Herding cats: managing creativity

Richard Scase
University of Kent

As is well known, managing creative employees is rather like shepherding herds of cats. By 'creative', I mean those men and women who are at the core of innovative processes, whether they are working in the R&D departments of pharmaceutical companies, the makers of TV films or those working on campaigns in advertising agencies. Essentially, it is their ideas that are converted into the saleable products and services upon which the survival and growth of organisations depend. If their ideas dry up, so, too, does the lifeblood of their businesses.

Creative employees value their personal autonomy and, therefore, expect to enjoy the working freedom within which this can be exercised. Management, on the other hand, derived as a set of supervision and monitoring practices created for the predictable work processes of the old manufacturing corporations of the 20th century, likes to impose controls to measure both quantity and quality of output. Hence, the tensions between 'creatives' and accountants and project leaders in so many organisations.