Business consultants everywhere preach the benefits of innovation—and promise to help businesses reap them. A trendy industry, this type of consulting generates courses, workshops, books, and conferences that all claim to hold the secrets of success. But what promises does the notion of innovation entail? What is it about the ideology and practice of business innovation that has made these firms so successful at selling their services to everyone from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies? And most important, what does business innovation actually mean for work and our economy today?
In Creativity on Demand, cultural anthropologist Eitan Wilf seeks to answer these questions by returning to the fundamental and pervasive expectation of continual innovation. Wilf focuses a keen eye on how our obsession with ceaseless innovation stems from the long-standing value of acceleration in capitalist society. Based on ethnographic work with innovation consultants in the United States, he reveals, among other surprises, how routine the culture of innovation actually is. Procedures and strategies are repeated in a formulaic way, and imagination is harnessed as a new professional ethos, not always to generate genuinely new thinking, but to produce predictable signs of continual change. A masterful look at the contradictions of our capitalist age, Creativity on Demand is a model for the anthropological study of our cultures of work.