People - 01.12.2015 - 00:00 

Understanding and fostering creative collaboration

Creativity is not borne out of nothing. Rather it emerges from encounters between people, and between people and materials. Further, creativity is mediated through techniques and technology. For his doctorate, Björn Müller followed a contemporary dance ensemble and analysed its "complicitous" creative process.
Source: HSG Newsroom

2 December 2015. For Björn Müller, the fact that creativity should originate from the minds of individuals was very unsatisfactory. As a psychologist, he had the desire to continue researching and enrolled at the University for a doctorate programme in "Organizational Studies and Cultural Theory".


In his doctorate "Organizational creativity as taste-making – towards a pragmatics of contemporary dance theatre production," Björn Müller carried out research on "organizational creativity". His interest covered the collaborative creative process. He studied within several contemporary dance theatre productions at the St.Gallen Theatre. Contemporary dance is developed as a piece of collaborative work between many participants. "Creativity emerges from the embodied, material and technological engagement with various materials: Body, music, space, artefacts etc.," says Müller. When it comes to organisation, Müller also speaks not of a group but of a "complicity". The ensemble makes "common cause," transgressing boundaries and norms in the positive sense and taking risks: testing, improvising and experimenting from the start through to the première and then on to the final performance so that the piece continues to take shape, forming a new whole, again and again.

How a "taste-making process" emerges

Björn Müller was a participative observer in the theatre production: He immersed, took part in rehearsals and training and recorded the development on video. He used the videos to analyse the process. His findings: creative collaboration within contemporary dance theatre is an individual and collective "taste-making process". Artistic organizations such as a dance company thereby continuously develop their own "taste guidelines" through the experimental engagement with the field’s implicit or explicit norms and standards. The term "taste" is deemed most suitable for describing the co-development of the pieces, and hence the materials, together with their creators and their skills and sensibilities.

Understanding and developing creativity
"One main result is an overall conceptual framework for how organisations are able to understand and describe a creative process from A to Z," says Björn Müller. He wants to direct the discourse on creativity in a new direction: as the result of an organized and mediated encounter of embodied actors and materials. "It can never be fully planned, but it can be invited when relying on skilled experimental set-ups, curiosity, humility, careful interactions, hope and humour," concludes Björn Müller.