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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“Power enabling Profit at the expense of the People” (‘PePeP’)

In multiple instances of decision-making concerning organisations or systems of all kinds, the relationship between power and the externalities resulting from the decisions can be described as: “Power enabling Profit at the expense of the People/Planet” (‘PePeP’). This system/structure/organisation is self-perpetuating and self-regenerating. It becomes very difficult for systemic reforms to be made, as ‘PePeP’ constantly re-emerges to guarantee a constant application of its own dictates. If an organisation or system cannot reform itself, then who can?

Over time as a supra-personal (organisational) entity takes form and ensures continuity, it can happen that the organisation produces certain results held to be undesirable by those who in general reap the most profit. If such people are in a position to influence the making of regulations, conventions or systems, a revision takes place until a situation is reached where it is virtually impossible to successfully oppose the type of result and the process involved, even where the interests of the whole community are involved. This can involve decision-making at all levels. Most likely each member of the organisation concerned is conscientiously acting within the framework guiding their decisions, but the overall result can be to ignore the major issues at stake and produce results that are harmful to everyone – except perhaps the 0.1% of the population, or the organisations, who can influence the way things are done and profit from that situation.

It seems therefore to be a general rule, without too many major exceptions, that where there is conflict between interests of people or planet and private/corporate/financial interest, the latter finds ways to gain dominance. Further, attempts at control imposed “from above” in favour of public interest are difficult if often impossible. We then face the enigma, how can the influence of ‘PePeP’ be moderated? Further, as these realities of power effectively create the ethos within which we function, it becomes very difficult to perceive its defining confines. We function within a paradigm, and to function efficiently, the paradigm itself becomes invisible, it becomes the normal world to which there seems to be no realistic alternative.

Each person when functioning as a part of their organisational framework is generally ‘doing a good job’, even though the externalities for which the organisation is responsible may be deleterious – to public (generally including those involved), to “others”, to environment, to planet, etc. If change cannot be effected from above, and the organisation is largely impervious to change, who then can introduce change?

The only person left is the ‘individual’. Not the person functioning as part of the system, but the individual who in moments of private reflection becomes aware of aspects of the world of which (s)he is part, yet wishes were otherwise. How though can this occasional perception change the dynamic of individual involvement, and just as crucially, interact with the perceptions of other individuals so as to result in organisational change?

It appears that only the “I” can bring about a change. Only the individual, when acting as an individual and not as a conscientious functioning member of an organisation, is capable of perceiving the overall pattern of organisation in relation to context and acting in accord with this understanding. The moment it becomes the “we”, acting as a functional part of the systemic complex, then no resolution is possible. Further, as “I” is not sufficient, and “we” are unable to change the organisation, it is the “multiple-individual” who can create the necessary dynamic, through an appropriate pattern of interaction.

There will be many ways in which appropriate change can take place. One such approach, developed as part of a long-term research project, is available on this website – look in particular at "Creativity in the Organisation". In Creative Discussion, the role of ‘flash of insight’ is the key element in perceiving the broader realities within which we habitually function, along with a specific form of small group interaction through ‘insight group’ and ‘pair group’, enabling each individual to continue to function as an individual, and to share new understandings across an organisation, without becoming subject to the perceptual limitations which habitually condition and limit a transformatory awareness.

Where ‘insight’ emerges regularly through individual awareness or creative interaction among individuals throughout an organisation, change often occurs, as it were spontaneously, not change imposed from outside or even from within the organisation, but change that involves all the members of the organisation, transforming the functioning of the organisation, ultimately in the long-term interests of the organisation itself.

This is true change.

Recognition and remuneration


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