Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Management by Research

School

School of Business and Law

First Advisor

Associate Professor Janice Redmond

Second Advisor

Dr Alan Coetzer

Abstract

In this study a number of Australian fashion enterprises are investigated in an effort to understand how product development is managed and creativity facilitated. Of particular interest was the interaction between the various actors in the creative process and the manner in which they influenced creative output. The study was underpinned by a wideranging review of the literature that reflects the multidisciplinary nature of creativity and innovation in business.

The study is timely because Australian fashion enterprises are operating in an increasingly challenging market with a perfect storm of competitive drivers at play. Technology enables instant dissemination of fashion trends and easy international shopping online. Tariff reductions and free trade agreements provide less protection for local manufacturers and revenues have contracted sharply in recent years. Retail revenues have flat-lined at a time when a number of global superbrands are opening stores in Australia with aggressive expansion plans. In response, government and industry groups are promoting product differentiation and innovation as key levers for competitiveness for Australian businesses. The reason for undertaking the study was to investigate contemporary product development practices, to identify barriers to creativity and find ways that enterprises can leverage the creative abilities of employees to improve innovation practices.

Managers of six enterprises from a diverse range of markets and enterprise types agreed to participate in a descriptive study of their product development practices. The study deployed a qualitative case based methodology and used a combination of data collection types including participant observation and field observation, field interviews, documents and artefacts. The data was analysed within case for key contextual findings and across case for broader themes and patterns.

Participant enterprises employed a variety of approaches to product development as described in the innovation literature (for example, Cappetta, Cillo, & Ponti, 2006; Cillo & Verona, 2008; Dell'Era & Verganti, 2007; Payne, 2011; Perks, Cooper, & Jones, 2005; Ward, Runcie, & Morris, 2009; Weller, 2007), with hybrid approaches at work in some cases. Management were not always aware of the practice implications for the various approaches, and though all participants deemed creativity important, it was not explicitly measured or rewarded. The dichotomy between management and creativity, a prevalent theme in the literature (for example, Adorno, 1997; Caves, 2000; Townley, Beech, & McKinlay, 2009), did not present strongly in the participant cases. Instead, more collaborative creative practices were in evidence where designers, merchandisers, sales and business managers developed and decided on product together.

The study provides rich detail about collaborative product development practices at an operational level that balances the management and leadership focus of the literature by leading creativity scholars in the field (for example, Amabile, Schatzel, Moneta, & Kramer, 2004; Basadur, 2004; Černe, Jaklič, & Škerlavaj, 2013; Mumford, Scott, Gaddis, & Strange, 2002; Shalley & Gilson, 2004). Similar to Tran’s (2010) detailed study on the practice of fashion designers, this study provides a window into distributed creative processes involving a variety of actors. Cross case analysis has revealed a number of themes that have implications for practice. These include the need for greater alignment of product development with strategic intent; the influence of organisational structure and reporting on creative processes; and the need to develop metrics and performance management systems that focus specifically on creativity.

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