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MGSM870 Case write-up

Shanghai Tang

They are so passionate about their designs. They take it like its their life.

When we present our designs, its like we are presenting ourselves

Key Tensions and Challenges

Tensions between seven in-house designers and key business managers as part of
the Product Committee Meetings us and them culture - are apparent in their
source of motivation, identity, purpose, and priorities, but also apparent with the
Buyers in the Retail Management Meetings.

Designers value creativity, aesthetics, and expression, whereas the key business
managers focus on market, costs, and efficiency. In sociology, we call this
contradictory or conflicting logics. Le Masnes challenge above all else is to
somehow align designers with the organizations vision, mission, and goals.

Motivation: Creativity v. Business

As per the quotes above, the designers are motivated by the opportunity to express
themselves in their creative work, the autonomy to do their own work, and the
possibility of recognition and esteem from key business managers, buyers, and in
their field more broadly.

Their sense of self depends on how (significant) others perceive them creatively:
recognition heightens their self-concept, whereas rejection damages it. In terms of
the broad drivers/needs, it is clear that Esteem, Self-actualisation, and Growth are

Business Managers source of motivation is simple: efficiency, branding, profit,

market share, survival, etc. In terms of the broad drivers/needs, Security,
Existence, and Defence are apparent.

These are the contradictory/conflicting logics I mentioned above.

Professional Identities

Designers see themselves as artists and innovators/creators, and so, they find it
hard/inconsistent with their identity to mass produce designs expected/demanded
of them and what customers want.

Meanwhile managers perceive designers to be impractical, emotional, and too easily

distracted by their need for self-expression. They have identities as efficient,
practical, and competent executors of the companys mission, and so for them,
the designers creative aspirations are misaligned or inconsistent with the companys
goals and their role as stewards of the companys fortunes.
As you can expect, people are highly motivated to defend their identities, and
so, threats to such can create disharmony and antisocial behaviour.

Intrinsic v. Extrinsic Motivation

Designers yearning for autonomy and self-expression suggest they are intrinsically
motivated i.e. driven to work for its own sake (e.g. interest and enjoyment,
expression, etc.) rather than for external rewards or to avoid punishment.

Harsh external constraints, the Shanghai Tang Way/DNA, inappropriate rewards

and punishments, etc., may therefore impede learning and creativity.

Satisfaction v. Dissatisfaction

Conflict between role/identities i.e. designers professional goals for creating novel
and self-expressive designs versus the organizations goals to satisfy
buyers/customers with what they want and expect, may cause decreased job

Conflicting goals make achievement of same difficult, and not achieving goals may
create negative feelings towards the job i.e. low self-concept, a sense of self-
blame, etc. Also, the interpersonal conflict with dissimilar (significant) others and
not gaining recognition from (significant) others, also lowers self-concept.


Very briefly, the organisation needs a person who straddles both worlds and who
can align disparate personal goals to the organisations; the outgoing creative
director, Ooi, bridged creativity and business but what is needed is a buffer, a
translator, and champion of both sides.

Above all else, the intrinsic motivation of designers MUST be preserved for ideas,
designs, etc., to be generated and explored otherwise novelty/creativity will be

Ways to support creative employees passions while achieving financial objectives

include supporting a diverse range of projects and carefully choosing
challenging, yet financially viable projects. In this context, I recommend project-
based teams or cross-functional teams wherein the business managers and
designers collaborated more to make use of the healthy tension. Task-related
conflict is good for group decision-making (avoids group-think), productivity, and
optimal use of group member expertise as it stimulates and expands discussions in
constructive ways. The designers need space and psychological safety to take
risks, but they also need to realise that the organisation is not just a place for them to
express themselves, but also a commercial enterprise. In all creative industries,
creativity always confronts business constraints and the rejection of their designs is
in no way personal.