Essay: Creative Interchange and the Greatest Human Good
Hundredth year after Henry Nelson Wieman’s dissertation “The Organization of Interests” and one year after the unforgettable Fourteenth Gathering of the Crucial Dialogues Society I’ve written down my actual understanding of the Creative Interchange process in an essay:
Essay: Creative Interchange and the Greatest Human Good
Creative Interchange and The Greatest Human Good
In his book Man’s Ultimate Commitment Henry Nelson Wieman suggests
that we have a need in our lives to achieve the infinite potentialities
present in us at birth. He stresses the importance of our commitment to
a life-long process that enables us to live our lives to the fullest. In order
to obtain the Greatest Human Good one has to commit to live Creative
Interchange from within.
This special human interchange, that Henry Nelson Wieman coined
Creative Interchange, is our ability to learn what others have learned, to
appreciate what others appreciate, to feel what others feel, imagine what
others imagine and to creatively integrate all this with what we have
already acquired and form this way our true individuality. This Creative
Interchange uniquely distinguishes the human mind from everything else.
In this essay we will claim that Creative Interchange, lived from within,
will lead to the Greatest Human Good. You can see the living Creative
Interchange process, in action by watching the inquisitive behavior of any
healthy young child (before the counter process, which Charlie Palmgren
coined the Vicious Circle, sets in). We are all born with this ability
(Creative Interchange); sadly we have lost to live it from within so much
(due to the Vicious Circle).
The Greatest Human Good is, according to Henry Nelson Wieman, not
any state of existence or any realm beyond this world, it is the most
complete transformation of the individual toward the qualities that life can
yield and the fullest development of her/his humanity.
Because the Greatest Human Good must come from within and from the
way we relate to each other, we are pilgrims toward the continuous
improvement of this world. The Greatest Human Good is to undergo this
creative transformation that enables us to appreciate most profoundly
At the heart of this creative human interchange is the free mutual
authentic expression of self, one to the other, while understanding and
appreciating each other. So, the individual’s capacity for appreciative
understanding is integral to this process.
Ironically human interchange is necessary to develop this capacity and
the relationships we develop with other people are always imperfect to
some degree. From infancy on we observe a decline in honest and
integer interaction. At the same time we observe a rise in human
interchanges that are deceptive, manipulative, … thus far from being
honest and integer. Henry Nelson Wieman called this forms of
interchange ‘evasive’ ones and those deaden our abilities to represent
ourselves authentically and appreciatively understand the other. Charles
Leroy Palmgren, who’s mentor was Henry Nelson, pointed rightly out that
this evasiveness is a spin-off of a counter productive process he coined
as the Vicious Circle. In fact, even our social institutions and our
economical organizations are undermining our ability to creatively
interchange with each other, since the Vicious Circle is omnipresent in
In this essay, based on Man’s Ultimate Commitmenti
, The Chicken
, Creatieve Wisselwerkingiii
, The Greatest Goodiv
, Ascent of
and Cruciale dialogenvi
we will discuss how Creative
Interchange is a personal commitment; a commitment to direction rather
than drift; a commitment to openness and to agility rather than closeness
and rigidity; a commitment to a more comprehensive purpose, to a more
inclusive understanding; a commitment to an abundance of creativity and
more control from the inside-out (rather than from the outside-in) over the
conditions of our existence.
By Creative Interchange Henry Nelson Wieman meant two things: (1) an
authentic human dialogue that creates appreciative understanding of our
unique individualities, and (2) the progressive integration within each of
us what we discover from each other in this way.vii
Henry Nelson Wieman described Creative Interchange sometimes as
having those two features and at other times as a four-fold process.
Actually both are true. Each feature has two aspects. Authentic
Interacting leads to Appreciative Understanding, since the interaction
involves both: sharing and appreciative understanding. Progressive
integration involves creative integrating of what was appreciatively
understood and transformation of the interacting parties. Creative
interchange can thus be viewed as the following four-fold process:
Authentic Interacting, Appreciative Understanding, Creative Integrating
and Continual Transformation. I’m using the Lemniscate of Bernoulli to
picture the Creative Interchange process’. One of the reasons is that the
Lemniscate is the sign of infinity… never ending, as the living of Creative
Interchange from within should be.
