The rock industry can teach modern firms much about encouraging creativity at work
Creativity is the new business religion. Managers are exhorted to encourage it, consultancies make millions hosting seminars explaining how they can do it and hordes of researchers in the US are at this very moment grappling with such questions as: What is creativity? How can a company best encourage it? What are the forces that militate against it? And how much can we charge for all this?
As with many fashionable crazes, there is substance under all the chaff. Modern corporations have an built-in bias against creativity. But how is this to be corrected? Many solutions have been proposed but it seemed worth studying the one industry which depends on creativity for its future and its financial viability - the rock music business.
Rock music is an industry which has lived on the cutting edge for so long it has grown accustomed to the feel of cold steel, where every decision is judged not by the company but an unseen audience of billions, many of whom are not even in their teens, and where the tidy pseudo-scientific disciplines of marketing are weighed against a manager's gut instinct.
Six lessons seem particularly pertinent to others in pursuit of this corporate holy grail of creativity, but the obvious, overriding message is encouraging creativity may take the average corporation as many years of hard work as that great showbiz phenomena, the overnight success.
Creativity needs time
1 One of the recurring phenomena of the pop business is how many acts have trouble with what is known, in industry cliché, as "that difficult third album". Ian Cranna, a music journalist who managed the 1980s cult band Orange Juice, says, "Most artists have 20 years of life to bring to their first album. But as soon as that succeeds, they're on a whirligig of interviews, personal appearances, shooting videos, and tours.
"They'll be sent off to crack America, which involves a tour of at least three weeks. And then when the time comes, nine months later, to make that second album, they probably haven't had time to work on more than a couple of songs along with a couple they had left over from the first album. And they end up writing songs in the studio, and you can hear that when the album comes out."
Linda Holbeche, director of research at Roffey Park Management Institute, says, "The biggest barrier to creativity in business is time