The Art of Management and Organization conference, Brighton 2018

The first conference I ever went to was back in 2008 – it was the Art of Management conference and it was held in beautiful Banff in the Centre for Arts and Creativity. We stayed in the mountains and it was stunning. I remember being really nervous – it was the first ‘outing’ of my research on hairdressers and space and I practiced and practiced my presentation. I was only two and half years into my PhD and only a few months into my fieldwork – I had some amazing photographs from the hairdressers but wasn’t quite sure what I was going to say about it all…

I shouldn’t have worried so much – it was a great conference full of creative, supportive, off-the-wall, artistic, bold thinking, boundary-pushing people from all over the world, who worked across a whole heap of subjects. Scholars and practitioners came together to re-think, re-write, and build relationships across management and leadership disciplines, all with the ‘arts’ in mind – it was a great experience.

So, 2018. Ten years on. I have been to other conferences – SCOS CMS EGOS and the OS Workshop ….later this month, the Ethnography Symposium but there’s nowhere quite like the Art of Management …

…and I am delighted to be going back, next year, to run a stream with my great friend and colleague Dr Jenna Ward (Leicester) and another colleague Dr Richard Watermeyer (Bath). We are going to be thinking about ‘Researching and Engaging Differently: using the arts in management and organisation studies’ …and here is our call for papers!…

In 2013 Edgar Schein identified six contributions art and the artist can and do make to ‘other elements of society like business and government’ (2013:1). Here we use these six contributions to stimulate ideas, debates and discussions around the role that art and the artists have in broadening and deepening scholarly approaches to researching and engaging differently in management and organisation studies.

Art and Artists stimulate us to see more, hear more, and experience more of what is going on within us and around us.

  • Art does and should disturb, provoke, shock and inspire
  • The artist can stimulate us to broaden our skills, our behavioural repertory, and our flexibility of responses
  • The role of the arts and artists is to stimulate our own aesthetic sense
  • Analysis of how the artist is trained and works can produce insights into what is needed to perform and what it means to lead and manage.
  • Art puts us in touch with our creative self

Indeed, arts-based methods of research, engagement and dissemination, including visual, performative and collaborative forms of enquiry have the power to mobilize and provoke individuals and communities to reflect and engage (Mitchell, 2011). Visual works facilitate reflexivity (Berger, 1972; Sontag, 1977) by situating the individual within. In this way, art has the capacity to engage with tensions and ambiguities whilst holding open possibilities for critical reflection, re-constructing, sense-making and change (Wicks & Rippin, 2010). As Schein identifies, art provokes, shocks and inspires us to see, hear and experience ideas, concepts and contexts differently. In this way, art and artists have the potential to inspire change, or in the vocabulary of the academy – to have impact.

This is not to imply that scholars should engage with art and artists for instrumental, evaluative reasons. Arts-based and visual methods of research have the potential to elicit deeper, more emotional, more reflexive accounts when compared to more traditional approaches to qualitative research, address a variety of power dynamics within the researcher/ participant relationship and are particularly useful in reaching vulnerable or marginalized voices communities and stakeholders.  (see Easterby-Smith et al, 2012; Slutskaya et al, 2012; Ward & Shortt, forthcoming). By way of extension, artistically informed approaches to research have the residual potential not only to elicit richer data but might also engage a wider variety of audiences more readily.

Indeed, a variety of arts have been used in management and organisation research including poetry (Armitage, 2014); textiles (Rippin, 2013), photography (Warren, 2002; Shortt, 2015; Slutskaya et al, 2012; Ray & Smith, 2012); drawing (Vince, 1995, 1996 Stiles, 2004, 2011, 2014; Ward and Shortt, 2012; 2017), film (Wood & Brown, 2012) and knitting (Ahmas & Koivunen, 2017). Each method has begun to speak to the value of exploring “a different way of thinking, feeling and doing” ( It is assumed academics do a lot of the former (thinking) whilst practitioners, stakeholder groups, organisational members, politicians and policy makers a lot of the latter (doing). In this special issue we ask how, why and in what ways does art open up, through feeling, a way of bringing thinking and doing to engage, challenge, provoke and inspire ‘impact’.  In this stream then we ask what role the arts have to play in generating pathways to impact?