Authentic Interacting means sharing with integrity the best one knows
and listening with humility to learn the best others know.
Appreciative Understanding is more than simply understanding ideas,
facts and viewpoints of others (which is done during the interaction).
Central to the concept of Appreciative Understanding is appreciation of
the meaning those ideas have for the person sharing them. The meaning
of ideas and facts depend very much of the mental model (mindset,
frame of reference) from which they are viewed. Appreciative
Understanding respects the viewpoint of others. It assumes there is more
than one way to look at reality and that each perspective provides some
originality to see the ‘truth’. In dialogue, Appreciatively Understanding of
each other’s views can lead to a common meaning, a common way to
see the ‘truth’.
The Creative Integrating aspect of Creative Interchange means that the
interacting parties are changed in ways that strengthens who they were
meant to be as individuals.
The Continual Transformation aspect of Creative Interchange is
continual transforming of oneself through living the learning process
Creative Interchange from within in collaboration with others.
For Henry Nelson Wieman this meant that we could learn form one
another’s successes as well as each other’s failures. Both forms of
learning have a continual transforming impact on us.
2. The Sources of Obstruction of Creative Interchange
“This source of perversion
which keeps man from realizing the great good
for which nature fits him,
can be put into a single word: Evasion.”
- Henry Nelson Wieman
Man’s Ultimate Commitment
From our own experience we know we do not interchange with each
other the Creative Interchange way much of the time. Our social
interaction is woven with varying strands of human interchanges. These
conflicting forms of interchange are familiar to all of us.
One of these forms Henry Nelson Wieman called ‘evasion’. This is a
deceptive interchange in which one conceals from him/her self and
others that which he/she does not want to recognize. One does so
because recognizing it would break down their sense of self-worth. To be
able to preserve a sense of worth and security, to be able to save face
among friends and superiors, or to avoid despair, people do practice
devices of deception and evasion.
Another form of interchange is when one person tries to bring under
control the other’s thoughts and feelings. This form is manipulative
interchange. Sometimes it is called brainwashing and, in schools for
instance, indoctrination. Instead of communicating to increase the
knowledge of the other, one uses manipulative interchange to bring the
mind of the other under ‘outside-in’ control.
Other forms of interchange are more mild: the so called ‘social’
interchanges: instructions, greetings and rules that add almost nothing to
our current way of thinking and behaving and the interchanges where an
individual takes on a ‘mask’ that he/she changes with different people
and situations in order to be liked or just get by.
At the heart of the distinction between Creative Interchange and those
other kinds of interchange is the recognition of another’s worth as a
human being. Not interchanging in the creative sense described in
chapter 1 is to deny that the other person in the interchange has worth.
Not to acknowledge another person as having thoughts, feelings and
knowledge of his/her own is to fail to recognize the other as being a
worthwhile person. This awareness of mutual worth is what distinguishes
us from animals.
Henry Nelson Wieman believed that the fullest attainment of humankind
could never be reached unless we make the ultimate commitment – a
commitment to bring into our lives and into our organizations a greater
dominance of creative human interchange. He saw this as the needed
next evolution. He observed though that there was no certainty that we
will commit ourselves to the required conditions for such an evolution.
His observation is still valid in the 21st
Charlie Palmgren spent most of his live discovering and studying those
required conditions. First of all he identified the process that Henry
Nelson Wieman called ‘Evasive Interaction’. He understood that this kind
of interaction usually begins in early childhood and that children set up
protective devices to maintain their self-esteem. The perception of the
child’s worth is built up in defense against the negative judgments of
others. This way, security operations become our way of life to preserve
a false, but socially acceptable image or self-concept. The more social
interactions we participate in, the more likely these security operations
will become complex. As security operations become dominant, they
mislead the individual about his/her identity and worth and the dignity
and worth of others. The awareness of mutual worth is fading.
