Creativity in action
This paper aims to present the background and process for a creative session.
The idea of process is explained by means of flux and the implications for the creative process of creactivation.
Intervening in the course of things requires serious creativity with proper attention to different perspectives. For this use is made of the four quadrants (AQAL as proposed by Ken Wilber): the interior subjective perspectives; -I- and -WE-. The objective viewpoint -IT- is used for the reviewing the system demands and the required know-how.
The concept of holons is used to explain the tensions these 'part/whole' create; tensions which will create problems but can also be put to creative use.
Finally, a process model (SHITE) is given to find our way across paradigms.
[back to English Index] for more links see below
The computer has and is taking lots of laborious tasks. However, it is not very likely to replace the human imagination. It is man's creative ability that can explore hitherto unknown fields, and creactivation is the tool.
It requires a serious playful attitude that is not easily adopted in everyday working life. It is serious but not deadly serious, it is more like a real life action play. The crucial question is where I place myself in this game; if I see myself outside the process, then I am not the creator. Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open. You have to see yourself at the centre of the creative process. Then you can do what you want to do; reframe or reverse the situation, search for analogies and metaphors, provoke your assumptions. It is the world where deadlines are replaced by lifelines. Things happen because you want them to, no matter whether the results feel (immediately) good or bad and irrespective of whether they bring any obvious benefit. The world can be reversed by such a simple question as What if .... and if impossible goals are set, a serious process can make us see the way to reach them.
It is an excursion, a journey of exploration where a person or a group can feel open and receptive. And all the while our subconscious is on the lookout for something - a flash of inspiration - and when it occurs this is the moment of eureka! this 'AHA-erlebnis' is not ordinary thinking. All research shows that creative people tend to introduce a question into their minds and then relax and wait for the answer to arrive. The main goal of a creative session is to guide the participants through the excursion, free them of their normal restraints so that judgement is delayed.
In every office
you hear the threads
of love and joy and fear and guilt,
the cries for celebration and reassurance,
and somehow you know that connecting those threads
is what you are supposed to do
and business takes care of itself.
(Formerly president of Meredith Corporation)
When problems are felt, there is a need for change i.e. improvement and/or problem solving. To be truly creative knowledge of the nature of change is of paramount importance. More often than not specific problems are solved without an eye to the consequences for connected parts, thus creating new problems. Sub-optimizing lies directly around the corner, and specifically aspects relating to culture are not always given the attention they deserve. People are an important asset, but not easily fathomed and often attention is given to designing efficient systems. When the organization has been properly drawn in terms of systems and structure, people will fall into step, seems to be the idea. It is easily forgotten that change is always there and every organization, or department, is subject to constant -continuous- change: 'the threads of love and joy and fear and guilt' have to be connected. A conscious effort, discontinuous change is an effective way to find ways for innovation.
Much has been said and written about this subject. The number of articles on the internet is witness to the enormous interest. It is a relatively modern word, its first appearance in the meaning in which we know it now, is at the beginning of the 19th century. The enlightenment created the awareness that man can create, himself. Until then man lived in a God- created world. Individual creativity stood at the cradle of the industrial revolution, man became the (co)creator, the ego entered the stage in a new form. The process of evolution is basically a process of awakening existing potential into awareness, and our creative potential seems unlimited.
painting by Hokusai
I regard the essence of the notion of process as given by the statement: Not only is everything changing, but all is flux. That is to say, what is is the process of becoming itself, while all objects, events, entities, conditions, structures, etc., are forms that can be abstracted from this process.
The best image of process is perhaps that of the flowing stream, whose substance is never the same. On this stream, one may see an ever-changing pattern of vortices, ripples, waves, splashes, etc., which evidently have no independent existence as such. Rather, they are abstracted from the flowing movement, arising and vanishing in the total process of the flow. Such transitory subsistence as may be possessed by these abstracted forms implies only a relative independence or autonomy of behaviour, rather than absolutely independent existence as ultimate substances.
It goes without saying that man had been creative before, but never saw it is a specific quality. Carl Jung was the first to describe it as an instinct, besides sexuality, activity, reflection and food. And as all instincts, it is 'available' to every person: the potential is there, whether we use it, is a different matter. . Yet many people regard creativity as an artistic quality, and forget that it can come under many different guises. It is certainly not an extra, some sort of luxury.
