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Management Accounting and CReativity: Analysis of MEanings

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Creativity and business can work together

When it comes to cultural and creative industries, the principles of creative output and traditional business practices can often clash. Researchers revealed the ways in which these contrasting principles can work together to achieve their differing goals.


Organisations operating in the cultural and creative industries face the problem of dealing with the conflicting values of traditional business principles and creative outpouring. Yet, all these values are relevant to succeed in the creative and cultural economy, and they need to be held together despite the tensions, creating a managerial problem. The EU-funded MACRAME project set out to address the tensions brought on by balancing the priorities of business in the cultural and creative industries. The project aimed to investigate how people in these organisations tackle the tensions in practice by looking at how management accounting and control tools can solve the problem. This research was undertaken with the support of the Marie Curie programme. “We collected data through observations, interviews and documents in three organisations; an opera house, a fashion company and an advertising agency,” says Paola Trevisan, MACRAME researcher. The organisations operate in very different sectors and have different business models and processes. Yet, they all rely on creativity, imagination and inspiration for designing and producing their cultural and creative goods.

Hierarchy, separation and composition

MACRAME discovered that the contradictions between creativity and management are not one-dimensional as previously thought in the accepted literature. The researchers found that there are ways in which multiple values can coexist, which often makes the compromise between the tensions of creativity and management necessary. The researchers found that hierarchy of priorities determines which principle is more important than others in managing an organisation. “For example, a company can decide that making profit is the most important criterion, and thus privileges market principles. Therefore, management accounting and control tools are used to analyse and predict market trends and to ensure efficiency and productivity, while creativity and creative values are important as long as they support the production of the market values,” explains Trevisan. The team also revealed the importance of principles separation. An organisation may decide that multiple principles are equally relevant and should be accounted for separately. For instance, it is a general adopted practice in creative organisations to divide the artistic or creative departments from business departments like operations or sales. With structural separation, it is clear who does and is responsible for what; who is the creative and who is not. Composition was also identified by MACRAME to be a fundamental concept in the management of an organisation. A company may decide that more principles are equally and simultaneously relevant for reaching a higher common goal. In such an instance, people in the organisation recognise that it is important to set aside the conflicts caused by hierarchy and bring values together. “Our analysis suggests that cultural and creative organisations adopt all three mechanisms. The first two refer more to the structural part of the organisation, while the latter combination is particularly crucial for the design and production process,” Trevisan concludes. “It is the diversity of perspectives, values and concerns that, when combined fruitfully, lead to the invention and generation of something new.”


MACRAME, principles, management, cultural and creative industries, management accounting, business practices

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