Charlie Palmgren sees these protections as what Henry Nelson Wieman
called evasions and those are the reason we are unable to see good in
ourselves, in the others and in the world. The result of what he ultimately
called the Vicious Circle is anxiety, despair, extreme stress and
We are prisoners of our Vicious Circle that builds up our protections. We
hide so to speak in our protected comfort zone. This is the main reason
for our defensive reactions towards change and personal transformation.
Letting go of the need for these protections is the start of a slow and
arduous process of awakening. Awakening that will lead to the regaining
of our Awareness and ultimately the discovering of our ‘lost’ Intrinsic
Worth. All this is made visible in next visualization of the Vicious Circle.
The danger of security operations is a deeply divided sense of self: the
conflict within. A conflicted self cannot fully engage in Creative
Interchange because one level of self is in conflict with the others. For
Charlie, to make a commitment toward removing these protections and
consequently the inner conflict is to make a commitment toward the
greatest creative transformation for ourselves and for those with whom
we relate. Being prisoners of our Vicious Circle is a form of evasiveness
that renders our lives superficial and that smothers our potential for
creative transformation present at our birth.
In his book, he co-authors with Stacie Hagan, ‘The Chicken Conspiracy’
Charlie refers to Anthony de Mello SJ marvelous poem known as “The
. As the eagle is destined to soar on high, our birthright is
to achieve the Greatest Human Good and the highest individual and
collective transformation. Unfortunately, we create false perceptions of
who we truly are and, consequently, we live our lives more as chickens
instead of the eagles we are. We have grounded ourselves through inner
conflicts, ‘security operations’, the conformity and the concealment that
our cultures and institutions have fostered within us over time, due to the
devastating work of the Vicious Circle. Like most creatures of habit when
so conditioned, we settle down in time and lose both our desire and
ability to undergo the creative transformation that once dominated our
In our book “Cruciale dialogen” we discussedix
that by being fully
awakened we are able to live fully the Creative Interchange process so
that we can ‘turn back’ the Vicious Circle so that ultimately we reconnect
with our Intrinsic Worth. We used following gear metaphor (left gear
Charlie’s Vicious Circle, right gear Henry’s Creative Interchange):
Allow me to explain the metaphor as I see it.
Charlie’s definition of ‘Intrinsic Worth’ – “It is the capacity to participate in
transforming creativity” – means living Creative Interchange from within.
The two gears do not function at the same time, or at least, the force
delivered to the axes of the two gears is not the same. One (CI/VC) has
more energy than the other (VC/CI). Indeed, if more energy is put into
the Creative Interchange process its’ gear is forcing the Vicious Circle
gear to travel clockwise until, hopefully, we are (at last) re-connected
with our Intrinsic Worth.
In other words, one should apply more Force, more energy and effort
into the CI gear, make it work harder so that the CI gear, being stronger,
is wearing down the resistance caused by the VC gear. Or, one could
relieve some of the opposing Vicious Circle force, to allow the movement
of the CI gear to be freer, more flowing. Both are possible solutions to
the ‘gear problem’ and please remember Yoda’s name for Creative
Interchange: ‘The Force’ (and his ‘dark force’ corresponds with the
Creative Interchange and the Vicious Circle are the ‘bright’ and ‘dark’
aspects of life. We can make a choice, a commitment, to live within the
Vicious Circle, where a large part of our self is deadened to keep the
darker aspects of life out of awareness, or live with all of our senses
acutely awake to our life experiences boundlessly and authentically.
The Vicious Circle is not unique to individuals. It can be prevalent in
whole cultures. Vicious Circle cultures oppress the mind and suppress
freedoms and, consequently, the awareness of the fullness of life
It is our conviction that the conditions for Creative Interchange in
organizations should be provided by the corporate leaders. Fortunately
they recognize more and more that organizational development is
interdependent with the healthful development of the human mind and
human character. They understand, as Kegan & Lahey point out in ‘An
Everyone Culture’, that in a Creative Interchange Culture personal
development leads to organizational development and vice versa. This
way the creative transformation of our communities and ourselves can
move forward to new and higher levels.
The choice is clear: either we choose to stay in our Vicious Circle or we
choose to live Creative Interchange from within. The Red and Blue Pill
choice Morpheus is offering Neo in ‘The Matrix’ is the choice one has
between living in freedom, knowledge and sometimes the painful truth
(Creative Interchange) or staying in falsehood, security and the blissful
ignorance of illusion (as prisoner of the Vicious Circle).
