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Creative Organizations: Reaching a Favorable Competitive Positioning in the Creative Market

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Creative organizations struggle with a tension between creativity and business. This research mobilizes the theory of justification by Boltanski and Thévenot (1991, 2006) to study the competitive position of small advertising agencies in the creative market, which represents the compromise between creativity and business. A total of 35 semi-structured interviews were conducted within 11 small advertising agencies. In order to map the competitive position of these agencies, a multiple correspondence analysis was realized on the interviews’ results. The results of this research suggest that agencies in which creative workers only do creative work and are responsible for the whole creative process get a better competitive positioning on the creative market.
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ASAC 2017
HÉC Montréal
Julie Bérubé, Ph.D.
Professeure
Jacques-Bernard Gauthier, Ph.D.
Professeur
Département des sciences administratives
Université du Québec en Outaouais
Creative Organizations: Reaching a Favorable Competitive Positioning in the Creative Market
Creative organizations struggle with a tension between creativity and business. This research mobilizes the
theory of justification by Boltanski and Thévenot (1991, 2006) to study the competitive position of small
advertising agencies in the creative market, which represents the compromise between creativity and
business. A total of 35 semi-structured interviews were conducted within 11 small advertising agencies. In
order to map the competitive position of these agencies, a multiple correspondence analysis was realized
on the interviewsresults. The results of this research suggest that agencies in which creative workers only
do creative work and are responsible for the whole creative process get a better competitive positioning on
the creative market.
Creativity is an increasingly popular concept both in scientific writings and in the socio-economic spheres
of today’s society. Several fields of study are interested in this concept and the organizational world is no
exception. In fact, many writings on organizational creativity exist, many of which are based on the
pioneering work of Amabile (1983). Organizational creativity can be defined as “The creation of a valuable,
useful new product, service, idea, procedure, or process by individuals working together in a complex social
system” (Woodman, Sawyer, & Griffin, 1993, p. 293). Beyond the concept of organizational creativity, the
scientific community also found interest in creative organizations that, to some extent, institutionalized
creativity, which has become recurrent for the organization (Zackariasson, Walfisz, & Wilson, 2006). This
research aims for a better understanding of the competitive positioning of creative organizations in relation
to their daily activities. More precisely, we explore the activities of individuals within the organization that
allow the conciliation of the tension between creativity and business (Lampel, Lant, & Shamsie, 2000).
This conciliation will lead to the establishment of a compromise allowing those organizations to be viable.
Building on the drawing of Boltanski and Thévenot (1991, 2006), we suggest the idea that a compromise
aimed to smooth the tension between creativity and business emanates from activities of the individuals.
This compromise is constituted in a social space, the creative market, in which creative organizations
occupy a singular competitive position.
Our study focuses on small advertising agencies that are all struggling with the tension between creativity
and business this tension is experienced consciously and unconsciously among the studied respondents.
The activities within the studied advertising agencies were identified as the result of in-depth interviews.
Multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) between different modes of organizations of small advertising
agencies and the activities among them has allowed to map the position of agencies relative to each other
in a social space of compromise between creativity and business. A content analysis of the in-depth
interviews makes it possible to explain in details the mapping results on how the studied agencies reach a
balance, in other words, how they manage the compromise given their competitive position on the creative
market. This research makes it possible to lay out the basis of a theoretical argument which allows the
linking of the competitive position of the creative organizations on the creative market by the way they are
organized and by the activities they put in place.
The next section presents a brief review of the literature on the management of creative organizations, and
then, the theoretical framework of this study is presented. The methodology is presented in the third section
followed by the results and analysis.
Creative organizations
An overview of the documentation allows a first observation: the concept of creative organizations is
polysemous and ambiguous. For the purpose of this research, the creative organization evolves in a creative
industry, creates creative products and the core of its work is creative. The creative industry often falls
within the field of arts and appeals to the collective imagination. Organizations among these industries offer
creative products that are often immaterial and are unique and original. Finally, creative work is an
intellectual nature, executed in a context of uncertainty and is non-standardized.
