Studying Creative Workers

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Holly Patrick of Edinburgh Napier University. She recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Nested tensions and smoothing tactics: An ethnographic examination of ambidexterity in a theatre,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Patrick briefly describes her motivations for this research and her findings:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

The Creative Industries, and the theatre industry in particular, is a thrilling and extremely rewarding arena for research. The content of the work is inherently fascinating to me, and most employees (from the artists on stage to the box office staff) are driven by a love of the art form, and by a commitment to one another. Aside from the pleasure of researching such a vibrant community, there are a couple of reasons why research in this area is particularly worthy. First, the production of art is in many ways the production of society, as it generates new ideas and new understandings of culture, identity and society which diffuse through high and popular creative forms to influence all areas of life. Second, creative workers and organisations are becoming increasingly important to the economy of developed countries as the manufacturing industry shrinks and certain areas of service work become automated.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

My research is ethnographic – based on observation, participant observation and interviews. It is a lot to ask that anyone allows another person to follow them around and take notes on a regular basis for an extended period of time. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I was a PhD student adopting an inductive methodology – so I didn’t walk into the theatre with a research question. Participants often wanted to know ‘what are you trying to find out?’ and ‘I’m not quite sure yet’ never felt like a very satisfactory answer! Despite being open and honest about this, ambiguity breeds insecurity, and sometimes I had to adjust my techniques and my plans to deal with the discomfort participants felt at my presence in their workspace (which in some cases were usually private, such as rehearsals). The findings I present in this paper about the linguistic tactics used to deal with paradox are some of the most interesting in the project, and resulted from me being able to develop a close and sustained relationship with a production team – but it was not without its challenges. I remember an actor who was having a difficult rehearsal legitimately (if a little uncomfortably) asking ‘what the f*** was I writing about in my notebook anyway’. Accounts of methodology are often sanitised in papers, but doing research is all about understanding and responding to participants concerns, which helps build our knowledge of the field and our reflexivity about the impacts of our methods on others.

What advice would you give to new scholar and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Paradox is a rapidly evolving area so going to conferences in key to keeping up with the field. IF you are considering research the Creative Industries, it is important to bear in mind that much of the foundational literature was written in an era of investment and political hype around the value of creativity to the economy. We do not live in the same world today, and contemporary research in the UK needs to focus on the value of the creative economy in a post-crash, austerity-driven context.

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2011 Journal of Management Scholarly Award Winners!

Management INK would like to congratulate the following 2011 Scholarly Impact Award winners for the Journal of Management:

Robert E. Ployhart, University of South Carolina, published “Staffing in the 21st Century: New Challenges and Strategic Opportunities” in the December 2006 issue.

The abstract:

Modern organizations struggle with staffing challenges stemming from increased knowledge work, labor shortages, competition for applicants, and workforce diversity. Yet, despite such critical needs for effective staffing practice, staffing research continues to be neglected or misunderstood by many organizational decision makers. Solving these challenges requires staffing scholars to expand their focus from individual-level recruitment and selection research to multilevel research demonstrating the business unit/organizational− level impact of staffing. Toward this end, this review provides a selective and critical analysis of staffing best practices covering literature from roughly 2000 to the present. Several research-practice gaps are also identified. 

 Linda K. Treviño, Pennsylvania State University, Gary R. Weaver, University of Delaware, and Scott J. Reynolds, University of Washington, published “Behavioral Ethics in Organizations: A Review” in the December 2006 issue.

The abstract:

The importance of ethical behavior to an organization has never been more apparent, and in recent years researchers have generated a great deal of knowledge about the management of individual ethical behavior in organizations. We review this literature and attempt to provide a coherent portrait of the current state of the field. We discuss individual, group, and organizational influences and consider gaps in current knowledge and obstacles that limit our understanding. We conclude by offering directions for future research on behavioral ethics in organizations.

Michael H. Lubatkin, Zeki Simsek, both of  University of Connecticut, Yan Ling, George Mason University, and John F. Veiga, University of Connecticut, published “Ambidexterity and Performance in Small-to Medium-Sized Firms: The Pivotal Role of Top Management Team Behavioral Integration” in the October 2006 issue.

The abstract:

While a firm’s ability to jointly pursue both an exploitative and exploratory orientation has been posited as having positive performance effects, little is currently known about the antecedents and consequences of such ambidexterity in small- to medium-sized firms (SMEs). To that end, this study focuses on the pivotal role of top management team (TMT) behavioral integration in facilitating the processing of disparate demands essential to attaining ambidexterity in SMEs. Then, to address the bottom-line importance of an ambidextrous orientation, the study hypothesizes its association with relative firm performance. Multisource survey data, including CEOs and TMT members from 139 SMEs, provide support for both hypotheses.

 Greg L. Stewart, University of Iowa, published “A Meta-Analytic Review of Relationships Between Team Design Features and Team Performance” in the February 2006 issue.

The abstract:

This article presents a quantitative review of 93 studies examining relationships between team design features and team performance. Aggregated measures of individual ability and disposition correlate positively with team performance. Team member heterogeneity and performance correlate near zero, but the effect varies somewhat by type of team. Project and management teams have slightly higher performance when they include more members. Team-level task meaningfulness exhibits a modest but inconsistent relationship with performance. Increased autonomy and intrateam coordination correspond with higher performance, but the effect varies depending on task type. Leadership, particularly transformational and empowering leadership, improves team performance.

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