1.4.1 Social field
Until relatively recently, a lot of the work on creativity, especially in the West, tended to locate the source of creativity within the individual. Now many researchers have turned their attention to a wider context, focusing on the role of collaboration in creativity and the community of practice (where people with similar interests and expertise can build on each other’s experience and knowledge) from which creative endeavour emerges (Wenger, 1998).
Csikszentmihalyi (1996, 2006), for example, has looked at the interaction of three aspects of creativity: the creative individual, the domain of knowledge they are working within (marketing, accountancy or psychology, for example) and the social field (the norms and gatekeepers that govern the area) within which these endeavours take place. (See Csikszentmihalyi, 2006, for more on this systems perspective on creativity.)
Certain fields at certain times seem to foster and accelerate creative endeavour in particular domains. For example, art and architecture in Florence at the beginning of the fifteenth century; the London Bloomsbury Set novels and poetry of the 1920s and 1930s; Silicon Valley, California and the development of computers in the latter part of the twentieth century; pop music in Liverpool in the 1960s; new business and the ASEAN countries in the 1970s and 1980s; Cambridge (UK) biotechnology in the 1990s and software applications in Bangalore, India in the twenty first century. This suggests that despite our globally interconnected world, a location near other enthusiastic people knowledgeable about the topic you are working helps advance creative development in a number of areas.
Can you think of other, perhaps lesser-known, examples of creative flourishing in your area of work?
This social view of creativity draws attention to the extent to which ideas build through people learning from each other and from what has gone before. A consequence of this view is that managers might be better advised to spend less time looking at the qualities and behaviour of creative individuals and focus instead on the system of social relations from which creative endeavour emerges, examining the conditions and systems that nurture and sustain creativity.
In attempting to predict the creative potential of companies it can be argued that research and knowledge are key factors. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) suggests companies that place more emphasis on research and make their knowledge available to staff are more likely to come up with new products than those that do not.