Understanding organizational creativity: insights from pragmatism

Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Philippe Lorino, Barbara Simpson

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    Creativity is arguably one of the most crucial features of organisation as it infuses and influences all epistemic practices (Cook and Brown 1999). From an evolutionary perspective, creativity may be understood as the source of novelty in key organisational change processes such as product and process innovations, strategic renewals, restructurings, identity reconstruals, and market reorientations. Thus interest in creativity is by no means limited to the so-called creative industries since every organisation is inevitably at some time faced with imperatives to change. However, creativity remains significantly under-researched (Joas 1996, Sternberg and Lubart 1999, Hennessey and Amabile 2010), leaving many unanswered questions about its antecedents, the conditions in which it flourishes or is inhibited, and the social processes by means of which it emerges.
    In this chapter we propose that American pragmatism, especially the works of Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey and George Herbert Mead, offers a potentially fruitful way of understanding creative practice as a dynamic social process. From this viewpoint, creativity is the human condition (Joas 1996) that exists as a potential in even the most mundane, everyday plodding actions of social practice (Kilpinen 1998). It begs a dynamic, real-time theorisation that can address how questions by accommodating the temporal aspects of social practice (Tsoukas and Chia 2002). We develop our argument by drawing on an empirical example that demonstrates the temporal emergence of creative practice in a small financial services company. We show that creativity cannot be explained simply in terms of the application of planned techniques and formulae (Bohm 1996). Rather, it arises as a response to uncertain and unanticipated situations that call out changeful actions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAmerican pragmatism and organization
    Subtitle of host publicationissues and controversies
    EditorsMihaela Kelemen, Nick Rumens
    Place of PublicationFarnham
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Electronic)9781409427865
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2013


    • organizational creativity
    • pragmatism


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