Navigating formal and informal trajectories in complex creative projects

Mainemelis, Charalambos and Sakellariou, Evy (2019) Navigating formal and informal trajectories in complex creative projects. In: British Academy of Management (BAM) Conference 2019 : Building and Sustaining High Performance Organisations in Uncertain Times : Challenges and Opportunities; 03 - 05 Sep 2019, Birmingham, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Using data from a real-time and in-situ study of a creative communication campaign in a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 multinational corporation, we explore how creative projects unfold in organizations by accessing formal and informal channels. Our findings reveal that during the course of its evolution the creative project followed a zigzagging trajectory by combining legitimate evolution in the formal channel; illegitimate evolution in the informal channel; and tactical switching between the formal and informal channels aimed at maximizing the creative project’s chances of success. Drawing on our findings, we designate this zigzagging trajectory as slacklining. We discern in our data five behavioral components of slacklining--brokerage, selective concealment, shared wins framing, use of time, and creative licensing--that are configured in different ways depending on the target of slacklining. We develop a grounded theoretical model that describes slacklining as a politically-driven form of creative action that alters decisively the balance of power among the structural barriers, structural enablers, and structural gaps that affect the evolution of creative projects in organizations. We discuss implications for theory and research on creative projects, bootlegging, and creative deviance.

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