Some authors such as Townley, Beech, and McKinlay (2009) point out that the nature of organizations
working in the creative industries requires a different form of management. The next paragraphs summarize
the studies on the management of these organizations. First, several authors who have studied creative
organizations were interested in the factors favoring creativity within these organization. For example,
many authors have identified as factors of creativity, the promotion of risk-taking and the introduction to
challenges (Amabile & Khaire, 2008; Andriopoulos & Gotsi, 2000; Andriopoulos & Lowe, 2000; Daymon,
2000), flexibility (Amabile & Khaire, 2008), collaboration (Amabile & Khaire, 2008; Chang & Chiang,
2008; Hargadon & Bechky, 2006; Pitta, Wood, & Franzak, 2008), the autonomy of individuals (Catmull,
2008; Ensor, Cottam, & Band, 2001), to limit the hierarchical line (Catmull, 2008; Ensor et al., 2001), and
to establish an organizational culture favoring creativity (Ensor et al., 2001; Florida & Goodnight, 2005;
Girdauskiene, 2013; Pitta et al., 2008; Wood, Franzak, Pitta, & Gillpatrick, 2011).
These studies allow the understanding of the context in which creative organizations evolve, but do not
deepen the question surrounding the management of these organizations. These will therefore not be
included in the specific framework of this research project. We will rather specifically focus on the literature
review of the research on the management within creative organizations.
To this effect, a notion seems to be transversal to several writings we have documented on the management
of creative organizations; the presence of a tension between creativity and business within these
organizations (Lampel et al., 2000). This tension is translated by the constant research of balance allowing
these organizations to be viable. If too much emphasis is put on the business aspect, creativity is being put
at risk; and on the contrary, if too much space is left to creativity, the organizations may find themselves in
a chaotic situation. As an example, in Cohendet and Simon (2007)’s study, the tension exists between two
entities within the organization: creative communities that mainly rely on artistic trends; and managers who
display a managerial attitude. The balance point in the studied organization by Cohendet and Simon (2007)
is achieved due to platforms of knowledge-sharing between both groups. The next paragraphs present other
writings addressing the tension from different angles: first, some authors have proposed practices to manage
this tension; second, this tension has been approached under the lens of control; and finally, some authors
have focused on the identity within the creative organizations to understand this tension.
Some authors have proposed practices or ways of proceeding to help achieve this balance between creativity
and business. Zackariasson et al. (2006) propose to adapt the usual management tools and techniques to
make them more flexible. They also mention a creative, but disciplined atmosphere. This atmosphere would
allow, to some extent, the organizations to achieve a balance between creativity and business, but these
authors are silent as to the concrete way of establishing such an atmosphere. Similarly, Bilton and Leary
(2002) approach the idea of a creative collective that would bring together the creative workers and the
managers. For these authors, the balance is reachable by integrating all workers. Bilton (2007) speaks of a
continuous negotiation process between the creative workers and the managers among creative
organizations. The balance would thus come from continuous mutual adjustments between the different
categories of workers. In opposition, Tuori and Vilén (2011) have studied an opera and a video game
creation organization, and in both case, the creative workers were isolated from the rest of the organization.
In terms of creativity, within the opera, it mainly came from a single individual, the director, and within the
video game organization, creativity emanated from the group. As for the work organization, Teipen (2008),
who has studied video game companies, noted weak organizational structures and a high level of self-
organization among the creative workers.
On the other hand, some authors were interested in the forms of control in creative organizations. First,
while Karreman and Alvesson (2004) suggest that formal control is at the service of the informal aspects
of creative organizations and that they fail in technical terms, Khodyakov (2007) rather conceives formal
control as a threat to creativity in these organizations. Unlike Karreman and Alvesson (2004), Hodgson and
Briand (2013) have studied an organization of video game creation that adopted management methods to
reduce formal control within the organization. Their findings suggest that the actions undertaken within the
organization can in fact be associated to formal control techniques. Their study concludes that creativity is
subordinated to commercial aspects and that the desired balance has not been achieved.
Finally, some authors have focused on identity and culture questions inside the creative organizations. The
creative workers studied by Hackley and Kover (2007) rejected the bureaucratic values and seek recognition
from their peers. Similarly, Alvesson (1994) has studied creative workers working in an advertising agency;
these workers had developed a collective professional identity, and they also rejected the bureaucratic
ideology. The balance between creativity and business among these creative workers, therefore, passes
through a collective identity. Finally, Eikhof and Haunschild (2006) and Elsbach (2009)’s results suggest
that the workers manage to manage the tension between creativity and business, and to find a balance point
by developing an individual identity.
