Lost in translation? Transferring creativity insights from arts into management

Annick Ancelin-Bourguignon*, Chris Dorsett, Ricardo Azambuja

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Since the early 2000s the business sector has, as a matter of both professional and academic concern, repeatedly advocated the transfer of artistic practices, especially those deemed exemplary forms of creativity, to a management world grappling with new challenges – a claim we here call the ‘transferability thesis’ in order to consider the responses made to what Boltanski and Chiapello define as an artistic critique of capitalism. Drawing on the wide range of relevant academic literature, this article critically examines the plausibility of the ‘thesis’. To this end, we review analytical literature advocating artistic transfers alongside empirical work that examines art interventions within organizations. Both are important components of a broader organizational aesthetics approach even though, we contend, neither strands of research provide a plausible argument for meaningful transferability. We then draw on arts-based literature, management theory and psychology to compare notions of creativity at both ends of the proposed transferral process. We highlight convergence and variance in art and business thinking, noting fundamental mismatches with regard to utility, rationalization and heteronomy – three levels of incompatibility that make a genuine transplantation of art ideas highly unlikely. Finally, we discuss our critical contribution in relation to the specious status of the ‘thesis’ and the centrality of Boltanski and Chiapello’s triadic model of capitalism to our investigation. By way of a conclusion, we suggest that further research is needed to examine the symbolic nature of appeals to artistic creativity by management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-741
Number of pages25
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


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