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Networks of Enterprises

What are networks of enterprises?

Networks of enterprises are a type of diagram first used by American psychologist Howard Gruber with creative people at work (Wallace and Gruber, 1989). Gruber outlines that they encompass several related activities that allow the “creative person” to continue towards goals in different areas (1989:11). The diagram is intended to help the individual to track numerous enterprises that change over time. In this context, enterprises refer to different interests in one’s life.  

I first came across this tool when looking into artist-teachers – the focus of my current research. James Daichendt (2011) used a network of enterprises to track and chart the career of the first artist-educator George Wallis (2011:72). The enterprises included within this included, artist, teacher, philosopher, designer, and his education (2011:72) (Figure 1). 

Figure 1 A reproduction of Daichendt’s Network of Enterprises for George Wallis (2011:72) 

Within the network of enterprises, the width of the columns indicates the level of involvement in each, from none to significant. Wallace and Gruber (1989) state this shows the “trade-off” between the enterprises, as well as the “density and breadth” of them (1989:12). When compiling Wallis’ network of enterprises, Daichendt (2011) found that the tool tracked the diverse aspects of Wallis’ life. Additionally, it helped Daichendt to visualise the “streams of thinking” that led Wallis to identify as an artist-educator (2011:71).  

Networks of enterprises and artist-teachers in ACL

In my work with this tool, I have come to think of it as a kind of visual CV and a tool for personal discovery. While I have also used it with creative people at work, namely artist-teachers from an adult community (ACL) context, I believe that the network of enterprises is useful to anyone with more than one enterprise. Creative or otherwise.  

I introduced my participants to networks of enterprises during the interview phases of my research. I used the tool to help me get to know their professional careers and how they ended up as artist-teachers in ACL. Below are some interview extracts from participants reflecting on the tool. 

“[The] network of enterprises is good as a personal thing I think” 

Artist-Teacher V

“…the network of enterprise I thought it was a very simple visual. It’s a little bit like a CV really. So, you could kind of expand that almost, so I [could] put my physio in there as well, you could kind of just quite easily plot out your kind of career history…I’d need to add one or two more columns”  

Artist-Teacher G

Participants quickly started to take ownership of their networks of enterprises, showing the tool to have real-life applicability. Participants added their career histories easily, even those unrelated to their creative practice. Artist-Teacher G, for example, added her work in the NHS (Figure 2). Additionally, other participants suggested they would also add personal columns, such as family responsibilities or their health, to see how these impacted their achievement of goals.

Figure 2 Artist-Teacher G Network of Enterprises 

“I found the network of enterprises a really interesting thing because I think it’s got the timeline in it and we all have a timeline. We will have a story. It is quite a powerful visual thing” 

Artist-Teacher P

Tracking time

Networks of enterprises track your life over time – decades, years, months, or weeks. You can tailor them to document your timeline and use them to visually tell the story of your professional career.  

Within my research, the enterprises of artist-teachers in ACL have largely been documented yearly, or years have been clustered together if there had been no change in the enterprises or level of involvement with them. However, in Daichendt’s (2011) work with Wallis’s time is presented in five-year blocks. This is because Daichendt is charting Wallis’s whole career posthumously.

However, as a tool used by those of us still within our careers, I have found that using a year-by-year time frame allows the network to go into more depth.   

Achieving your goals

The intended use by Wallace and Gruber (1989) was on goal achievement (1989:11), and so you can use the network of enterprise to help you reach your own goals but assessing the significance of each enterprise and its relation to what it is you want to achieve. For example, if my goal is to be a prolific exhibiting artist, but the significance of art in my life is currently low, this might be unlikely (Figure 3). 

Figure 3 Abbie Cairns Network of Enterprises 

Using a network of enterprises  

  • Name your enterprises – you might have two or more.  
  • Pick a time frame that works for you – yearly or monthly.  
  • Assess the significance of each enterprise – high, low, none.  
  • Use the tool to predict the future. If your goals are unaligned with the current significance for a year, use the tool to document the change you need to make by looking one-five years ahead – refer to this as time passes! 

Use the handy templates provided to save time, and if you find you have more enterprises just keep adding columns!  

I hope this tool helps you discover yourself and reach your goals. 


Daichendt, G. J. (2011) ‘The Nineteenth-Century Artist-Teacher: A Case Study of George Wallis and the Creation of a New Identity’, International Journal of Art & Design Education, 30(1), pp. 71–80. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-8070.2011.01673.x. 

Wallace, D, B., and Gruber, H. E. (1989) Creative People at Work: Twelve Cognitive Case Studies. New York: Oxford University Press.

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The author

Abbie Cairns is an artist-teacher working in Adult Community Learning. She is currently completing her PhD at Norwich University of the Arts, in which she explores the identity (trans)formation of artist-teachers in ACL. Cairns identifies herself as an artist-teacher and is engaged in both art and teaching practices. Abbie is interested in how those that identify as artist-teachers in ACL came to develop their identity and is engaged in narrative research with self-selecting participants. Her research was motivated by her own lived experience of being an artist-teacher in ACL and wanting to connect with others living the same experience. Abbie is a text-based artist who makes, and exhibits work regularly. She sits on the board for Colchester Art Society and work with SPACE to facilitate the Creative Practitioner Support Programme, which supports emerging artists.

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