Most writings on the management of creative organizations raise the tension between creativity and
business as well as the search of a viable balance between these two poles. Some authors propose an attempt
reply on the way to achieve this equilibrium, but the question is less addressed from the point of view of an
organizational design. In addition, most studies emphasise on large creative companies operating in a
creative environment (meaning in a creative city). Yet, the reality of several creative organizations is
different and current research doesn’t depict the plurality of the ways of doing in creative organizations.
This research therefore addresses the following question: How do creative organizations reach balance
between creativity and business? The answer to this question is of interest since the achievement of a
balance implies an advantageous competitive position compared to the other organizations on the same
creative market.
To answer this question, the activities (the term activities is generic and signifies what the workers do within
the organizations) set up within the creative organizations are studied. The creative organizations are very
diversified and it is futile to attempt to study all of them in a single study, since according to the industry
they belong to, they evolve according to a different logic (Thompson, Jones, & Warhurst, 2007). This study
focuses on small advertising agencies. These organizations correspond to the definition of a creative
organization and several researchers have retained this empirical object to study creative organizations. von
Nordenflycht (2011) upholds that the advertising agencies industry is characterised by many small
advertising agencies and self-employed workers. Consequently, the question of this research is thus defined:
How do small advertising agencies reach balance between creativity and business?
We have retained the theory of justification by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) to answer this question. This
framework allows the understanding of the individual action modes (Brandl, Daudigeos, Edwards, &
Pernkopf-Konhäusner, 2014) and we will thus be able to understand how on the micro level, the agencies
find the balance they are seeking. Finally, the main reason for retaining this theoretical framework is that it
makes it possible to study the conflicting logics (Cloutier & Langley, 2013) such as those linked to creativity
and business. This theoretical framework is briefly presented in the next section.
On Justification Theory
According to the theory of justification of Boltanski and Thévenot (2006), the actors justify their actions
on the basis of higher common principles which can relate to orders of worth. These orders of worth are
subdivided in six worlds that present their own characteristics and which are related to particular value
systems. Thus, according to Boltanski and Thévenot (2006), the theory of justification allows the study of
so-called complex organizations, including that “their operation obeys imperatives steaming from different
forms of generality; their confrontation produces tensions and leads to more or less precarious
compromises” (p. 9).
The worlds presented by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) are the inspired, domestic, world of fame, civic,
market and industrial worlds. Boltanski and Chiappelo (2007, 2011) added the projective world a couple of
years later. To characterize each of the worlds, Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) use an analysis grid
composed of thirteen categories. Table 1 presents the characteristics of each world based on the categories
proposed by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006).
Table 1
Presentation of the worlds1
Inspired
World
Domestic
World
World of
Fame
Market
World
Industrial
World
Projective
World
Higher
Common
Principle
The
outpouring
of
inspiration
Engender
ment
according
to
tradition
The
reality of
public
opinion
Competiti
on
Efficiency
Activity,
projects
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1 The key words are those proposed by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006, p. 159-211) and Boltanski and Chiappelo (2007,
p. 109-128).
Inspired
World
Domestic
World
World of
Fame
Market
World
Industrial
World
Projective
World
State of
Worthiness
Inexpressi
ble and
ethereal
Hierarchic
al
superiorit
y
Fame
Desirable
Efficient
Engaged,
engaging,
mobile
Human
Dignity
The
anxiety of
creation
The poise
of habit
The desire
to be
recognize
d
Interest
Work
The need
to connect
List of
Subjects
Visionarie
s
Superiors
and
inferiors
Stars and
their fans
Competito
rs
Profession
als
Mediator,
project
head
List of
objects and
Arrangeme
nts
The
waking
dream
The rules
of
etiquette
Names in
the media
Wealth
Means
All the
instrument
s of
connectio
n
Investment
Formula
Escape
from
habits
Rejection
of
selfishnes
s
Giving up
secrets
Opportuni
sm
Progress
Adaptabili
ty
Relation of
Worth
The
universal
value of
uniqueness
Respect
and
responsibi
lity
Being
recognize
d and
identifyin
g
Possess
Control
Redistribu
tion of
connectio
ns
Natural
Relations
among
Beings
The
alchemy of
unexpecte
d
encounters
The
company
of well-
brought-
up people
Persuasio
n
Interest
(to)
Function
Connectio
n
Harmonio
us Figures
of the
Natural
Order
The reality
of the
imaginary
The soul
of the
home
The
public
image
Market
Organizati
on
The
network
Inspired
World
Domestic
World
World of
Fame
Market
World
Industrial
World
Projective
World
Model tests
Vagabond
age of the
mind
Family
ceremonie
s
Presentati
on of the
event
Deal
Trial
The end of
a project
and the
beginning
of another
Mode of
Expression
of
Judgment
The stroke
of genius
Knowing
how to
bestow
trust
The
judgment
of public
opinion
Price
Effective
Being
called on
to
participate
Form of
Evidence
Certainty
of intuition
The
exemplary
anecdote
The
evidence
of success
Money
Measure
Inserting,
causing to
participate
State of
Deficiency
and
Decline of
the Polity
The
temptation
to come
down to
earth
Lack of
inhibition
Indifferen
ce and
banality
Enslaveme
nt to
money
Instrument
al action
Unemploy
able,
closure of
the
network
Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) explain that no complex entity can be confined to one single world.
