The Fantasy of Innovation: a philosophical investigation of contemporary discourses on management and innovation

Kristoffer Nyegaard

Student thesis: Master thesis


Innovation is one of the dominating concepts in contemporary management discourses. As a consequence of the global interest in innovation, organizations and management gurus explicitly encourage managers and employees to express themselves, to ‘think different,’ and to rebel against bureaucracy. However, translating directives of creativity into organizational practices is a problematic endeavour. This thesis undertakes a philosophical investigation of the normative idea of innovation. Specifically, I examine how this idea is articulated in popular management literature and enacted at a creative company. While contemporary management gurus try to develop an idea of creativity as a management concept, this thesis argues that such efforts stumble over a series of selfengendered paradoxes. What philosophical thought offers this investigation is a point of departure for creating and combining concepts that enable us to explore the paradoxes inherent in the normative idea of innovation. By drawing on Zizek’s psychoanalytic theory of ideology and Greimas’s theory of narratives, this thesis opens up post-bureaucratic discourses on innovation for a philosophical critique. This will be done through a reading of Gary Hamel’s narrative of management innovation primarily informed by Zizek’s concept of fantasy. Extrapolating this psychoanalytic approach to a case study, I examine how the normative idea of innovation functions at a creative company. Instead of drawing attention to the disparities between the rhetoric of creativity and the reality of the case company’s practices, I look at the internal logic of these practices and find that directives of creativity and innovation resist being translated into managerial practices. !2

EducationsMSc in Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages119