brands and product lines?
- What happens when different evaluative criteria are in conflict? For example, at Royal Copenhagen, a new line of dinnerware (“Ursula”) was well-received aesthetically, but the company was not able to make the line at a cost that the market would bear (the “manufacturing” regime).
- Which evaluative criteria are explicit and documented, and which are implicit and tacit?
- How do evaluative regimes emerge over time? Where do they come from?
- Which individuals in the organization participate in creative evaluation? How does their position in the organization affect their influence on the creative process?
And, I identified a few questions for future studies of creative industries and evaluative practices:
- Most of the chapters focus on successful creative innovations. Is the innovation process different for failed ideas, for dead ends?
- Most of these chapters focus on fairly “highbrow” innovations (Bang & Olufsen, 3-star Michelin restaurants). Does the innovation process differ with lowbrow creative innovations?
- What role does the market, the consumer, play in these evaluative decisions? Perhaps the process will change due to crowdsourcing and “disintermediation.”
All in all, a very exciting collection of studies, and must-reading for anyone who studies innovation and new product development.