Complex entities can therefore be conceived as presenting an amalgam of worlds where tensions emanate
when there is confrontation between two worlds. Entities are viable because a compromise is formed
allowing the coexistence of different worlds. “In a compromise, people agree to come to terms, that is, to
suspend a clash a dispute involving more than one world without settling it through recourse to a test in
just one of the worlds” (Boltanski & Thévenot, 2006, p. 277).
Many authors have used the theoretical framework of Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) to study public
controversies (e.g. Ferraro, Etzion, & Gehman, 2015; Gond, Cruz, Raufflet, & Charron, 2016; Patriotta,
Gond, & Schultz, 2011). Some authors also use it to study the compromises put in place to manage the
internal tensions of an organization (e.g. Dontenwill, 2012; Fronda & Moriceau, 2008; Gagnon & Séguin,
2010; Oldenhof, Postma, & Putters, 2013). We propose to use it to study the tension between creation and
business in small advertising agencies. The documentation on the management of creative organizations
presents this tension and shows that actors within those organizations must find a point of balance for the
organizations to be viable. The point of balance corresponds to the compromise between the worlds of
Boltanski and Thévenot (2006).
The tension present in creative organizations can be conceived as one between the inspired world and the
market world where the creative aspect is associated to the inspired world and the business aspect to the
market world. The documentation on creative organizations describes creative workers as artistic,
passionate, independent, non-manageable, etc. These characteristics can easily be associated to the inspired
world as described by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006). On the other hand, the documentation raises topics
such as monetary outcomes, client satisfaction, etc. when discussing the business aspect of creative
organizations. The emphasis on pecuniary values can be connected to the market worlds as described by
Boltanski and Thévenot (2006).
As for the compromise, Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) describe the creative market as a social space
allowing cohabitation between the inspired and market worlds as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The creative market: compromise between the inspired and the market worlds.
The
market
world
The
inspired
world
The creative market
As an example, the sale of artworks would constitute a way of reaching a compromise between the inspired
and the market worlds where the artist sells his creation in order to derive a monetary value from them.
Therefore, we will focus on this compromise in order to understand and explore it for small advertising
agencies. What activities and organizational design enable the cohabitation of the inspired and the market
worlds in creative markets?
To explore the competitive positioning of agencies that reached the compromise between the inspired and
the market worlds, therefore that are viable in the creative market, we propose to map this social space
using a multiple correspondence analysis. This is both the result and the conditions of the activities set up
by the agencies. We map the position of the agencies within this compromise (the creative market) where
the point of balance represents the typical enterprise that would be the most efficient at the crossroads of
the inspired world and the market world.
It is common to associate multiple correspondence analysis to Bourdieu, since he is one of the precursors
to have used this technique to map domination relations in different fields (social space). The technique
was then taken by Boltanski (1990) to study public denunciation. According to Bourdieu (2012): "Modern
techniques of multiple correspondence analysis are very useful when studying both, these ideological, fuzzy
and soft spaces, yet not at all indeterminate, and also, the corresponding groups” (p. 531) [unofficial
translation]. Bourdieu (2001) also speaks of objective structures for the use of such an analytical method.
The worlds of Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) can be conceived as ideological spaces that are fuzzy and
soft. Indeed, these are moved by value systems, so it is easy to understand that they correspond to these
characteristics. As for the objective structures of the worlds, they can be conceived in the repertory of
objects and arrangements as presented by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006). “All objects can be treated as the
trapping or the mechanisms of worth, whether they are rules, diplomas, codes, tools, buildings, machines
or take some other” (p. 142). The multiple correspondence analysis has therefore been chosen to study the
tension between creativity and business as well as the search for a balance between these poles within small
advertising agencies. The next section presents the methodology chosen for this research.
