Cooking Under Fire: Managing Paradoxes of Creativity and Innovation in Haute Cuisine

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW1.3.01 (Tower One)
Christel Lane, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Daniela Lup, LSE, London, United Kingdom
Research on organizational creativity has established that creativity and innovation are two distinct concepts and parts of the same process (West 2002, Amabile 1996). Creativity, the first stage of the innovation process, is generally conceptualized as the development of novel ideas, the “thinking of new things” (West 2002). The implementation of creative ideas is the second part of the process, the stage during which novel ideas become products and services (West 2002, West and Farr 1990).  Implicit in this conceptualization is that successful innovation is not reducible to the production of novel ideas, but that it requires the implementation of those ideas so that they may be deemed valuable by organizational stakeholders. Thus, successful organizations must excel at both stages.

Recent research has acknowledged, however, that numerous tensions and contradictions exist across the two stages, and has called for a better understanding of those tensions and of how successful organizations manage them (Andriopoulos and Lewis 2009; Anderson, Zhou 2014; Shalley and Gilson 2004). We heed this call by investigating creativity and its implementation in the context of haute cuisine in Britain and Germany, specifically looking at the work that takes place in forty restaurants that have been awarded Michelin stars. Creativity and implementation matter greatly in the haute cuisine sector because they affect the evaluations received from gastronomic guides and, in consequence, are crucial determinants of sustainable competitive advantage (Lane 2013). Studying the management of tension in haute cuisine also responds to calls from scholars of cultural industries who acknowledge that for entrepreneurs in these industries tensions are particularly severe (Slavich, Capetta, Salvemini 2014; Svejenova, Slavich, AbdelGawad, 2014).

Prior research has established that successful organizations manage tensions by embracing ambidextrous strategies, which allows them to pursue activities that have contradictory elements (Tushman and O’Reilly 1996; Raisch and Birkinshaw 2008). In the context of haute cuisine, studies have found that some of the most famous gastronomic entrepreneurs have successfully used “structural ambidexterity” (Raisch and Birkinshaw 2008) and separated creativity from implementation such that specific resources, time and space were dedicated to the two types of activities (Svejenova, Mazza and Planellas 2007, Slavich et al. 2014).

Whereas there is increasing evidence that separation of idea generation and implementation might be a feature that contributes to the success of some high-end restaurants, this evidence comes primarily from case studies of elite chefs such as Ferran Adria who has built an exceptional business model that enables him to push the innovation frontier in haute cuisine (Svejenova, Planellas, Vives 2010; see also Bouty and Gomez 2009; Messeni Petruzzelli and Savino 2012 for other examples of prominent chefs engaged in gastronomic enterprise). Thus, more evidence is needed to shed light on how separation between creativity and implementation occurs in more typical restaurants and, more generally, what lies beneath the surface of this kind of ambidextrous solution.