3. The role of trust/openness, reason, curiosity, volition
and freedom in our relationships
“An openness to the truth,
no matter what the consequences,
no matter where it leads you..
That’s faith. Not belief, but faith”
- Anthony de Mello SJ
The key to start to undo the devastating work of the Vicious Circle is a
better awareness. We all need to wake up so to speak.
Staying in our Vicious Circle seems to be a way of hiding our true
(original) selves from others and … from ourselves. We have to become
aware of our being prisoner of our own Vicious Circle (personal and
organizational) and of our actual capabilities for enabling transformation.
Being prisoner of the Vicious Circle means that we are often more
invested out of fear and anger to protect our shaken self-esteem against
‘wrong’ and negative evaluations. This misguided protection compels us
ultimately, as the Vicious Circle diagram of Chapter 2 shows, to reject
ourselves in ways that are equally wrong.
To realize our true potential, we must reconnect with our Intrinsic Worth
and our Original Self. This means that we must first become aware of our
personal Vicious Circle and then free ourselves from it. Living Creative
Interchange from within can do this. To explain how we can effectively do
this I’ll use the Lemniscate model that I’ve used in my book ‘Crucial
dialogues, the daily living of Creative lnterchange’ (in Dutch).
It all starts with to trust and be open again to your ‘truth’. Anthony de
Mello calls in his book ‘Awareness’x
, the authentic openness to your
‘truth’, ‘faith’. Communicating this faith, your ‘truth’, authentically and
openly generates insight and insight is that with which reason works to
discover what is truly significant in your ‘truth’/’faith’.
Both, ‘faith’ and ‘reason’ are needed to create common understanding
and to unlock knowledge, which, being consistently used, generates
Reason, as Wieman used the term, is the method by which we test the
veracity of statements (or any facts we are faced with and that we
communicate). Of course, a statement can be true before it is reason-
tested, but we can’t know for ourselves that it IS true until we have
applied some ‘reason-testing’.
In above picture this ‘reason-testing’ is called asking Learning Questions.
Ed Schein coined the term ‘Humble Inquiry’xi
. The driving condition of
humble inquiry is genuine curiosity. Instead of rejecting the insight of the
other, when one does not immediately see the significance of it, one
need to be curious and ask what I call here learning questions. For that
particular questioning I’ve used in my Crucial Dialogue Model Ed
Schein’s terminology, Humble Inquiryxii
. Asking Learning Questions
proves that I want to understand and appreciate, when I don’t
immediately see and grasp what the other appreciatively understands,
namely her/his ‘truth’.
I see Authentic Interaction as what Wieman and de Mello called
pronouncing one’s ‘faith’. The insights from Authentic Interaction are
based on experiences and observations from which, after applying
reason through learning questions, knowledge may result. Without
learning questions knowledge cannot fully be derived from authentic
Everybody's talking at me
I don't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind
Song by Harry Nilsson
In my book ‘Cruciale dialogen’ (Crucial dialogues) I have examined the
interrelationship of authentic interaction of facts and the reason test in
those cases where one wants to understand what the other is
• One speaks; the other listens, forming an insight into what is in the
mind of the speaker,
• The insight gets reason-tested by subsequent learning questions (a
dialogue within the dialoguexiii
– the ‘standing 8’ in the big ‘lying 8’
• This may change the insight and through this dialogue within the
dialogue, both speaker and listener arrive eventually at a common
understanding (creation of a common meaning) and subsequent
All this corresponds with the left side of the Crucial Dialogue model and
of course other tools – in order to fully understand the message – like
deciphering non-verbal clues and confirmed paraphrasing could (and
should) be used. Phase one ‘Communication’ is completed the moment
the message is understood. Phase two ‘Appreciation’ is about
appreciative understanding the message and the creation of a common
When we’ve created a common meaning of the reality and if we have the
volition to transform it for the better (and eventually for the Greatest
Human Good) we have to live the right side of the Crucial Dialogue
model. There we bring volition and freedom to the process.
