28.12.04

RONALD COASE, CALL YOUR OFFICE. Grant at Anthropology and Economics discovers a dialectic at work within the corporation.

Creativity in the corporation has always been a kind of necessary evil. Necessary because is often the source of competitive advantage, category leadership, brand profile, growth, profit and share price. Evil because it’s just so hard to manage.

Corporations thrive on system, process, top-down control, stasis and discipline. Creativity prefers fresh thinking, rule breaking and getting outside the box of conventional practice. On balance, it seems better just to keep creativity “over there” at the advertising agency.

The corporation well might be sowing the seeds of its own destruction.

Management is about command and control, how generously we seek to re-imagine it. To this extent, the corporation may well remain a place that is essentially inimical to creativity.

Second, there is the problem of office politics. Every corporation is filled with people who compete for budgets, for CEO attention, for pride of place, and most of all for advancement. This means the corporation systematically creates people who will interfere with the realization of other people’s ideas, however good these ideas are.

Third, a lot of corporations make people miserable. The sheer press of business, the multiplicity of projects, the conflicting agenda and objectives, the grinding need to “make one’s numbers” every quarter, all these conspire to make life overwhelming, exhausting and grim. One effect: talented people turn into nay sayers. The corporation has found another way to staff itself with people who block innovation.

Institutions evolve to economize on transaction costs. That includes the selection of organizational forms other than corporations.

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