ing the Conditions for Failure: An Initial Exploration of the Systemic Relationship between Creative Failure and Creative Success in the Creative Industries

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Success and failure in the creative and media industries are not polar opposites. They are intimately connected and both are enabled and constrained by the same entrepreneurial systemic structures. Creative failure and creative success both require equal research attention to help us understand the co-dependent relationship that exists between them. In a predominantly neoliberal world, with its consuming emphasis on winning at all costs, success is not only easy to identify but is valorised above all else, particularly for individuals, while failure is often hidden or perceived as negative. However, we argue that the relationship between failure, risk and success is deeply symbiotic and should be examined from a systemic rather than an individual view. Creative practice emerges out of a system where an individual is placed in a relationship to the social and cultural context and network of peers that enables and constrains creative opportunities. If, as we argue, creative practice is systemic, it is important to examine how these factors intersect to allow both failure and success to emerge and understand the close relationship between them. There is a need to understand how creative failures and successes are managed by players in the media and creative industries. This paper provides a brief literature review of creative success and creative failure and an analysis of the current media and creative industries’ landscape. Using a theoretical discussion of the relationship between failure, risk and success and how creative industry entrepreneurial neo-liberal business conditions are forcing individuals to be risk averse, the proposition being presented is that the media industries, operating through SMEs in this neo-liberally dominated market, have become highly constrained and, as such, create conditions that restrict creative opportunities largely through their own outsourcing and sub-contractng behaviour. We conclude that further research is needed about the relationship between creative failures and successes of media industry sectors and how these are treated by both employers and those seeking to work in the creative industries.
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  • 1. Creating the Conditions for Failure: An Initial Exploration of the Systemic Relationship between Creative Failure and Creative Success in the Creative Industries. A/Prof Susan Kerrigan, A/Prof Phillip McIntyre, Dr Janet Fulton, Dr Michael Meany
  • 2. July 5, 2018 2Claude Levi-Strauss For classic structuralist Claude Levi-Strauss, polar oppositions are the essential basis of myths, myths about all the sorts of things many cultures hold dear and which help them not only explain the world to themselves but also help to reduce anxieties about the things they cannot really explain that well.
  • 3. July 5, 2018 3 Oppositions as Complementary Enable Constrain Free Will Determinism Agency Structure Innovation Tradition Disruption Maintenance Success Failure CREATIVITY
  • 4. July 5, 2018 4 Creativity – What do we already know? “Most researchers and theorists agree that creativity involves the development of a novel product, idea, or problem solution that is of value to the individual and/or the larger social group” (Hennessey & Amabile 2010, p. 572). “Creativity is a productive activity whereby objects, processes and ideas are generated from antecedent conditions through the agency of someone, whose knowledge to do so comes from somewhere and the resultant novel variation is seen as a valued addition to the store of knowledge in at least one social setting” (McIntyre 2008, p. 1).
  • 5. July 5, 2018 5 Recent Thinking on Creativity Fig 1: The increasingly large concentric circles in this simplified schematic represent the major levels at which creativity forces operate” (Hennessey & Amabile, 2010: 571). Research into creativity “has grown theoretically and methodologically sophisticated [but] investigators in one subfield often seem unaware of advances in another. Deeper understanding requires more interdisciplinary research, based on a systems view of creativity that recognizes a variety of interrelated forces operating at multiple levels” (Hennessey & Amabile 2010, p. 569).
  • 6. July 5, 2018 6 The Systems Approach to Creativity Figure: Kerrigan, S. (2013) ‘Accommodating Creative Documentary Practice within a Revised Systems Model of Creativity’, Journal of Media Practice, 14/2, 114.