Methodology
This research is of exploratory nature, and the case study has been chosen as a research strategy (Yin, 2014).
With this method, the case studies must respect the selection criteria (Yin, 2014). For this research, the unit
of analysis is the organizations, more precisely, advertising agencies that must meet three selection criteria:
1) have a minimum of five employees; 2) have been in business for at least a minimum of three years; 3)
and be located in the same region. The goal of this research is to study the point of balance between
creativity and business at the organizational level, especially by the organizational design of agencies. For
this reason, microenterprises (less than five employees) and self-employed workers have been excluded.
Secondly, the agencies must have been in business for a minimum of three years, because Gilmore, Carson,
and Grant (2001) explain that organizations in business for less than three years are volatile and do not
necessarily represent the reality of enterprises. Finally, the agencies involved came from the same region
so that the context in which they operate is the same to allow the comparison between the cases.
A first email was sent to the concerned advertising agencies to invite them to participate in the study. Many
follow-ups were effectuated and 11 agencies accepted to participate in this study representing about half
of the contacted agencies. A total of 35 interviews were realized within these agencies, with managers,
artistic directors and creative workers. The interviews were conducted in 2011 in small advertising agencies
located in Eastern Canada. The interviews lasted between 45 and 90 minutes and were recorded, then
transcribed. To preserve the anonymity of the participants, each agency is identified by a letter, and each
participant by a number.
The semi-structured interview was chosen as the method of data collection because it allows to deepen
different themes with the participants (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015). Moreover, as this research was
exploratory, the ensemble of activities was not fully known yet. Through the semi-structured interviews,
we aimed to gather additional information on business’ activities that were not known initially.
Furthermore, this technique allows for the comparison of the different cases studied (Brinkmann & Kvale,
2015; Patton, 2015; Yin, 2014).
The data analysis was carried out in three stages. The first step was a descriptive qualitative analysis for
which we have mobilized the narrative strategy as presented by Langley (1999). The coding of this first
analysis was carried out with the NVivo software, to code the content of the interviews. This analysis made
it possible to identify in details the activities found within the studied advertising agencies and to propose
a typology of the management of creative work. Four profiles of the management of creative work have
emerged, thus discriminating the advertising agencies mainly in function of their organizational design.
The first section of the results presents this typology which will be used for the other analysis.
The second analysis conducted was a theoretical analysis carried out using key words proposed by Boltanski
and Thévenot (2006) to represent the inspired and the market worlds. The identified activities in the first
step were therefore codified a second time to highlight links with the inspired and the market worlds. The
codes used are the keywords presented in Table 1 presented in the justification theory section.
Finally, the third analysis conducted is the multiple correspondence analysis which is a statistical technique
to explore the underlying relations to an ensemble of categorical variables (also called qualitative variables
(Cramer & Howitt, 2004)) and to synthesize its relations in terms of geometrical positions illustrated using
a perceptual map (Hair, Black, Babin, & Anderson, 2010). Categorical variables with an associative
relationship will have, on this perceptual map, a geometrical position of proximity.
In the MCA, we saw a way to map the occupied positions by the small studied advertising agencies in the
creative market, namely in the social space at the interface of the inspired world and the market world,
where the point of balance between creativity and business is found.
Results
The perceptual map of the positions occupied by the small advertising agencies in the creative market is
determined based on an indicator matrix (a crossed table whose entries are the relative frequencies of the
activities and the qualitative profiles of the agencies) resulting from the crossing of the agencies and two
major groups of categorical variables: the first group of variables concerns the object of the study (the
categorical variables being the activities) and the second group, the profiles of the management of creative
work within small advertising agencies.
The group of the activities’ variables is defined the following way: demonstrate a passionate attitude toward
one’s job (A1); adopt atypical schedules (A2); inspiration from everyday life events (A3); attachment to
the projects (A4); adapt the creative work to the business world (A5); target client satisfaction (A6); aim
for high results (A7); sell the concepts to clients (A8); and accept paying contracts less interesting in terms
of creativity (A9).