Intellectual curiosity, the desire to understand, is derived from an urge
as basic as hunger or sex: the exploratory drive.
Arther Koestler (The Act of Creation)
It is perhaps wiser to see it as a comparatively recent quality that has become differentiated. Just as the acorn differentiates into an oak tree, this instinct has evolved in the course of evolution. All development passes through the stages of identification, differentiation to integration. If something goes wrong, i.e. is not accepted but denied or projected onto others, dissociation occurs: certain aspects are not included in the development and referred to the shadow. The shadow is that part of our selves that we do not accept and/or keep hidden from the outside world. The part we want to show is the persona (Latin for mask). If we thus regard creativity as not part of our make up, we dissociate this aspect and keep it hidden, even if it could benefit us.
What is more, creativity is a noun and might therefore often not be regarded as an activity! In order to describe the creative attitude exactly I would like to introduce the verb creactivate : being creative in any form.
What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.
When the caterpillar has reached maturity, a process of metamorphosis starts. When the conditions such as temperature are right something like a cd-rom (imagines) is played and the result is a butterfly.
It may help to see creativity as differentiation of aspects such as effectiveness (do the right things), efficiency (do things right), flexibility (do the right things tomorrow) which precede creativity: anticipate and do the right things right tomorrow. As this hierarchy shows it is a further development and in high demand nowadays; there is an eerie likeness to the development of industry, science and organization theory. And as we know every new level of awareness shows new aspects, which although always present are seen as new.
It is therefore of paramount importance to know at what level a particular organization can be placed, for the hierarchy cannot be bypassed. Every stage can be regarded as a particular holon being part of a holarchy (Source Ken Wilber, Integral Psychology, Complete works volume 4) . The basic levels of consciousness can be given as: matter, life, mind, soul and spirit. Each level transcends and includes the preceding levels. They are holons of consciousness.
A holon is a whole that is part of other wholes. For example a whole atom is part of a whole molecule, a whole molecule is part of a whole cell, a whole cell is part of a whole organism, and so on. It would seem that the whole universe is fundamentally composed of holons, wholes that are parts of other wholes. Letters are parts of words which are parts of sentences, which are part of entire languages. A person is part of a family which is part of a community which is part of a nation which is part of the globe, and so on.
Since each holon is embraced in a larger holon, holons themselves exist in nested hierarchies, called holarchies. And a holarchy includes a balance of both hierarchy (qualitatively ranked levels) and heterachy (mutually and laterally ranked levels). Every holon is simultaneously a whole/part. There is a constant tension between being a whole: achieving a degree of coherence and consistency to exist and as a partness (part of some other holon) it must embrace its partness, its incompleteness, or else it would simply not fit in.
Now what if we compare such a holon to a department or part of an organization?
Any department will feel a pull from either extreme. And the more of the one, the less of the other - neither force can win without destroying the particular function. This is above referred to as 'in the process of becoming'. The 'wave' can be seen 'independently', but can never be removed from its environment! For instance the purchasing function (=holon) can never be separated from the organization it is part of without losing its specific function.
Perhaps a simple example from sociology will illustrate what is involved ( example Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Complete works volume 6) . The United States and Japan are often taken as examples of two very different types of social organization. Japan is an extremely coherent or very tightly woven society (it is consistent); but it achieved this consistency only by excluding foreign races (Japan's xenophobia being rather notorious). In other words it is very consistent but very incomplete (very partial or very exclusionary).
The United States, on the other hand, attempts to be as complete as possible, and to open its doors to any and all (the 'melting pot'), but it does so at the cost of being rather incoherent and unstable at times. The U.S. seems so willing to embrace various cultures that it is in danger of flying apart at the seams. It achieves a great deal of completeness at the cost of being inconsistent.
"People possess the inner resources for growth,
they seek the frontiers of creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom.
The point is to help remove obstacles to the individuals reaching this.
If the environment is right, people grow straight and beautiful,
actualising the potentials they have inherited."
Individual creativity -I-
Creative thinking may simply mean the realization that there's no particular virtue
in doing things the way you have always done them.
For the individual the level of Creactivation depends on personal development and level of consciousness. E.g. personal attitude and perception will determine in how far the individual can compare personal viewpoints and ideas with those of others, accept and value the differences and see new possibilities. Every individual more or less creates her/his own reality or meaning of the world as perceived. What is accepted as normal is recognized when someone says: be realistic.
