Can you give a brief summary of your career to date, and the journey that brought you here to us at The University of Edinburgh Business School?
I studied economics and the management of social enterprises at the University of Trento and earned my PhD in General Management at the University of Bologna. Following the recommendation of a couple of key professors in Bologna, I decided to explore my lifetime passion – music – using the theoretical lenses of organisational studies and economic sociology. I had the competitive advantage of having been personally involved in the music industry for more than a decade: I knew some of its functioning, had connections with several artists, and could relate to the industry’s logic more easily. As soon as I started doing research on the music industry, I also realised that the study of creativity and creative organisations requires multiple complementary methods.
Since my post-doc at the University of Warwick, I have then further expanded my methodological toolkit, which now includes analytical techniques as diverse as interview and ethnography, multivariate regression, network analysis, spatial analysis, visual analysis, and is constantly broadening. In late 2019, the UEBS opened a position for “Lecturer in Creative Industries”. The job description virtually overlapped with my CV: hands-on experience in creative organisations, research in the creative industries, teaching experience, and a few relevant publications. I applied for the post, and here I am now!
If you had to give your ‘elevator pitch’ and explain in layman terms what your research and/or teaching focuses on, how would you answer?
In my teaching, I discuss with the students the functioning of creative markets and how cultural and creative organisations survive the pressing competition. Think about museums: how can they keep running with the impressive costs they face (maintaining huge collections or granting a salary to their large staff), while being free of charge, like in the UK? Or how do musicians make money out of their music, given that about 100,000 new songs are uploaded to Spotify every day? Who decides what is valuable in these markets? And how do technological advancements alter the creative process and the overall business landscape?
In my research, I try to contribute to better understanding creativity and innovation. Specifically, in my work I investigate how producers come up with innovative ideas and develop a distinctive artistic signature, and how these are received by the market. These are fascinating events, especially since the markets for creative “goods” (movies, music, theatre, plays, design, etc.) are highly symbolic contexts where a product’s quality is difficult to assess before both production and consumption. Furthermore, my primary empirical setting is electronic music, the single genre that has mostly influenced popular and non-popular music in the last 20 years. This all makes the study of creativity and innovation paths even more intriguing.
What do you enjoy most about your teaching and research? What challenges and excites you across both?
The most challenging and exciting aspect of teaching at the Business School is the diversity of the student cohorts. Especially in the study of creativity, diversity is key both for producing more creative ideas and for challenging the many preconceived assumptions we have about what is valuable. The students and my own exposure to different backgrounds is a constant source of fresh ideas and provocative thoughts, which is visible during in-class discussions as well as in the way different students’ groups address the same issue. From a lecturer perspective, it also calls for my ongoing effort to update my own view of the world: how can I step back and look at things in a different way? It is a virtuous circle, quite fun!
What advice would you give to your younger self, about to leave home and embark upon further education?
Follow your intuitions. As a creativity scholar and a person that has personally engaged with the arts, I have discovered that, by taking seriously one’s own dreams and embracing the challenge with a good dose of fun and passion, it is virtually impossible to end up doing something we are not meant to.
What one book, piece of music and beloved item would you take with you to a Desert Island?
As a key reading, I would take Isaac Asimov’s “The Foundation” trilogy: a celebration of logic, collective strategy, and human diversity, set up in an intergalactic empire over thousands of years. Music is more challenging: perhaps Jon Hopkins’ “Immunity”, with its mechanically dreamy atmospheres. And the item would be a piano: it would require a logistics company to bring it to the island, but would be a great source of inspiration and relax.
If you could invite anyone over for dinner (past/present) who would it be and why?
Imagine a dinner with a number of highly different ideas on the table – an artist, a biologist, a card reader, a sociologist, a carpenter, an astronaut, a philosopher, a farmer, an alchemist…this would be my first choice!
UEBS Research - Dr Giovanni Formilan
Giovanni Formilan (Lecturer in Creative Industries) discusses his research on the creative industries, particularly in the music field. He investigates artistic identity, market dynamics, and patterns of mobility.