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Management Accounting and CReativity: Analysis of MEanings

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MACRAME (Management Accounting and CReativity: Analysis of MEanings)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-09-30

The Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs), which include firms operating in sectors such as media, software, arts and culture, design and fashion, are considered by policy makers worldwide as having a high potential for sustainable growth, employment and social cohesion. However, the organizations operating in the CCIs face the problem of dealing with multiple and sometimes conflicting values and principles. In fact, in such industries, traditional business principles - like efficiency and profitability - tend to be in conflict with the values that form the basis of creative outpouring. Yet, these values are necessary to succeed in the creative and cultural economy, and they need to be upheld despite the tensions they generate.
Understanding how organizations in the CCIs manage the plurality of conflicting values is a necessary step towards the EU goal of unlocking the potential of the CCIs.
MACRAME project looked at how cultural and creative organizations manage the presence of multiple and conflicting values. It focused particularly on how management accounting and control tools can contribute to solving the tensions and guiding the creative processes.
MACRAME researchers followed two interconnected processes: one “in the field” aimed at understanding how cultural and creative organizations operate, and the second “at the desk” to study the theories that helped us interpret and explain what we saw.
Regarding the fieldwork, as secondment in an advertising agency was conducted, and the researchers collected data through observations, interviews and documents. The study was complemented with data previously collected in two other organizations: an opera house, and a fashion company.
Regarding the theories, MACRAME has drawn from economic sociology and valuation studies that allowed the researcher to deal with the complexity of the social practices of valuation.
Contrasting the existing literature with the project’s findings, MACRAME researchers have found that there are at least three ways in which cultural and creative organizations manage the presence of market, industrial and inspiration principles, and these are: hierarchy, separation and combination.
Hierarchy. Organizations might decide that one principle is more relevant than others, in general or in a specific situation. Hierarchy can lead to controversial situations. One can claim that a secondary principle has been unfairly prioritized, or that an important principle has been unfairly underrepresented. This is how the literature has usually approached the tensions between artistic and business values in the CCIs.
Separation. Organizations might decide that multiple principles are equally relevant and accounts for them separately. This is how the literature has traditionally studied the role of management accounting and controls in accommodating principles other than those related to finance and the market, as, for example, in the case of sustainability reports that separate social, environmental and economic measures of value.
Composition. Organizations might decide that more principles are equally and simultaneously relevant for reaching a higher common good. People in the organization recognize that it is important to set aside the conflicts (originating from the hierarchy) and to combine values (instead than separating them), in other words, to make a composition of values (Boltanski and Thévenot refers to this when they use the word “compromise”). Thanks to the case studies, MACRAME project was able to uncover the way in which creative organizations manage to make compositions of values that enable creative processes without provoking conflicts. The recognition of compositions of values makes it possible to look at traditional accounting and control practices in a novel way. Accounting and control are complex valuation practices which do not simply prioritize the industrial and market principles – like in the case of hierarchy – nor do they just help distancing values – like when applying separation. They also enable people to make relevant questions on the value(s) of the creative and cultural production, and support them in their effort to associate, translate and combine values. Accounting and control practices can thus support the making of compositions of values, as long as the focus is not on the mere financial measures or control standards, but rather on the values object that is being monetized or standardized.
MACRAME researchers have collected the results in two working papers that have been presented at international conferences and workshops. MACRAME researchers will proceed in the next months to ensure the results of the project are published and accessible.
MACRAME has contributed to the literature on the role of management accounting in the cultural and creative industry by showing that the contradictions between creativity and management are not as one-dimensional as the literature often claims. Rather, there are ways in which multiple values can coexist, often requiring compromises that make situations acceptable – even if not entirely justifiable. The literature seems to focus on two ways in which organizations can resolve tensions between values. We call it hierarchy and separation. MACRAME made possible to uncover and add a third way in which cultural and creative organizations manage the presence of market, industrial and inspiration principles. We call it composition. The research conducted by MACRAME researchers, suggests that cultural and creative organizations can adopt all the three mechanisms for dealing with multiple values. However, it is through the composition of values that organizations manage their creative and production processes, by ensuring the simultaneous presence of diverse perspectives, competences, and notions of what is “good”.
MACRAME highlights that the role of accounting objects and management controls vary across the three options, assuming a more ambiguous role when composition of values are sought. Traditional accounting tools and management controls, like production budgets and plans, support actors in the task of making compositions of values by providing an arena to discuss the values of the objects that they are meant to measure, monetize, or standardize.
CCIs practitioners and students can benefit from the deeper understanding of the tensions between creativity and management and from the possible contribution that management technologies give in combining – rather than separating or opposing – creativity and business values.
The project contributed to increase the awareness on the management skills and technologies that creative industries need to have in order to grow and have an impact on society. This is a necessary step to unleash their potential for social cohesion, employment, and growth, and therefore it contributes to the objectives of the EU Creative Europe Framework Program