It is interesting to look at the origin of the word 'reality'. This word comes from the Latin [res], which means 'thing'. To be real is to be a 'thing'. It is particularly interesting that [res] comes from the verb [reri], meaning 'to think', so that 'reality' might be seen as 'the thing thought about'. This personal reality we keep intact by means of our attention, and give it felt meaning ( Deepak Choprah (in How to know GOD) calls this the 1st attention). Our level of consciousness determines what is seen as 'realistic' which usually implies 'possible'. When we are not focussed, as in day-dreaming or meditation, our thoughts tend to wander and new perspectives come to mind. This can be called the 2nd attention and is usually not limited by our integrated norms and values. It is this area that makes it possible to cross paradigms and think the impossible.
Creactivation, therefore, tries to create a new reality, give a different meaning to things seen and thus offer new opportunities. These will of course never fit in with the known reality (or one might say the existing paradigm). So we might say that creactivation means opening the mind to consider new possibilities; 'getting out of the box' as the saying goes.
For the individual it might mean that although a certain opportunity seems available, it is discarded (i.e. dissociated) as far out or crazy and rather to be avoided. Then he returns to the 1st attention because it does not fit the known reality. It is people who stick to their dreams or investigate the impossible to try to make it reality that are creative.
It takes courage to be creative; just as soon as you have a new idea
you are in a minority of one.
E Paul Torrance
Moreover, for everyone creativity means something different! If the word is discussed we often can find that for some it means nothing more than problem solving, whereas others see it as artistic freedom. Again for others it means bringing order to chaos, celebrity or originality. And some see it as a kind of natural cycle of things, favouring some with special creative qualities. James Hillman distinguishes 6 common types. Still all in all individuals working on their own can hold and develop ideas that are first mad or eccentric and only later become acceptable better than groups, where out of the way ideas tend to be levelled out.
Group creativity -WE-
The desire of uniformity is a major problem with IT. But it is a subproduct of the same problems that plague management, which is the need to feel in control, that were all on the same page, and everyone is being treated equally. But what I want to ask is,
<Why do we all need to be on the same page?>
And you realize, of course, that no two people are equal in any respect.
According to the Japan's M.I.T.I. 51% of the most significant breakthroughs in the twentieth century came from England and only 21% from the United States, in spite of much higher investments! According to Edward De Bono cultures that rely heavily on group work may be at a disadvantage. However, complexities of modern science make it much more difficult for individuals to contribute. Cross-disciplinary teamwork (e.g. the internet) may therefore be essential for idea generation.
Vitally important is a culture which allows different viewpoints, actually looks for criticism and disagreement with accepted ways of working. This may be very difficult in well-organized departments! Creative group actions should therefore be given special attention and a safe environment. Simply sitting down for a brainstorm is not enough. Osborne designed this technique for use with advertising people and engineers tend to be more careful in uttering wild ideas.
When groups purposefully start looking for improving existing activities this should be treated with great care. It is very important to define the direction of improvement for wild ideas are usually not accepted. The Western notion of improvement is often oriented at solving problems: removing defects and repairing things. Somehow the Western notion is that something is either right or wrong, and if right, why bother? The Japanese have a completely different attitude, even when things are 'right' they can set about improving it. Contrary to many Western companies Japanese companies do not reward staff for suggestions. Yet the number of suggestions is much more (e.g. Toyota something like 300 per year per employee) than in Western companies (usually below 10).
The Japanese can sort of step out of the dichotomy of right/wrong and put themselves in a kind of neutral position, which is ideal for exploring new ideas.
This may be due to the concept of [mu], which means 'no thing' or 'not yes-not no'. the character literally means 'burned down forest', which indeed means seeing something that is not there. This kind of mind-set helps us to step outside the situation and consider other perspectives. Mostly new ways are found by coincidence or accident or faults. In creactivation we are consciously looking differently and accidents or faults are regarded with special interest and often consciously created.
Careful attention should thus be given to the culture, the values and norms of a particular group and the -hidden- felt meaning. For if the common attitude stresses adherence to rules and usual practice, there is little chance of serious creativity, even when called for. It is here that Spiral Dynamics may be of help.
Spiral Dynamics Integral, or SDi for short, concerns itself with the deep complexity codes that shape our many worlds.
The model describes and makes sense of the enormous complexity of human existence, and then shows how to craft elegant, systemic problem-solutions that meet people and address situations where they are.
