Creative Discussion using Plain Pair Groups

Creative Discussion – a key to insight and change

William Plain
Emeritus Professor, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Plain Pair Group Teaching (Plain PGT)
- for universities and schools
Plain Pair Group Discussion (Plain PGD)
- for decision making and staff development
- for informal or community creative discussion

A flash of insight is the spark of cosmic intelligence.
Small group sharing of insight can change the pattern of human intelligence.

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Creativity in the organisation

[“It’s the insight thing”!]
In moments of silence, do you secretly wish
your company / organisation / department / whatever
were doing things differently … 
but you feel there is no way that could ever happen?

Sometimes you know perfectly well what you would like to do
…  if the world were perfect …
but then you’re just one person …
 no matter what your role in the organisation.

Here, perhaps, is one way
that might just make it possible
for your ideas to ‘travel’.

Corporate Creative Discussion
Release the creative potential of each individual in your organisation

A new paradigm for corporate creativity

Natural creativity

Each individual has a natural capacity for creativity which extends well beyond their specific area of expertise. Corporate, administrative or academic organisations, and even private life, rarely provide the means by which this capacity can be given free expression. In most organisations, even creativity is considered a specialisation limited to the few specifically designated.

Corporate wisdom

If all members of an organisation participate more fully in the broader concerns of issues, policies and processes, ‘corporate wealth’ can be radically enhanced and the organisation can situate itself more intelligently in the wider human–planet interaction, leading necessary change rather than being constrained by it.

Multiple individual creativity

The key to ensuring that an organisation furthers its own interests while at the same time fully respecting the necessary interests of all other global stakeholders can be found in an enhanced corporate awareness based on the contribution of multiple individual creativity across the organisation.

A new paradigm

Corporate Creative Discussion emerges from a new paradigm of learning and organising and gives primacy to a natural capacity for creativity through recognising and valuing insight, by which each individual can access understandings which are immediate and constitute appropriate action.

The emergence of insight

Search for insights

Corporate Creative Discussion offers a simple means of organising small group interaction, facilitating the creativity of each participant. The creative discussion group process provides a constant focus on a search for new ideas, for ‘insights’, through the inner silence of attentive listening and through sharing one’s own discoveries in an atmosphere of respect and equality.

Presentation and attentive listening

The creative discussion process involves individual presentations of ideas matured over the period between regular meetings. Depending on the context of the discussions, the choice of idea for presentation will often respond to a need for something new, a different way of seeing things, searching through ‘parallel paradigms’. Attentive listening to presentations by other group members provides the opportunity for discovering new ideas, which in turn become part of a subsequent presentation to another group.

 ‘Insight Group’ and ‘Plain Pair Group’

Each person belongs to two discussion groups, providing a locus for sharing insight, as ‘good ideas’ collected in one group are then presented to the other. One group functions ‘horizontally’, within levels of hierarchy or specialisation, the other group, composed vertically across levels, allows transfer of ideas throughout the organisation. Where possible, the composition of each group should maximise heterogeneity, giving value to the different points of view that each person can bring to the group.

Bidirectional flow

As each person in the group belongs to a different ‘other group’ (Plain Pair Group), and they in turn belong to yet other groups, ideas presented to any one group can come from the several Pair Groups that the members belong to. In turn, insights which arise during presentations around the group and mature during an intervening period of reflection and research are then carried by each group member to their particular Plain Pair Group. Ideas presented in this first ‘circle’ of pair groups are in turn carried out to wider circles of pair groups by each successive set of members, just as ideas flow in from outer circles to each insight group.

Network of creativity

This process forms a dynamic network of interconnected yet independent Creative Discussion groups which can expand across the organisation. From the point of view of each individual, he/she is at the centre of a network of creativity, with ideas flowing in from a wide range of groups, and from where especially timely insights can expand outwards across the whole organisation.

Organisations, individuals and intelligence

Organisational models

The history of human occupation of the planet is based on people working together in organised groups to achieve common goals. The collective and organisational models which have arisen over time shape the role played by our species in the global biosphere. While organised human activity has engendered the growth of our civilisation, in recent decades it has (already) resulted in one of the greatest extinctions of life forms in the history of life on Earth and risks provoking the collapse of human civilisation itself.

Group as source of conditioning

While organised cooperation among a group of people has brought immense social and technological advantages, the self-perpetuating structure which develops around any common enterprise tends to mould and limit the role of the individual. This results in efficiency, but also in a ‘tying down’ of individual intelligence to the goals of the group activity. The individual can exercise maximal intelligence in the service of the common enterprise, but at the same time there are often limits in directing one’s intelligence to wider issues such as the role of the enterprise in the overall context of people and planet.

Organisational intelligence limited

While the individual participates in a variety of contexts from local to species to planetary, from personal to social to economic, the organisation tends to focus on its role in a specific sector of human activity, often administrative or economic. It also establishes a structural identity with a primary need of perpetuating its own existence and, in certain areas, of expanding its role indefinitely, often in competition with similar organisations. This pattern of supra-individual endeavour generally results in the intelligence of the organisation being focused on the fundamental needs related to the identity, survival and growth of the organisation. It is rare that the organisation can reflect fully on its role in a wider human, inter-species and planetary context, and its intelligence in this sense can be severely limited.

Only the individual can be intelligent

Although the individual is unavoidably conditioned in many ways, by social expectations, education, information, and even by human history and language, each person, without exception, retains the natural capacity for insight, becoming spontaneously aware of a fully formed knowledge which is essentially new, and generally appropriate to the precise requirements of a given situation and point in time. An insight can even redefine the area of concern and enable it to be seen in a completely different light, thus providing a new context within which an appropriate action can freely emerge.

Insight and deconditioning

In the context of education systems and organisations that tend to favour a faithfully conditioned mind over a fully creative insightful mind, it is important that the primacy of insight be recognised and, in the organisation of human activities, necessary space and time are carefully set aside for the emergence of insight. The role of insight in the field of personal and corporate awareness is to provide the sudden understanding, new in each moment, which allows the limiting effect of conditioning to be recognised and replaced by a more complete situating of self and other, of corporation and planet.

Corporate awakeness

The current vision of organised human endeavour which tends to give primacy to the interests of the large organisation needs to be replaced by a vision that embraces a broader responsibility. Corporate awareness can rarely envisage the effect of the corporation on what is perceived as totally extraneous, and there are all too often no outside entities which can enlighten or constrain. The creative vision required can however be provided from within the organisation, by the natural capacity of each individual for insight, while the process of creative discussion that enhances this creativity can provide the vision required for the corporation to reinvent itself in its relation with the biosphere.

Bringing change to "my" organisation

People co-operate to further common goals in a variety of ways – through organised groups, companies, political parties, even forming whole societies and nations. Quite often it seems the direction the organisation takes can go well beyond the combined goals of its members, and even become deeply antithetical to their real personal, family and planetary interests. How can "I", as a member of an organisation, recognise and share new ways of understanding and acting so I can contribute to bringing about essential change. I need to recognise and value my own 'flash of insight', my natural inner creativity, I need a means of sharing this with others, in a way that they will respect my contribution, and that the form of interaction chosen lead them in turn to value insight and share it further afield. Creative Discussion using Plain Pair Groups has been developed to provide a means of acting on a realisation that "I am responsible". For details, go to Creative Discussion Groups. Read and experiment. Tell the others to explore this website also.

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Recognition and remuneration


© William Plain  1990-2016 (print) 2005 - 2016 (website)