In a research and scholarly environment heavily shaped by neo-liberal models of performance management, market forces and quantifiable outcomes, academics face increasing pressures to demonstrate the ‘impact’ their research has both economically and socially. In the UK, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) encourages academic researchers and their institutions to consider, pursue and track the ‘impact’ of their research findings. Impact accounted for 20% of the total REF award in 2014 and will likely increase to 25% for REF2021. Elsewhere, the accrediting body, AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Business Schools based in the USA but with international reach) places particular emphasis on the character and reception of research outputs (Pettigrew, 2011) and economic and social impact statements now feature as mandatory sections in all RCUK funding proformas.

Watermeyer (2016:200) defines REF impact as ‘intended to measure the influence of research and the appropriation of its findings by non-academic constituencies’. The impact agenda, instituted largely by REF in the UK, and through other bodies in the United States, Australia and Europe, is a structural attempt to ‘raise the aspirations and deliver forms and processes of knowledge which meet the double hurdle of scholarly quality and policy/practice impact’ (Pettigrew, 2011:347). Whilst there has been much criticism of the impact agenda well-rehearsed in academic forums, both traditional and digital, this is largely beyond the scope of this call for contributions (see Collini 2017; Moriarty 2011; Watermeyer, 2016; and others). Impact, is a pervasive aspect of research performance in the UK and other international sectors and is therefore worthy of our attention in relation to the ways in which it can, and will, inform the ways in which we design research and engage audiences.

Extant discussion on generating ‘impactful’ research was catalysed by Davies et al’s (2005) report on an ESRC symposium on research evaluation in which they identify the need for recognising how different types of research produce different types of knowledge. By and large, this has been reduced to the need for co-produced research. Indeed, as Pettigrew (2011:350) argues, there is a working hypothesis that ‘early and continuing engagement between knowledge producers inside and outside universities increases the probability of policy/practice impact.’ Indeed, the ESRC’s guidelines for impact evaluation recommend ‘prioritisation in establishing relationship and networks with user communities; involving users at all stages of research, well-planned user engagement and knowledge exchange activities’ (Watermeyer, 2016:207). Yet, there is little discussion, guidance or best practice on how these things might be achieved. As a scholarly community, we arguably need a better strategic approach to determining impact than ‘serendipity’ (Pettigrew, 2011).

A first step to having, and therefore being able to track and evidence, ‘impact’ is to make audiences, communities and organisations aware of research findings and for them to critically engage with them. This is broadly what is understood by user-engagement and knowledge exchange activity. Whilst engagement activities of this kind are not, in and of themselves, impact, they are seen to be a pathway to potential impact. Traditional scholarly routines require academics to write for their peers, but as Robinson (2013) points out this means ‘they have seldom been confronted by the necessity to explain themselves in the accepted sense or to justify their endeavours in the broadest terms’ (Robinson, 2013: page). If we want our research to have impact we need to start thinking and engaging differently in the way we communicate our findings and engage our audiences.

This stream will build on emergent themes in management and organisation studies to develop and explore the ways in which the arts can be embedded into research design to open up the discipline to alternative ways of researching and engaging with a view to developing impact. Papers may explore alternative forms of identifying research questions or foci, for example co-production methods; alternative methods of research and or alternative and creative methods of disseminating knowledge, engaging audiences, stakeholders, communities and societies and finally offer alternative qualitative approaches to evaluating ‘impact’. This special issue may enable us to move from asking ‘what impact has my research had?’ to ‘how can my research design enable affective change for knowledge beneficiaries / research user constituencies?’ We encourage submissions and contributions that explicate practical aspects of engaging with the arts in management and organisation studies and management learning and education along with those that engage in critical theoretical debates around the role the arts can play in a greater imagining of ‘impact’ and public engagement with academic research.

