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Creative Strategy: Reconnecting Business and Innovation

Creative Strategy: Reconnecting Business and Innovation

Chris Bilton, Stephen Cummings

ISBN: 978-1-119-20828-0 September 2015 Wiley-Blackwell 286 Pages



People tend to think of creativity and strategy as opposites. This book argues that they are far more similar than we might expect. More than this, actively aligning creative and strategic thinking in any enterprise can enable more effective innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and organizing for the future.

By considering strategy as a creative process (and vice versa), the authors define 'creative strategy' as a mindset which switches between opposing processes and characteristics, and which drives every aspect of the business. The authors draw experiences and cases from across this false divide – from the music industry, sports, fashion, Shakespearean theatre companies, creative and media organizations and dance, as well as what we might regard as more mundane providers of mainstream products and services – to uncover the creative connections behind successful strategy.

"Creative Strategy is a talisman for those looking to take a new path"
Matt Hardisty, Strategy Director, Mother Advertising

"It has been said that business is a hybrid of dancing and calculation – the former incorporating the creative within a firm, the latter the strategic. Bilton and Cummings show how these apparently contradictory processes can be integrated. Their insights about how firms can 'create to strategize' and 'strategize to create' are informative for managers and management scholars alike."
Jay Barney, Professor and Chase Chair of Strategic Management, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University

"In today's world, new thinking – creativity – is required to tackle long-standing problems or address new opportunities. The trouble is few organizations understand how to foster and apply creativity, at least in any consistent manner. This book provides new insights into just how that can be done.  It moves creativity from being just the occasional, and fortuitous, flash of inspiration, to being an embedded feature of the way the organization is run."
Sir George Cox, Author of the Cox Review of Creativity in Business for HM Govt., Past Chair of the Design Council


Prologue: When Strategy Meets Creativity

1 False Separations and Creative Connections

Overcoming five false separations

Five creative connections for the future

2 What is Creativity?

1. Creativity’s Content: Innovation + a purpose to add more than individual value

2. Creativity’s Outcomes: transforming contexts and redefining problems

3. The Creativity Process: tolerating contradictions enables bisociative thinking

3 Uncreative Strategy

1. Creativity can’t be planned directly

2. Creativity requires bisociation, going between things, seeing from the edges, both/and rather than either/or thinking and can be thwarted by rigid classification

3. Creativity requires plurality

4. Creativity requires mistakes and accidents, or at least an acceptance of their value

5. Creativity requires slack

6. Creativity correlates strongly with an expectation that one should be creative

7. Imagery is more likely to stimulate creative thinking than language on its own

8. Creativity is often spurred on by a competitive tension

9. Strategy is often associated with heroic leadership by individuals

10. Strategic management, like management in general, has been more enamored with innovation as opposed to creativity

4 A More Creative View of Strategy

Strategy’s content: plans, patterns, positions, ploys, perspectives

The process of strategizing: designing, planning, positioning, learning, emerging, entrepreneuring, and so on

The outcomes of becoming strategized: orientation, animation, integration

5 Creating and Discovering a Creative Strategy Process

The ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY: Setting the Scene for Creative Strategy

PART I The Innovative Act: Discovery and Creation

6 The Bisociations of Strategic Innovation

The Importance of Being Innovative

Defining strategic innovation: Discovering and Creating the New and Original

7 The Six Outcomes of Strategic Innovation

1st Degree of Strategic Innovation: Value Innovation

The 2nd Degree of Strategic Innovation: Cost innovation

The 3rd Degree of Strategic Innovation: Volume innovation

The 4th Degree of Strategic Innovation: Market innovation

The 5th Degree of Strategic Innovation: Boundary innovation

The 6th Degree of Strategic Innovation: Learning innovation

8 Sparking Strategic Innovation





Beyond best practice


PART II Strategic Entrepreneurship: Dilettantes and Diligence

9 The Five Angles of Strategic Entrepreneurship

The force of a creative strategy

The five angles of strategic entrepreneurship

1st Angle of Entrepreneurship

2nd Angle of Entrepreneurship

3rd Angle of Entrepreneurship

4th Angle of Entrepreneurship

5th Angle of Entrepreneurship

The Cycle of Strategic Entrepreneurship

From Cycle to Interconnected Star

The strategic entrepreneur as a ‘diligent dilettante’

Creative thinking games for diligent dilletantes

10 Three Angular Journeys of Entrepreneurship

About a writer-entrepreneur

12 000 miles to market

Deciphering Codemasters

The ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY Act II: The Entrepreneurial Act

PART III Strategic Leadership: Envisioning and Interacting

11 Leading from the Middle

All Roads Lead to the Middle

Route 1: The rise of the ‘knowledge age’

Route 2: Working with the ‘wisdom of crowds’

Route 3: Rediscovering of the importance of the ‘gut instinct’ and intuition

Route 4: Tipping rather than charging

Route 5: The power of networks and relationships

Route 6: From IQ to many Qs

Route 7: ‘Post-heroic’ leadership

Route 8: Strategy from the middle

12 The Strategic Leadership Keypad

Switching Positions: Introducing the strategic leadership keypad

13 Shifting Keys: Leadership as Envisioning and Interacting

1. Leading ugly: Billy Beane

2. Leading without ‘leadership’: Arsène Wenger

3. Leading by whispering: Bill Campbell

4. Reconnecting Leadership: Saatchi & Saatchi

From Strategic Leadership to Strategic Organization


PART IV Strategic Organization: Focussing and Loosening

14 From Principles of Excellent Organizations to Organizational ‘Virtues’


Icarus, Aristotle and The Virtue of Virtues

15 Seven Virtues of Strategic Organization

The 1st Virtue: Integrating and fragmenting: Adaptive culture

The 2nd Virtue: Democracy and dictatorship: Meritocratic politics

The 3rd Virtue: Naïve and expert: Deutero-learning

The 4th Virtue: Subjective and disembodied: development from everywhere

The 5thVirtue Distracted and blinkered: A multi-tasking orientation

The 6th Virtue: Open planned and closed planned: Ambidextrous architecture

The 7th Virtue Static and flux: poised for change

16 Strategic Organization: Where Creative Strategy Ends (And Begins Again)

Organizing for creative strategy: Getting the particular balance right

Organizing Creative Strategy

The ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY Act IV: The Organizational Act

Sources and Suggested Further Reading



  • Defines ‘creative strategy’ as a mindset which switches between opposing processes and characteristics, and which should drive every aspect of a business to add greater value.
  • Enables managers and aspiring managers to uncover the creative connections behind successful strategies.
  • Helps readers to develop more strategically effective innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and organizing for the future.
  • Draws experiences and cases from across the music industry, sports, fashion, Shakespearean theatre companies, creative and media organizations and dance, as well as from traditional business organizations like Ford, Apple and Google.
  • By examining how innovation, entrepreneurship, organizational processes and leadership can be combined creatively and strategically in practice, Creative Strategy is an ideal text for integration or final year management courses.