Conceived and led by Dr. Don Beck, a leading global authority on value systems, societal change, and stratified democracy, SDi is an advanced extension and elaboration of the bio-psychosocial systems concept originated by the late Dr. Clare W. Graves of Union College, New York, and later developed as Spiral Dynamics.
Spiral Dynamics meshes the new science of memetics with Gravesian value systems to form value memes or vMemes to craft a model of transformational change. By exploring and describing the core intelligences and deep values that flow beneath what we believe and do, the model offers a profoundly incisive, dynamic perspective on complex matters such as
~ HOW people think about things (as opposed to what they think)
~ WHY people make decisions in different ways
~ WHY people respond to different motivators
~ WHY and HOW values arise and spread
~ The nature of CHANGE
Dr. Don Beck:
"It's not that we need to form new organizations. It's simply that we have to awaken to new ways of thinking. I believe it makes no sense to spend a lot of time attacking the current realities. It is time to create the new models that have in them the complexity that makes the older systems obsolete. And to the extent that we can do that, and do that quickly, I think we can provide what will be necessary for a major breakthrough for the future."
Creactivation: how do we do IT ?
for a quick overview you can download a powerpoint survey
"Microsoft's only factory asset is the human imagination," observed the New
York Times Magazine writer Fred Moody.... After exposing an audience to the
Microsoft quote, I ask a telling question: "Does anyone here know what it means
to 'manage' the human imagination?" So far, not a single hand has gone up,
including mine. I don't know what it means to manage the human imagination
either, but I do know that imagination is the main source of value in the new
economy. And I know we better figure out the answer to my question-quick.
Edward de Bono, an authority in the field of creativity, has created the concept of po, which he says can be used to set up a provocation, to purposefully question a particular situation or assumption: a provocative operation. It bears much resemblance to the Japanese concept mu (see above) and is used for similar purposes. In his book Serious Creativity, London 1992, he says that there are two main sources of provocation.
There are provocations that arise and are never intended as provocations. They can happen by chance, accident or mistake, history offers many examples (Rabies, penicillin, radar). It all depends on our attitude whether we pay attention and use it for new ideas. Then there are statements never intended as provocations but that can be treated as such, if the listener chooses so. And this may be serious, humorous or silly remarks!
Also in case of disagreement you may simply disagree and judge the remark, however, by asking why you can treat it as a provocation and think about it.
In practice it is difficult to choose to treat as provocations ideas we know to be unworkable and which we do not like. (cf. the felt meaning above). But whatever the case may be it is always a personal choice: judge, disagree and discard or take it as a starting point for a creative exploration.
Any creative session should therefore determine beforehand direction and technique to be used, use a facilitator to guide the process and most of all delay judgement.
The 'SHITE' model uses four steps to guarantee convergence and divergence:
Especially, stages 2 (invent) and 3 (try out) are important as they prevent one from jumping to solutions, without first creating a number of alternatives.
First an analysis is made: the situation is mapped out, different aspects (e.g. economical, technical, human and organizational) are charted and the predominant way of regarding the business - the paradigm- is stated.
This concludes the convergent phase and now idea generation can start.
A good start may be Joel A. Barker's (Paradigms. The Business of Discovering the Future, 1992) paradigm shift question:
What cannot possibly be done in your business
(discipline, department, division etc. - make your choice),
but would if it were possible radically change business?
Different creative techniques can now be used to answer this question, the only demand is that as many ideas as possible are generated to create a wide -divergent- horizon.
The creative journey has now started, anything the imagination can grasp is noted down, no criticism or 'yes buts..'.
Anything goes, as long as ideas are not confused with solutions.
- Change the rules of the game: how would things be done in an ideal world and then try to translate this to the present situation; Whose help would you need?
- How are individual stakeholders motivated? How are they approached and seen? What is their view of your activities?
- Who and what could help you with this particular problem? What can you do yourself and where does your authority end?
- How are individual stakeholders motivated? What's in it for them? What is their view of your activities?
- Role plays: create a real life action play with different stakeholders. Review the approach and suggest improvement.
- the double reversal: you specify exactly what should be done to make things a mess and then decide what you have to do to prevent this from happening.