We therefore welcome contributions that address some of the following:

  • What role can art play in a greater imagining of public engagement practices between social scientists and non-academic publics?
  • Who can be engaged in and with organisational research through the arts? What are the challenges, limitations and practicalities?
  • Practices of and responses to embedding the arts into management inquiry?
  • The extent to which art and artists have a role in contemporary management/ business schools? And if so, in what capacity?
  • How can engaging with arts-based methods of research and engagement shape research designs and impact strategies?
  • What is the relationship between artistic approaches to research and dissemination and processes of impact generation?
  • What skills, processes, infrastructures, relationships and networks can management and organisation scholars develop, by working across disciplines such as fine and performance arts and design?

If you would like to discuss your article prior to submission please contact; or

Abstracts of no more than 500 words, in word.doc format, should be submitted as an email attachment by 1 December 2017 to and to, as stream convener. All decisions will be made on the basis of the abstracts submitted. For those in need of a fully refereed conference paper, a deadline for submission will be communicated a little closer to the conference.


Ahmas, K. & Koivunen, N. (2017) Guerilla knitting: An emerging approach to organize a museum project, Organizational Aesthetics, 57-79

Armitage, A. (2014) Poetry and the Silence of Working Life, Journal of Critical Organizational Inquiry, 21(1): 24

Davies, H., Nutley, S. & Walter, I. (2005) Approaches to assessing the non-academic impact of social science research, ESRC Symposium Report

Mitchell, C. (2011) Doing Visual Research, Sage: London

Pettigrew, A.M. (2011) Scholarship with Impact, British Journal of Management, 22(?):347-354

Ray, J, and Smith, A. (2012) ‘Using Photographs to Research Organizations: Evidence, Considerations, and Application in a Field Study’ Organizational Research Methods, 15, 288-315.

Rippin, A. (2013) Putting the Body Shop in its place: A studio-based investigation into the new sites and sights of organization as experience. Organization Studies. 34 (10):1551-1562

Schein, E.H. (2013) The Role of Art and the Artist, Organizational Aesthetics, 2(1):1-4

Slutskaya, N., R. Simpson, J. Hughes (2012) ‘Lessons from photoelicitation: encouraging working men to speak’ Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, 7, 16-33.

Shortt, H. (2015) ‘Liminality, space and the importance of ‘transitory dwelling places’ at work’, Human Relations, 68, 633-658.

Stiles, D. (2004) Pictorial Representation in Catherine Cassell and Gillian Symon (eds.) Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research, London: Sage pp127-139

Stiles, D. (2011) Disorganization, disidentification and ideological fragmentation: verbal and pictorial evidence from a British business school, Culture and Organization, 17(1):5-30

Stiles, D. (2014) ‘Drawing as a method of organizational analysis’, in S. Warren, E. Bell, and J. Schroeder (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Visual Organization, Oxon: Routledge. pp227-242

Vince, R. (1995) Working with emotions in the change process: using drawings for team diagnosis and development, Organisations and People, 2(1):11-17

Vince, R. & Broussine, M. (1996) Paradox, Defense and Attachment: Accessing and Working with Emotions and Relations Underlying Organizational Change, Organization Studies, 17(1):1-21

Ward, J. & Shortt, H. (2012) Evaluation in Higher Education: A visual approach to drawing out emotion in student learning’, Management Learning, 44(5):435-452

Warren, S. (2002) ‘Show me how it feels to work here: Using photography to research organizational aesthetics’ ephemera: theory and politics in organizations, 2, 224-245.

Watermeyer, R. (2016) Impact in the REF: issues and obstacles, Studies in Higher Education, 41(2):199-214

Wicks, G. & Rippin, A. (2010) Art as experience: An inquiry into art and leadership using dolls and doll-making, Leadership, 6(3): 259-278

Wood, M. & Brown, S. (2012),”Film-based creative arts enquiry: qualitative researchers as auteurs”, Qualitative Research Journal, 12(1): 130 – 147



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