  • 7. July 5, 2018 7 Systems Based Concepts Complexity Nonlinearity Emergence Interconnectedness Scalability Complementarity
  • 8. July 5, 2018 8 The Complementarity of Success and Failure For us, failure and success in creative activity are not, in the face of available evidence, a pure dichotomy. Yet they are considered to be opposites as suggested by the beliefs we have about them. Success is seen as something that occurs to an individual often through happenstance or serendipity. As such the Romantic myths around individual success have a tendency to de-emphasise the hard work and unsuccessful endeavours that were previously carried out by those who have recently become successful. Therefore, it is rare that hard work and the failures that stem from experimentation are seen as a precursor to success and it is the latter that is lauded in all forms of media making, media consumption and media promotion.
  • 9. July 5, 2018 9SMEs and Microbusinesses cannot Afford Failures. When success is examined closely, by either by industry or by researchers, it is frequently done so by focusing on an individual and their creative talent, often without entirely appreciating the social and cultural factors that formed the environment where the success occurred. This way of appreciating success, that is, by studying a talented individual, perpetuates a cultural myth, which is that it is possible to replicate creative success by focusing on the narrative of one individual. Creativity research suggests we need to look beyond individual traits to really comprehend how creativity as a phenomenon is manifest. However, the media industries, including not only larger enterprises but also those operating as SMEs and micro-businesses, have little tolerance for publicising or condoning failure, at the individual or systemic level. Subsequently, as exampled by the increasing casualization of their workforce, they also offer fewer opportunities for creative success. They are increasingly unwilling to take creative risks.
  • 10. July 5, 2018 10 Failure Eva Novrup Redvall asserts in her study on creativity in Danish television drama, ‘people are naturally more inclined to grant researchers access to what is perceived as productive work methods and more keen on discussing stories of success rather than failure’ (2013, p. 193). Media industry practitioners have reputations to uphold so their reticence or unwillingness to allow researchers to study failed projects makes perfect sense. Coming from the field of design, Petroski has written about the time it takes to succeed or fail and argues that ‘whether fast or slow, failure and its avoidance have always been central to the development of designs and their far reaching influence’ (2006, p. 51). Researchers examining innovation (Rogers, 2003; Tahirsylaj, 2012; McGrath, 1999), have moved much closer to examining risk – which we also argue is an essential aspect of both success and failure – especially within their recent concerns with entrepreneurship. A critical analysis of the relationship between failure and success suggests that it takes an open mind to learn through failure and taking risks will push one’s boundaries of knowledge into the unknown, which is where creativity and innovation is thought to lie (Tahirsylaj, 2012, p. 269
  • 11. July 5, 2018 11 Failure as One Part of a Binary However, in this work on innovation there has also been a tendency to valorise one set of oppositions over the other with an over-concentration, for example, on the notions of creative destruction (Schumpeter, 1939) and disruptive innovation (Christensen, 1997) without also giving equivalence to the importance of their interdependent and complementary pairs: creative maintenance (Russell, 2014; Russell & Vinsel, 2017); and, what is a necessary immersion in creative traditions and conventions (Negus & Pickering 2004; Sawyer, 2011). To put this in terms of polar or binary oppositions, disruption is commonly seen as oppositional to maintenance and innovation is seen as oppositional to tradition. As we pointed out above, success is seen as oppositional to failure. However, one cannot be disruptive without important aspects of businesses being maintained and one cannot be innovative without access to a tradition of some sort as a starting point for the novel and valued things that come into existence. Nothing occurs in a vacuum. While emerging media practices are grounded in tradition, they also appear to be rejecting components of those traditional structures, processes and practices that got them there in the first place. It often comes as a surprise to many newer media workers that, as Negus and Pickering have noted, for the most part creativity ‘entails putting together various words, sounds, shapes, colours and gestures in a recognisably familiar and only slightly different way’ (2004, p. 70). If success and failure are also intertwined, just as disruption and maintenance as well as tradition and innovation are, we need to resognize failure as a vital part of the creative process.