- The escape method: in any situation there are 'normal' things that we take for granted. This should not be problems or negative features. E.g. in a restaurant we take for granted such things as food, menus, cutlery and payment for food. The provocation would be: no food, etc. the step by step process might suggest a restaurant for indoor picnics in exotic decors, or payment for the time you spend.
Or a particular function in a business e.g. secretary or purchasing is eliminated! What could be done to offer the particular service?
- Use a metaphor: you might consider the caterpillar and find what conditions in your particular situation could help to better develop.
- Worst and best case analysis: state the problem and what would turn it into a real catastrophe. Describe the ideal situation and what would be required. The analyze the forces that pull to either situation. These forces can then be improved upon.
- Change position: purchasers act as salesmen; how can we compete ourselves off the market or make function superfluous?
- Imagine a disaster: What would happen if all computers went down? What would happen if you did nothing?
- The 'Man from Mars' approach: You know all about people, except how this kind of problem was solved in the past.
- Change the rules of the game: how would things be done in an ideal world and then try to translate this to the present situation; Whose help would you need?
- Who and what could help you with this particular problem? What can you do yourself and where does your authority end?
The try out phase.
After an adequate number of ideas have been generated harvesting time has come. There is no exact number to be given, as this will be dictated by time available and skills of the participants. However, it may be fair to say that one must be careful to accept quickly found ideas as satisfactory. The first ideas generally are the worst. They certainly will seldom be innovative, but more problem solving within the existing paradigm. It will be wise to take at least one impossible idea and work it out, as it will most likely open up the mind.
The trouble often seems to be to pick the right ones. It is wise to realize that there are no good or bad ideas! Ideas are catalysts and what we do with them, where they can take us is what counts.
So what we can do is take the ideas and decide circumstances under which you would want to do it. When circumstances are favourable do it, if not: generate ideas for better circumstances.
The COCD (Center for development of creative thinking, a creative network in Belgium. www.COCD.org) has developed a very handy tool to select ideas and prevent loss. For we must remember that at the cradle of practically every paradigm shift stood an 'impossible' or seemingly 'unsuitable' idea.
The COCD-box as selection tool:
All ideas are labelled by participants and provide an inventory of future activities. Now Implementation can be started for instance with blue labelled ideas. And the shite-process is applied to how to implement the solutions.
Again the same shite-model can be applied to some of the following questions :
o How can we get people going, energise, develop interest, build the team?
o Planning: How can we break the work into manageable chunks that fit together successfully and minimise long-term cost?
o Estimating: What resources will we need, in what quantities, at what cost?
o Scheduling: When, and in what order, should we do things to minimise crises and wasted effort?
o Supplying and logistics: How do, we get the particular resources needed where they should be, when they should be: get rid of what is not needed: and avoid putting things that are not yet needed where they will get in the way?
o Negotiating: How do we agree with the people involved what they should do for us, and what we should do for them?
o Training: How can we make sure that people can do what we want them to do?
o Servicing: What about the practical human needs of those involved?
o Social support: And what about the personal needs of those involved?-emotional, social, developmental . . .
o Monitoring, recording and documenting: How do we keep track of what tasks have been completed, financial records, stock levels, outstanding problems, agreed decisions? What about legal records, quality control records, accident reports, training manuals, fault-finding guides, contracts, terms of reference, certificates, licences?
o Reviewing: Stepping back to see the overall state of play:-are we meeting targets, are problems emerging, do we need to redirect our resources?
o Maintaining: Once things have been set up, how can we keep them going?-machines, buildings, organisations, procedures-particularly when they have been in operation for a long time, and the initial enthusiasm and alertness has worn off.
o Evaluation: Stepping back even further. Is the system really doing what we thought it would do? Is it still the best way of doing it? Do we still need it at all?
I hope that the this paper will help in the creative process. If at least it helps you to approach things differently, it may be prove a good start. For if you do what you have always done, you get what you always got and creativity can help to enjoy doing things differently, some examples are given below.
Creative in business - Ricardo Semler: Ch.B. Handy, here
and interview with Ricardo Semler Set them Free
and an entrepreneur inspired by Ricardo Semler: Tim Smit
Robert Townsends lesson in leadership and more about leadership
The continuum concept: finding a balance between change and no change.
Metaphors: The change agent & sharks ;
and for a very interesting story about finding cheese and the creative process: click hier
Laws for the human condition (Murphy and many others)
quotes for inspiration...
The brain and creativity...
How the brain learns: How children think