Original Research

The creative development process: Biographical insights on innovation in Anglophone music

David A. Priilaid, Chris W. Callaghan
Acta Commercii | Vol 23, No 1 | a1129 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v23i1.1129 | © 2023 David A. Priilaid, Chris W. Callaghan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 February 2023 | Published: 25 July 2023

About the author(s)

David A. Priilaid, School of Management Studies, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Chris W. Callaghan, School of Business Sciences, Faculty of Commerce, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; and School of Management, Faculty of Business and Law, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, United Kingdom


Orientation: This qualitative study follows a process of inductive theory development.

Research purpose: Focussing on recent ‘pop icon’ musicians, the aim was to weave systemic insights into a holistic model that identifies some characteristics of creative development.

Motivation for the study: Within the diverse literature on creativity, what seems missing is an integrative perspective of similarities in the creative path-dependent development process.

Research design, approach and method: Following an in depth review of publicly available data about iconic Anglophone musical artist-musicians of the period spanning the 1960s–1980s, including Dylan, Cohen, Young and Springsteen, bibliographic and life turning-point analysis was applied to derive propositions about a path-dependent process of creative development.

Main findings: The study finds that such individuals typically trace a ‘path-dependent’ trajectory of creative transition across seven stages. Sequentially, these are the stages of: (1) Pathology, (2) The Rage to Master, (3) Authenticity, (4) Perseverance, (5) Practice, (6) Perspective and (7), Accessing Flow. Drawing insights from Gardner’s theory of creative asynchrony, after which asynchronies that seem to characterise a process of negotiation and transition of conflicts across these stages was derived.

Practical/managerial implications: The model derived provides useful insights into how to enable creative development for those in similar contexts.

Contribution/value-add: The study provides a conceptual ordering of key biographical milestone stages and intrinsic influences explaining aspects of creative development. Thus, the study builds on previous work on the creative career development of individuals in a music industry genre and extends the literatures related to biographical analysis including personality, individual differences and turning points.


creativity; creative development; creativity management; music; innovation; path-dependence; turning points; asynchrony.

JEL Codes

O31: Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives; O35: Social Innovation; Z11: Economics of the Arts and Literature

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure


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