As for the typology of the profiles, it derives from two dimensions: the presence or absence of management
tasks for creative workers; and the integration or the division of the conception and production tasks for the
creative workers. In agencies where creative workers are only responsible for work of creative nature, the
project managers perform all the administrative tasks. In opposition, in some agencies, creative workers are
responsible for the administrative tasks in addition to the creative work. In these agencies, there are no
project managers and the creative workers have the responsibility to manage the projects that are assigned
to them. For the second dimension, within some agencies, creative workers are responsible for the entire
creative process, from conception to production. For other agencies, the artistic director is responsible for
the conception of the projects, and the creative workers then do the production part of the projects. Table 2
presents the typology with the agencies that are within each category. Table 3 presents the indicator matrix.
Table 2
Typology of the management of creative work
Presence of management
tasks for the creative workers
Absence of management
tasks for the creative workers
Integration of the conception
and the production tasks
Versatile
H
Creator
A, B, D, I, J
Division of the conception and
the production tasks
Manager
C, G
Technician
E, F, K
Table 3: Relative frequencies of the activities and the qualitative profiles of the agencies
Agencies
Activities
Profiles
A1
A2
A3
A4
A5
A6
A7
A8
A9
Creator
Technician
Manager
Versatile
A
3
2
2
0
1
3
2
2
0
1
0
0
0
B
4
4
3
4
4
4
2
4
4
1
0
0
0
C
1
2
1
1
3
4
3
2
1
0
0
1
0
D
2
0
2
0
3
4
1
1
0
1
0
0
0
E
2
1
1
2
1
3
2
1
0
0
1
0
0
F
0
1
1
1
1
2
0
2
2
0
1
0
0
G
2
1
1
1
3
3
1
1
0
0
0
1
0
H
2
2
2
1
3
3
2
2
2
0
0
0
1
I
2
2
3
1
3
3
1
2
1
1
0
0
0
J
2
1
1
2
2
2
1
2
2
1
0
0
0
K
3
2
2
2
2
2
3
3
0
0
1
0
0
The dimensions chosen for the multiple correspondence analysis are those of the typology of the
management of creative work (Table 2). The dimension 1 is therefore related to the extent of the creative
tasks performed by creative workers, whether of conception and production or only production; the
dimension 2 is related to the nature of work performed by creative workers whether by the absence or the
presence of management tasks. Dimension 1 has a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.72 and an inertia of 0.543. As
Abdi and Valentin (2007) explain for multiple correspondence analysis, inertia often finds itself to be
artificially inflated, which explains the percentage of inertia of the first dimension to be underestimated.
For this reason, these authors recommend to use the value of Eigenvalue rather than the Cronbach’s alpha.
The Eigenvalue of dimension 1 is 2.170. The Cronbach’s alpha of dimension 2 is 0.68 and an inertia of
0.51. The Eigenvalue of dimension 2 is 2.032. This implies that the two dimensions or the two axes similarly
describe the model. Figure 2 shows the graphical results of the multiple correspondence analysis.
Figure 2 – Position of the organizations on the creative market: Graphical results of the multiple
correspondence analysis
The data entered in this figure are the profiles identified in the typology or the management of creative
work (creator = CR, versatile = VE, technician = TE, manager = MA), the inspired worlds and the market
worlds, the studied agencies (A to K) and the activities that were previously associated to either the inspired
world (A1 to A4) or the market world (A5 to A9).
The center of the figure (where the two axes intersect) represents the typical ideal to reach or the best
competitive positioning for the agencies in the creative market. The figure shows that the theoretical ideal
is not achieved in the reality of organizations and this is due to the way the activities are experienced within
the agencies. In the agencies that occupy the quadrant I, the creative workers do all the creative activities,
and the administrative tasks are done by the managers. In opposition, in quadrant IV, the creative workers
are responsible for the administrative tasks and focus on creative tasks of technical nature (there has been
a division of creative activities where creation is the product of a single individual, the artistic director and
the other workers being creative technicians). In quadrant II, creative workers play a double role; on one
hand, they are responsible for the administrative activities, and on the other hand, they embody all the
creative activities. In return, the creative workers of quadrant III only perform technical activities of the
creative aspect since the administrative activities are assumed by the managers.