Volition is, as I understand the term, is creating and choosing something,
which is more than just wanting it. Volition and Freedom are working in
tandem. Charlie Palmgren sees freedom as “the degree to which we are
able to bring to bear all the resources at our disposal” or “the self using
all of its resources to create what he wants [& chooses] to create”. That’s
the reason why we have to ask Choosing Questions in order to be sure
that we have all the resources needed for the chosen actions. Charlie
concludes: “By committing to the process of Creative Interchange –
approaching our relationships with a boundless, authentic and truthful
appreciation of the humanness of the other – we maximize our potential
for achieving the greatest freedom in our lives and, in the end, the
What we truly want is augment our wisdom and
transforming ourselves. This volition/freedom tandem creates wisdom
out of knowledge so to speak. All this is visualized in following picture:
As being pointed out the limiting devices for that Creative Interchange
process is evasiveness, which means:
• Not trusting one’s own ‘FAITH’;
• Not having the CURIOSITY to use one’s own REASON to test the
communicated insights (i.e. the Learning Questions);
• Not accepting the tested insights, thus the appreciative
understanding of those insights and the knowledge that is its
• Not having the willingness, the VOLITION, to imagine what one
ought to do and to decide accordingly;
• Not using one’s own REASON to test the feasibility of the imagined
options (i.e. the Choosing Questions);
• Not using one’s FREEDOM to bear all the resources.
4. Worth-based Attitudes or Qualities Needed to Reconnect
with Creative Interchange
“The nature of the rain is the same,
but it makes thorns grow in the marshes
and flowers in the gardens.”
- an Arab saying
The list at the end of the previous chapter encompasses the actions
generated by our personal Vicious Circle, which slows down or stop (our
commitment to) the Creative Interchange Process.
The question we will answer in this chapter is: “What are the qualities
that improve a person’s acceptance and living of (the ‘lost’) Creative
The major challenge of leaders and managers at all levels is to provide
the conditions by which individuals can maximize their potential through
learning from one another, from their work and their own humanness.
Those conditions are necessary so that the qualities to improve a
person’s living of Creative Interchange can be used to the fullest.
At the heart of our interchanges is the underlying self-evaluation of our
intrinsic worth. If we view our worth as something that someone must
grant us, then we will feel hurt if we do not win that acceptance. On the
other hand, if we view our self-worth as a given quantity at birth which is
never greater than that or will never been less than that at any given
time, our emotions, personality and behaviors are “worth-based’, rather
A hurt-based existence is characterized by cycles of destructive ‘Vicious
Circle’ behavior. Much of the destructive behavior we find in our
institutions and organizations – bullying, betraying, manipulating and
other ‘dirty tricks’ – are manifestations of ‘Vicious Circle’ behavior.
Creative Interchange is a worth-based interchange. An interchange
based on intrinsic worth possesses different emotions than the one
based on hurt, hostility and anxiety. Creative Interchange cannot thrive
where the motivation of the participants is derived from fear and anxiety.
Vicious Circle based interchange generates qualities of confusion,
polarity, negativity and rigidity.
By bringing worth-based attitudes to all of our interactions, we can begin
to enrich our personal and professional relationships with the creativity
that pervades our very ‘worth-full’ nature.
Let’s first identify those worth-based attitudes or qualities, I’m sure you’ll
identify them visioning the video clip YOUxvi
Trust is an orientation or attitude that is innate in the infant but is
undermined by threats to our worth and thus by the devastating work of
the Vicious Circle. Through trust we bring authenticity to both our intent
and the interaction itself. Do we approach the other person with
acknowledgement of his/her worth and humanness AND a sincere desire
to share with integrity our ‘faith’? The concept ‘Trust’ encompasses both
trustworthiness (the ability to be trusted by others) and trustiness (the
ability to trust others). Although we speak often about trustworthiness, I
find it symptomatic that the word ‘trustiness’ is seldom used. Our culture
is indeed still more an outside-in culture (trusted by others) than inside-
out (trusting others). Creative Interchange can only be ‘controlled’ from
One of the first filters in the communication process is intent. I call our
intent ‘negative’ if our intent is to deceive, manipulative and/or control. I
call our intent ‘positive’ if it is our intent to be authentic and integer. It is
the openness to share our best with others and encourage, even
subconsciously, others to share their best. This openness based on
authenticity and integrity is also innate. We are born with positive intent.