  • 12. July 5, 2018 12
  • 13. July 5, 2018 13The Necessity of Failure Failures “prove to be strong motivators in stimulating creative activity. It is the case that many media practitioners are often unaware in the early stages of their careers of how many failures it took those they admire to create a success. It must be said that many successful people have produced ‘their fair share of mediocre work’ (Negus & Pickering 2004, p. 160). Because of the continual effort, experimentation and hard work required of them, many successful people seem to others to be resilient and ‘have immense self-confidence’ (Sawyer 2006, pp. 311–2), mostly borne of many failures and enough successes to have conditioned these practitioners to take risks” (McIntyre 2012, p. 201).
  • 14. July 5, 2018 14 Risk
  • 15. July 5, 2018 15 Risk “Measures of risk taking behaviour have been found to correlate significantly with entrepreneurial orientation (Caird 1993)” (Mazzarol 2011, p. 49). John Stuart Mill saw risk bearing as the major difference between entrepreneurs and managers while Schumpeter acknowledged that both entrepreneurs and managers assume risk. McLelland (1961) found that “those individuals with a high need for achievement tended to take moderate risks as a calculated function of skill” (ibid). Risks born by the entrepreneur as Lyle (1974) suggests, include “financial, career opportunities, family relations and well-being” (ibid). However, many people exhibit what is called loss aversion (Kaufman 2012, p. 236-237). They “hate to lose things more than they like to gain them...people respond twice as strongly to potential loss than they do to the opportunity of an equivalent gain” (ibid, p. 236). This is understandable, as identifying and acting on immediate threats takes precedence in survival situations. However, entrepreneurs tend to reinterpret situations of potential loss into situations of potential gain. This is called risk reversal. To put that simply they can convince themselves failure is “no big deal” (ibid, p 237). This habit of mind is coupled with an ability to display resilience.
  • 16. July 5, 2018 16 Resilience George Bonnano from the University of Michigan uses the term ‘resilient’ “to identify people capable of functioning with a sense of core purpose, meaning and forward momentum in the face of trauma” (Zolli & Healy 2012, p. 165). This echoes Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy’s definition, that is, resilience is “the capacity of a system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances” (ibid). As a study by Werner and Smith indicated ”the ability of members from certain communities to bounce back from adversity is also aided by high-functioning social networks” (Zolli & Healy 2012, p. 169). As they argue ”correlates to personal resilience are rooted in our beliefs and our experiences... The habits of personal resilience are habits of mind” (ibid, pp. 170-171). However, ”even the hardiest individual cannot go it alone – our resilience is rooted in that of the groups and communties in which we live and work’ (ibid, p. 188).
  • 17. July 5, 2018 17Outsourcing the Risk A systems oriented framework indicates that there are diverse industry activities occurring that have placed pressure on outsourcing the inherent risk of failure in creating content. Small production companies, themselves employing individual freelancers and practitioners, act as larger corporations do in outsourcing content creation. The media industries, as Murdock reiterates, have thus moved ‘towards outsourcing production, relying more on freelance labour, and assembling teams on a project by project basis [and] have combined to make careers in the media industries less secure and predictable’ (2003, p. 31). This situation is risky in itself as it denies that failure in business, and thus in media industries, is also a failure to allow creative failure.
  • 18. July 5, 2018 18A Major Risk for the Creative Industries “A huge number of talented and motivated artists, musicians, dancers, athletes, and singers give up pursuing their domains because it is so difficult to make a living in them” (Csikszentmihalyi 1997, p. 333); as ample evidence indicates, “creation is jeopardised when compensation is not available” (Levinson 2006, p. 64).
  • 19. July 5, 2018 19 Conclusion so Far As Mills and Horton indicate, ‘while failure must be understood as something related to the experience of creative individuals it is also something which – importantly – is embedded within the structures within which such labour takes place’ (2017, p. 122). Media industries have been structured so the risk of failure has been increasingly spread downward and it now includes those at the bottom of the food chain, that is, those who can least afford to absorb those risks We argue an examination of where and how risk, success and failure are being managed by media industries, all now increasingly operating within entrepreneurial and neoliberal structural modes, is fundamentally necessary if we are to avoid devaluing a vital set of activities in the creative system..
  • 20. DISCUSSION CRICOS Provider 00109J | www.newcastle.edu.au
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