Without surprise, the graphic shows that the activities A1 to A4 are closer to the inspired world, and that
the activities A5 to A9 are closer to the market world. In the same vein, the agencies previously associated
to the creator profile are grouped around this profile (A, B, D, I, J), as well as those associated with the
technician profile (E, F, K), the manager profile (C, G) and the versatile profile (H). This quantitative result
supports what Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) argued about the compromise between the inspired world
and the market world. All the studied agencies managed to put in place this compromise since they are
viable and make cohabit the values of the inspired and the market worlds.
If Figure 2 positions the organizations on the creative market, where the junction between the axes
represents the typical ideal of the organization which achieves the compromise between both worlds, it also
represents the creative market as a competitive place where organizations struggle against one another. We
could compare this competitive struggle to the struggles of domination presented by Bourdieu (1992, 2001)
using the multiple correspondence analysis. We will support the representation of the competitive struggle
by the qualitative results in the next section.
Qualitative analysis of the typical ideal of the creative organization
The intersection between the two axes, thus, represents the typical ideal of an organization that would best
achieve reconciling the junction of the inspired and the market worlds due to its organizational design. The
creative market is a competitive place (a field), and to migrate towards the positioning of the typical ideal,
the agencies must face struggles that result in having to make changes to their activities.
In practical terms, this organization would be able to find the perfect balance between the extent of tasks
performed by creative workers and the nature of the creative tasks. Being a typical ideal, no agency can
achieve this perfect balance, but Figure 2 shows that the agencies of the creator profile are the closest to the
compromise, and that the agencies of the technician and the manager profile are the most distant. Creative
workers working within the agencies of these two last profiles, only carry out the production in terms of
tasks of creative nature, the conception being reserved for the artistic director. Thus, it appears that for the
profiles moving away from the compromise which represents the typical ideal of the creative organization
that performs the best on the creative market, the struggle is more demanding. Therefore, these are more
vulnerable and are more likely to fail to maintain the compromise between the inspired and the market
worlds. In opposition, the creative workers of the creator profile perform both the conception and the
production of the projects assigned to them. To this end, a creative worker specifies the importance for
these workers to have the opportunity to work on the conception of the projects. “If we have less creative
projects, surely the designer will not stay long, in some part, because he wants to create, surely he will leave
because we live of that” (creative worker B5). Thus, by offering the possibility to creative workers to
participate to the conception of projects, agencies can better cope with the competitive struggle and move
closer to the perfect balance between the inspired and the market worlds.
To this end, questioning is possible; would certain profiles identified in this research be transient? For
example, could the technician and the manager profile be a stepping stone towards the creator and the
volatile profile that seems to have a greater power in the competitive struggle? The studied agencies are
small and the artistic directors of the technician and the manager profiles are able to design all the concepts
created by the agency. However, if these agencies grow, can the artistic directors create the concepts for all
the clients of the agency and maintain a favorable position on the creative market? Similarly, creative
workers have a preference for conception, but are aware that they must complete their apprenticeship with
the artistic director. “I am aware that I am a little slower than [name of the artistic director], so it’s often
quicker to ask him directly (…) I think I have to learn from his way of doing, I take what I can from what
he does well” (creative worker E3).
For sure, I adore creating, and would do it all the time, but my work here is more of technical
nature, but on another side, I practice my technical side. At school, they don’t show us a lot
of the technical aspect, they mainly show us how to find an idea, how to arrive to an adequate
concept for the client, but not necessarily how to create X tool, they don’t tell us how to go
in the computer software and do it. So I learn it right now and in fact, it’s perfect, I will have
the two essential aspects which are the conception and the technical aspect (creative worker
G3).
Therefore, creative workers feel as if they were in a learning situation with the artistic director. Corollary,
the art director, sees himself as their mentor. “I start the projects, I work with them if necessary, I’m more
a coach than a boss” (artistic director K1).
When I give out a project, I make sure to go back and see the person an hour later and ask
him what is your track, where are you going with that? The employees will show me. I’ll
look at it, then I’ll say no you aren’t on the right track, try going towards a whiter side for
example (artistic director C2).
Perhaps I can try to bring them to one point more than another. It’s not always about telling
them it isn’t good, it’s more about explaining them why it should be this way. I don’t have
the answer for everything, but I do have experience. The creative aspect is so large. Often,
they will come back to me and say yes, you are right, but this could also be good. Ah ok, I
am open (artistic director E2).