This mutual openness brings more to the table so that we can
understand the reality better.
Curiosity is another innate attitude or quality. It can enhance
interchanges based on mutual trust. Curiosity is the invitation to
discovery in our relationships. As you’ve seen in the little video we need
no better model for curiosity than a very young child. Their curiosity is not
yet slowed down by the devastating work of the Vicious Circle. We see in
them a seemingly limitless quest for appreciative understanding of – for
them new – experiences. This quest is shown through their untiring
demand to know. Children of the age between two and five are often
called little ‘Why-monsters’. They are responsible of the turning grey of
the hair of their parents. Sir Ken Robinson argues that schools are
responsible for killing creativityxvii
; in fact it’s the Vicious Circle (who,
indeed, ‘thrives’ in schools).
Curiosity is at its best working two-way: while listening and asking with
humility, we achieve the capacity to appreciate, absorb AND offer larger
amounts of information. With trust and that kind of openness, curiosity
leads to a creative state of ambiguity.
Tolerance for Ambiguity
A quality of children is that they embrace ambiguity. The Creative
Interchange process and the flourishing relationship/organization,
inherently thrives on ambiguity, for it is from our tolerance for ambiguity
that we ultimately discover what we do not already know. Tolerance for
ambiguity means staying in uncertainty, staying with the question,
despite of the discomfort of not knowing immediately the answer, or not
exactly knowing where we’re headed. It requires relinquishing control
and to make room for thinking. By trusting in ourselves within the
process, together we progressively integrate new insights, creating new
knowledge and thus a new ‘mindset’.
In his research around ‘emotional intelligence’, Daniel Goleman has
identified the contributing factors in emotional intelligence to include self-
regulation, which he describes as the ability to redirect disruptive
impulses and to suspend judgment, thinking before actingxviii
Goleman cites trustworthiness and integrity, comfort with ambiguity, and
openness to change as hallmarks of self-regulation. A leader high in
emotional intelligence is able to keep highly divergent ideas in his/her
head without running away from them and jump to conclusion.
These qualities actually change the way we think about ideas. No longer
do we think in terms of right/wrong, good/bad or either/or. Through
connectivity we begin to see positives, we are open to diversity, and stay
open to ambiguity. We start to think in terms of ‘both/and’.
Have you ever considered the awesome ability of infants around the
world to learn rapidly? Their spontaneity and connectivity associated with
creativity allows young children to learn at a high pace. Unfortunately we
do not keep that speed of learning through what is sometimes called the
socialization process, which I call the Vicious Circle. With connectivity we
can integrate relevant and irrelevant ideas that are seemingly random
into ‘both/and & different from’ innovative outcomes.
When someone states that he cannot see how an idea could work, they
are really saying that they are short in making the necessary connections
among the concepts at hand. The difference between perceived
relevance and irrelevance is one’s imagination.
Creativity is another quality of an infant. My favorite definition of creativity
is to find new ways to solve a problem and being happy while doing that.
A young child cannot use prescribed solutions to its problem; it has to be
creative to find its own solutions. And have you ever counted the number
of times the infant smiles and laughs while doing that?xix
This leads to the so-called Creativity Indexxx
Creativity is essential for an individual, community, organization or
society to be able to continually transform itself into the Greatest Human
Good for that individual, community, organization or society.
After deciding what exactly will be done, a long journey starts and this
journey is usually not for free. "When the rubber meets the road” is a
typical American expression, I’ve learned from Charlie Palmgren. As long
as the decision is in the air, the idea encounters relatively little resistance
(assuming that it is not shot out of the air). The moment the idea "lands",
since the decision is taken to implement it, an enormous friction is
created, similar to the friction encountered by the wheels of the landing
gear when the aircraft touches the tarmac after a flight. The moment one
takes action, the promise suddenly encounters big nuisance, in such way
that in many cases promises are ultimately not fully realized.
