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In a couple of posts I’ll be reviewing Perry-Smith & Shalley’s ‘Creativity-Centrality Spiral’ and looking at its relevance to work I did at the BBC in 2008-2010.

The Creativity-Centrality Spiral

This concept, outlined in a 2003 article titled ‘The social side of creativity: a static and dynamic social network perspective’ by Jill Perry-Smith and Christina Shalley, builds on Granovetter’s and Burt’s ideas (among others). They observed that previous research in this area tended to “view networks as static, and do not consider networks as changing over time.” Their six propositions merit in-depth investigation as they provide an organizational rationale for managers with a track record in ‘creativity’ to continually reinvent and evolve their networks in order to sustain their ability to deliver good ideas – to view creative networks as dynamic.

Definitions

Usefully, they define what they mean by creativity in the context of work and organisational behavior (drawing heavily on the ideas of Theresa Amabile):

“Individuals can be creative in their jobs by generating new ways to perform their work, by coming up with novel procedures or innovative ideas, and by reconfiguring known approaches into new alternatives. Thus, creativity does not have to exist only on specific types of projects; it can occur while an individual performs in various work situations. We define creativity at work – an individual level construct – as an approach to work that leads to the generation of novel and appropriate ideas, processes, or solutions.” (Perry-Smith & Shalley, 2003, p. 90)

This is a broad definition of creativity in the workplace – the kind of pan-organisational creativity which was the goal of the BBC’s Making It Happen initiative starting from when Greg Dyke was Director General – “to be the most creative organization in the world” (BBC, 2006). The projects and programmes under consideration in this thesis take a more programme-specific definition of creativity – specifically ideas for new and compelling TV, radio and online programmes and formats. Nevertheless, the concept remains applicable, even with the tighter definition, as the need for uniqueness applies in both definitions.

“This definition can involve creative business strategies, creative solutions to business problems, or creative changes to job processes. In order to be considered creative, however, these outputs must have some level of uniqueness compared to other ideas.” (Perry-Smith & Shalley, 2003, p. 90)

Social context and ties

They argue that creativity exists in a social context, and that creativity depends on two key combinations of factors:

* interpersonal communication and interpersonal interaction, and

* creativity-relevant skills

The communication of ideas and information should improve creativity, and the influence of external factors should improve creativity-relevant skills – even among those with an innately high level of skill.

They then look at the influence of the specific kinds of social ties identified by Granovetter (Granovetter, 1973). Weak ties are important to creativity because “actors connected by weak ties are more likely to be different because they are not immersed in the same interconnected web of relationships, shaped to some extent, by similarities. Therefore, weaker ties are more likely to connect people with diverse perspectives, different outlooks, varying interests and diverse approaches to problems.” (Perry-Smith & Shalley, 2003, p. 94) So, the access to more nonredundant information and diverse social circles facilitates a variety of processes which should help foster creativity:

1. access to more information should enhance knowledge relevant to creativity and/or domain-relevant knowledge

2. exposure to different approaches and perspectives should enhance creativity-relevant skills, such as flexible thinking.

3. weak ties facilitate autonomy, thus avoiding conformity, which is generally considered to hinder creativity (Amabile, 1996)

This contrasts with strongly-tied networks, where information and perspectives circulate quickly and becomes redundant, and social pressures lead to conformity, leaving less opportunity for helpful information to surface from other networks.

This leads to the first set of Perry-Smith and Shalley’s propositions:

“Proposition 1a: Weak ties should facilitate creativity at work compared to strong ties.

Proposition 1b: Relatively many weak ties and fewer strong ties should correspond with higher creativity at work than many strong ties and fewer weak ties

Proposition 1c: A larger number of weak ties should correspond with higher creativity at work, up to a point; beyond this point, there is less benefit realized from larger numbers of weak ties, and they may constrain creativity at work.” (Perry-Smith & Shalley, 2003, p. 95)Thic

So, if an actor is able to make use of social media to increase the number of networks with which they have weak ties, they should then see an improvement in their creativity at work – or at least their colleagues’ perception of it, if we follow Burt’s models more closely. I saw evidence of this in interviews with senior BBC leaders conducted for my PhD, who grasped the possibilities to increase their network capital through the use of social media, and thus enhance the perception of their creativity.

In the next post I’ll look at how an actor’s network position influences this, and examing the different phases of the spiral…

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  • Professional doctorates now form an established alternative to the PhD, both in the UK and Australia. Recent developments have seen the emergence of what some commentators call second-generation doctorates, more closely geared to the needs of professional practitioners. The current culmination of this development is represented by what might be termed practitioner doctorates, based on development projects which result in substantial organisational or professional change and (to paraphrase the widely-used criterion for a PhD thesis) a significant contribution to practice. These programmes pose a challenge to traditional notions of doctoral work based on research. They can however be conceptualised in a way that is both robust academically and represents a high level of adequacy for the complex and far-reaching problems encountered in contemporary society.

    tags:methodology PhD

  • The explosion of user-created media content on the web (dating from, say, 2005) has unleashed a new media universe. (Other terms often used to refer to this phenomenon include social media and user-generated content.) On a practical level, this universe was made possible by free web platforms and inexpensive software tools that enable people to share their media and easily access media produced by others, cheaper prices for professional-quality devices such as HD video cameras, and the addition of cameras and video capture to mobile phones. What is important, however, is that this new universe is not simply a scaled-up version of twentieth-century media culture. Instead, we have moved from media to social media.

  • What does this shift mean for how media functions and for the terms we use to talk about media?

  • What do trends in web use mean for culture in general and for professional art in particular?

    These are the questions this essay will engage with.

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  • “Recently, forms of doctorate have emerged that are not geared to specific professions
    or disciplines and are used by senior practitioners as vehicles for professional development and for ad
    dressing complex work issues. These transdisciplinary, candidate-centred, research-and-
    development programmes can collectively be referred to as work-based doctorates. “

  • Resources, articles and research on practice-based doctorates

    tags:methodology

  • Edge Hill University’s framework for Professional Doctorates

    tags:methodology

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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