On Orchestras as creative cultural heritage

On Orchestras as creative cultural heritage.

NWO (the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research) has allocated a KIEM grant to the project “Collaborative networks as a safety net in the performing arts: a network based approach to employment resilience in a struggling sector”, a research project initiated by Dr. Rick Aalbers (main applicant, Radboud) and Dr. Alex Alexiev (co-applicant, UvA) to further the understanding of downsizing dynamics in the creative sector.  A project conducted together with Sander Smit, member of the Radboud Centre for Organization Restructuring.

Downsizing forms a disruptive instrument to achieve organizational recovery with frequent application in economically struggling domain, such as certain parts of the creative sector. Inability of artists to recover, being unable to regain a position in other orchestras, inflicts not only direct costs upon society as resulting social security expenses escalate, but also increases the costs to the creative domain at large as less artists are able to perform, potentially wasting creative potential. Creative industries research has rarely looked into the individual strategies of artistic professionals in difficult times.

We take symphonic orchestras as a case study of the larger phenomenon of employment resilience. The Dutch orchestras experienced perhaps the most drastic changes upon government subsidy reduction. Orchestra productions are stable, standard pieces, and the profiles of musicians and performance of concerts require dedication, mastery and specific capabilities. Existing outplacement policies and methods are not well-tailored for such occupations. We employ a novel approach, that focuses on the collaborative networks and networking activities of such professionals. We will examine the formal and informal networks maintained by members of a leading Dutch orchestra with the objective to render insights on employment resilience of artistic professionals. By mapping out the social networks of those performing in Dutch orchestras, focusing on a recently reorganizing orchestra and its relations to others in the sector in particular, we will study the degree to which social relations promote reemployment opportunities.

Partners of the project are Gelders Orkest, Philharmonie Zuid-Nederland’ and Het Sociaal Fonds Podiumkunsten. The project will unfold over the period 2018-2019 and is a collaboration initiative initiated by the Radboud Centre for Organization Restructuring. The funding agency NWO is the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research supports a strong system of sciences in the Netherlands by encouraging quality and innovation in science. Its conviction is that scientific research contributes to prosperity and well-being and that it provides for a growing need for knowledge in the face of societal challenges, for economic development and to better understand ourselves and the world.



Improving the value-of-input for ideation by management

A discretionary social network in a firm is where individual employees voluntarily share new, innovative knowledge – activities in this network are essential to firm innovation. These activities are far from simple, and often end in failure due to managerial misunderstanding. This failure may have to do with the fact that ideation is largely a discretionary, voluntary activity. A discetionary activity overmanaged and over monitired with subsequent employee disengagement as a consequence. But then how to get traction for ideation as management while not overmanaging at the same time?

Our study identifies that, contrary to expectation, those employees whose task it is to professionally share valuable, new knowledge attributed the input for future innovation – ideators – fall short in leveraging a favorable position in a firm’s discretionary, informal social network.

Targeted intervention by management in the form of simple taskforce based temporal intervention, however, can change the networked interactions related to ideation within a firm for the better. Involvement in the discretionary social network being largely voluntary, the evolution of this network is likely to differ from that of the formal, workflow network. Yet, many employees in our case study have changed their behaviors, voluntarily increasing both the number of ties in the discretionary social network as well as offering increased value-of-input, without the guarantee of a return. Value-of-input and the number of alters an individual is connected to can ultimately meet with decreasing and possibly negative returns, but such reduced effects may not set in soon. There thus is substantial room to improve ideation activity in the very short term with little investment by management. Tapping into the ideation potential available in a firm as a whole, beyond the group of ideators, may, however, only be possible if a core group of ideators is present to begin with. Based on these insights we submit that both the network position as well as the formal role of an individual both needs to be taken into account to understand the antecedents to the voluntary exchange of valuable inputs within an organization.

For a more detailed read of the undergirding empirics, please see:

Aalbers and Dolfsma (2017) Improving the value-of-input for ideation by management intervention: An intra-organizational network study, Journal of Engineering and Technology Management.