The nature and processes of creativity in small businesses
: what may we learn from a small software firm?

  • Gloria Appiah

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    What is the nature and processes of creativity in small businesses? My fine-grained qualitative study of a small UK software business, GoTravel, suggests that such businesses often show tremendous creativity in the everyday processes they use to negotiate complex problems that their internal and external limitations induce.
    The empirical findings that I use to support this view are in three main parts. First, internal organisational problems, which seemed to restrict employee engagement in creative actions, provoked novel and appropriate — i.e. creative —actions by the small business in pursuing opportunities to access inputs they needed to build competitive software. Second, these actions entailed the tactical creation of fertile sites within collaborations held with product users in line with principles of agile software development, to enable activities relevant for accessing required inputs for building improved software. Third, within these sites, GoTravel advanced its creative actions by leading product users in ‘play’ activities with the purpose of accessing their inputs, which included their time, money, autonomy and actions, and ameliorating the disadvantaged position the small business occupied in the agile-inspired collaborations.
    To explicate my findings, I draw on the entrepreneurship literature, particularly work conducted to study processes that entrepreneurs use to orient themselves amid problems, while creating opportunities for establishing new ventures. Here, I focus specifically on spatial concepts Hjorth used to study how entrepreneurial processes unfold under constraining managerial orders, as well as insights from critical perspectives from the co-creation literature. I use these lenses to illuminate the tactical and creative actions that GoTravel manifested in the ways they reassigned ‘managerial orders’ in their software industry, which threatened their ability to access inputs from their product users into other uses — i.e. ‘spaces of play’. Here, they seemed to have ‘lured’ their product users into co-creation activities to accomplish goals for developing new products and, indeed, ‘conquer’ managerial orders in their external environments, even if temporarily.
    This study contributes to current research on organisational creativity by drawing attention to creativity inherent in the processes that small businesses use to negotiate problems they often confront in the journey to building novel and impactful solutions. In addition, I bring conceptual lenses from entrepreneurship, a field that is sympathetic to the characteristics of small businesses, particularly their constraints and limitations, to expand current knowledge we have of creativity by such businesses. My research also contributes to current valuable work on co-creation, especially in how organisations may use various forms of co-creation as a tactical and creative tool to address their own limitations.
    Date of Award5 Jun 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorWilson Ng (Supervisor) & Guy Bohane (Supervisor)


    • Organizational creativity, small businesses, creative processes, constraints

    Cite this