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Book Review: Chris Bilton, Management and Creativity: From Creative


Industries to Creative Management. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007

Article  in  Media Culture & Society · March 2008


DOI: 10.1177/01634437080300020804

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University of Glasgow
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266 Media, Culture & Society 30(2)

surplus, sealed (closed) and leaky (open) spheres of censorship, opacity and transparency,
exclusivity and accessibility, homogeneity and heterogeneity (diversity), hierarchies and
networks, passivity and (inter)activity, dominance and competition.
Cultural Chaos, far from being an attempt to explore journalism and media as a
nihilistic and anarchistic endgame, is a grounded academic manifesto for ‘sustained,
coherent, morally consistent criticism of the forces of authoritarianism everywhere
(especially religious authoritarianism), and in support of democracy, modernity and
freedom (intellectual, political, lifestyle, cultural)’ (p. 210). Whereas the fictional stu-
dent Melissa would be less inclined to shout ‘Bullshit!’ one of the charms of teaching
this subject is that there is bound to be another student called Pandora who would be
more than happy to condemn this ‘positive’ critical approach as ideological Prozac
sponsored by Althusserian global and privatized state apparatuses. As you pack away
your transparencies, discarded handouts and switch off the lecture theatre’s screen
projector, Pandora’s refrain about not appreciating the subtle shift from coercion to
consent even in the 21st century is more than likely to be last word.

References

Franzen, J. (2002) The Corrections. London: Fourth Estate.


Sokal, A. (1996) ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative
Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity’, Social Text 46–7: 217–52.

Tim Crook
Goldsmiths, University of London

Chris Bilton, Management and Creativity: From Creative Industries to Creative


Management. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

‘Creativity’ is one of our contemporary buzzwords. Its ubiquity in everyday chat,


management guru and think-tank speak and media coverage might make us think
that it’s simply banal. Does it have any analytical value for the social and human
sciences?
Well, yes, according to Chris Bilton who has produced a thoughtful text,
enlivened with useful case studies, which has developed from his teaching and
wide reading on the topic. We should resist the temptation to be unduly dismissive
about creativity as the discourses in which it is now implanted are harnessed to
political projects across the globe and its value as a mobilizing idea or slogan is
undoubtedly on the rise. That is because governments around the world are cur-
rently obsessed with steering the ‘creative economy’ as part of the struggle for
global competitiveness.
So Bilton has written a timely book, which joins an already extensive policy and
academic literature to which think-tanks and consultants are weekly adding further
quantity and, sometimes, real quality. His title and sub-title play with the connections
between ‘creativity’ and ‘management’.
It is no accident that the foreword comes from Lord (David) Puttnam, the well-known
film producer turned member of the New Labour establishment, who is so closely asso-
ciated with the ‘modernizing’ project of successive UK governments since 1997.
Book Reviews 267

Puttnam’s message, bang in line with current UK government thinking about how to
mobilize the ‘knowledge economy’, is to underscore the creativity both of ‘creatives’
(the architects, ad people, broadcasters, film-makers and the like) and of ‘managers’.
Forget the old joke about creative accountancy. It’s no joke. Just don your suit and join
the club of creativity. Management is creative. This is quite a serious proposition for
we’re asked to rethink the labour process and relations within organizations and enter-
prises. Indeed, if you ask to whom this book is addressed, it is as much managers as
advanced students of culture and media.
Bilton’s focus is on ‘creativity in systems and organisations rather than creative
individuals’. He wants to try to capture something generalizable about a lauded qual-
ity that is seemingly protean, elusive and deeply saturated in romanticism. What inter-
ests Bilton, therefore, is the usefulness of ideas in organizations and the balance
between novelty and continuity in actual creative practices. The author is resistant to
the way in which contemporary policy thinking has instrumentalized the field of cre-
ative activity and seeks to go beyond this to see what lessons can be more broadly
learned from creative industries as laboratories of risk and uncertainty.
The strategy of Bilton’s argument – which draws on research both into arts and
media organizations and management – goes like this. First, we need to pin down
what creativity is, shorn of its romantic, individualist mystique. Bilton argues that
‘the capacity to be creative depends upon a contradictory capacity to encompass
different ways of thinking. It does not lend itself to new solutions but to the
unearthing of new problems’ (p. 173). Next, creativity needs to be situated in the
contexts of its application. This takes us through a series of chapters that, in the first
part of the book, moves through psychological theories, the workings of creative
people and teams, and then creative organizations and systems. There next follows
a change of focus to consider how creativity is interpreted in management theories,
arguing that creative management necessarily operates within constraints. Further
chapters consider how creativity relates to concepts of managerial strategy and
also to marketing.
The appeal to managers is what gives this book its distinctiveness. Bilton, who
rightly dismisses much of the hype surrounding the creative industries (noting the
continuing importance of manufacturing, logistical and infrastructural forms of
labour and the relevance of cultural geography for the division of labour), argues that
instead of focusing principally on their value to the economy, we should look to the
lessons that can be drawn from their distinctive modus operandi. This, above all, is
seen as involving a high level of complexity and a tolerance of contradictions. His
central proposition, therefore, is that management itself becomes a creative process
– and needs to be seen as such. In that respect the book is a call to arms and an invi-
tation to managers to think again about their self-conceptions, what they do and how
they do it.
It is only at the end of his book that Bilton returns to the broader political and
policy contexts. It is these that have given the debate such contemporary perti-
nence on the wider stage. Here, Bilton makes the important point – often lost in
the haze of claims about the new immaterial economy – that ‘evidence-based pol-
icy’ plays far less a role than ‘policy-based evidence’. Certainly, if we look at cur-
rent debate in the UK (which has been the pioneer of creative industries thinking
for the past decade) there is a creeping recognition, even within government, that
the emperor lacks a full set of clothes. Bilton is alive – as we need to be – to the
symbolic politics of the claim to creativity in city regeneration and national
branding. Current political debate is rooted in neoliberal thinking and still has a
hegemonic status. Intervention is motivated by the objective of national growth in
268 Media, Culture & Society 30(2)

a globally competitive environment and making corrections to specific kinds of


market failure.
Countering this, Bilton argues that we need a more generous and nuanced approach,
attentive to the networks that characterize the interconnections of the cultural field. His
argument – both in respect of policy formation and managerial practice – is chary of
individualism, the celebration of entrepreneurship and the deification of innovation.
He has produced a very useful textbook that also brings a distinctive critical take to a
burgeoning field of research and practice.

Philip Schlesinger
University of Glasgow

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