It seems plausible that when the creative workers have reached a sufficient level of learning, the artistic
director can transfer some of his clients to them. Therefore, we would be facing a migration of the technician
profile towards the creator profile or even, from the manager profile to the volatile profile. But, for the
migration to work out, the artistic director must agree to transfer clients to his creative workers and judge
that they have the necessary skills to execute the conception of the project. For example, the artistic director
of the agency G prefers to keep the conception tasks for himself and he reports that the creative workers
always leave the agency after two years. Therefore, we can suppose that these creative workers felt as if
their apprenticeship with the artistic director was accomplished and that they aspired to conception tasks.
The longest they stay is two years, after two years, something happens. The creative process, I for sure
have to keep it” (artistic director G2).
Between the creator profile and volatile profile, the first one approaches more the typical ideal than the
second. Therefore, it appears that the agencies where the creative workers only do creative work, are more
likely to maintain an enviable position in the field of the creative market. We can suggest two explanations
for this. First, we can turn towards the classical theories of management that value specialization to achieve
a maximum of efficiency. Thus, here, the creative workers are specialized in creative tasks and the manager
in administrative tasks. Such a specialization of tasks would give the agencies with this structure a
competitive advantage. The second explanation comes from the data itself. Some creative workers reported
not wanting to perform tasks of administrative nature.
Only because we don’t want to, we don’t want to see the negative side of it, we really just
want to stay in our own bubble and do our things. We don’t answer the phone, we don’t even
have a phone up there, we don’t have access to the clients and it is really okay this way (…)
Even sometimes, the managers want us to join them to meetings and we don’t want to go,
we fight, no, no you go, I don’t want to go. We are comfortable in our own bubble; we do
our work and that’s it (creative worker J2).
So, it is possible that the competitive position resulting of the balance between the inspired and the market
worlds is more difficult to maintain if the creative workers are asked to perform tasks they do not like. In
addition, the managers add that the creative workers are not the most capable in performing such tasks.
Meeting with clients means taking notes, reporting. If the client has met the designer a couple
of times, what happened in the past, is that at some point, the contact between the designer
and the client becomes too privileged. The client started calling the designer and we lost
control over the project. How is the project going, where are we at, the designer isn’t
necessarily the most organized (manager J1).
To sum up, the agencies must make variations to their activities if they wish to maintain their position or
approach the typical ideal and occupy a better competitive position in the creative market.
Conclusion
This article’s goal is to study the compromise between creativity and business within small advertising
agencies or in theoretical terms, the compromise between the inspired world and the market world. The
compromise between these two worlds, as presented by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006), is the creative
market. With Boltanski and Thévenot (2006), the compromise is posed and they do not explore this
compromise as such; they simply state it. With this research, we proceeded from the premise that the studied
agencies had reached the compromise since they exist and are viable on the creative market, so inevitably,
they manage to conciliate the inspired and the market worlds. Therefore, this research studies the
organizations within the compromise and the way these organizations perform and compare themselves in
function of their organizational design. The way the studied organizations are structured is what
distinguishes them from one another. The multiple correspondence analysis allows us to graphically
position them in relation to the typical ideal which represents the perfect compromise between the inspired
and the market worlds, therefore, has the highest competitive advantage over the other organizations.
Therefore, the principal contribution of this research is this analysis of the compromise between the inspired
world and the market world in small advertising agencies. We then graphically drew the portrait of the
competitive position of the studied agencies based on the way they manage the compromise between the
inspired and the market worlds. Thus, the creative market is a social field where there is a struggle for
power as understood by Bourdieu (1992, 2001). Our qualitative results explain how this competitive
struggle tinkles with the activities within the agencies. Therefore, the competitive struggle would result by
variations of the activities within the agencies if they aspire to reach the typical ideal.
However, this research has some limits, the most important being the number of studied agencies and the
number of interviews conducted. Additional agencies could be studied to validate the results obtained in
this research. In addition, only one agency is located in the volatile profile. Thus, it would be interesting to
validate the existence of this profile with other agencies.
As this research is of exploratory nature, it opens the door to several future projects. First, a multitude of
creative industries exist and it would be interesting to see if the creative organizations within other industries
are positioned similarly on the creative market.
Then, a longitudinal study of creative organizations would be interesting and would allow to evaluate if
certain profiles are transient. Another possibility would be to reproduce a multiple correspondence analysis
with new collected data from the studied agencies in order to validate if they still find themselves in the
same profile and if their competitive position with the others agencies according to the typical ideal is still
the same.
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