Tenacity is needed to keep our attitudes unencumbered and to
transforms one’s mindset and behavior. Not surprisingly this is another
quality of the infant. Tenacity is necessary to continually perform the
promised action(s). Tenacity and courage are two sides of the same
coin. Both are needed to entrust ourselves to the Creative Interchange
process, knowing that the outcome, whatever it will be (since we cannot
control the process itself, we can only live it to the fullest); will infinitely
Intrinsic motivation and commitment are the ingredients for the basic
condition tenacity. Tenacity means "the tenacious pursuit of what is
desired" and has as synonyms persistence and perseverance. It is the
persevering implementation of the action plan to achieve the desired
reality. It is sticking to a chosen approach until the objective is achieved,
and not faint at times of doubt and disillusionment inherent to change
The final quality is interdependence (i.e. the kids culture). In order to
continue the implementation of our promises, we are dependent on
others. There is a mutual dependence.
Interdependence is and ought to be
as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency.
Man is a social being.
In his book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’xxi
Our objective is to move progressively on a maturity continuum
from dependence to independence to interdependence.
Although independence is the current paradigm of our society,
we can accomplish much more by cooperation and specialization.
However, we must achieve independence
before we can choose interdependence.
Stephen Covey uses the following definitions:
1. Dependency: You must take care of me;
2. Independence; I take (first) care for myself;
3. Inter-Dependence: We learn from each other and together we
can accomplish great things through synergistic collaboration.
5. The Role of a creative Community
“The best way to find yourself
is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
The importance of a creative community
Henry Nelson Wieman often spoke of the importance of a creative
community. He was persuaded that a creative community had a crucial
role to play in each of our individual efforts of becoming better human
beings. To Henry Nelson a creative community was a community living
Creative Interchange from within. Individualism in his pro-freedom form
meant to him that the individual commits to her/his own creative
transformation and where ideals acts as enablers to a higher level of
transformation and are shaped and changed to meet her/his needs
The constraints that limit freedom are best overcome by way of
fellowship with those who practice the commitment to creativity in human
interchange. That community must be committed to its own
transformation toward ultimate goodness. This community can have
many forms such as a team, a division, an organization, an institution
and even a so-called Community of Practice.
The relationships within such a community and the interdependency –
between as well the individuals as between each individual and the
community – are crucial. Henry Nelson Wieman claimed that solely
through open and honest relationships we will be able to learn what
others have learned, to appreciate what others have appreciate and to
feel what others feel. Then, if we are committed to and living Creative
Interchange from within, we can add all this to what we’ve already
acquired and form out of this all our own coherent individuality. He
believed furthermore that this creative process is to work in the
community as well. The community evolves its own individuality through
the assimilation of the combined experiences we share in our
relationships within the community. The ‘richer’ these relationships
become, the richer the community that emerges. Without relationships
an organization would have no history, no traditions and no values. In
short that organization would not have a culture. A Creative Interchange
community ultimately creates a Creative Interchange culture.
Let’s go back now to our own Crucial Dialogue Model and let’s focus on
the tail of the body of the ‘butterfly’. There you find the three ‘states of
mind’ that enable dialogue the Creative Interchange way:
• Personal Purpose is worth-based and expansion oriented: we want
to re-become our Original Self;
• Positive Intent is worth-based and expansion oriented too: we
believe in positive interdependency to re-become our Original
• Personal Commitment too is worth-based and expansion oriented:
a commitment to Creative Interchange so that we ultimately re-
become our Original Self.
These worth-based creative ‘states of mind’ engender following typical
behaviors linked to the characteristics of Creative Interchange and thus
to the four phases of the Crucial Dialogue Model:
• Authentic Interaction – open sharing of one’s unique perspectives
and skill; being in the ‘faith’ or ‘long in the truth’;
• Appreciative Understanding – understanding AND appreciating
what others know and value; listening with ‘ears of awe’;
• Creative Integrating – continuous assimilations of the values and
ideas received from others into one’s (actual) created or adaptive
• Continual Transformation – the continuous, indefinite improvement
and expansion toward our fullest possible development: our
personal and communal ‘Greatest Human Good’.
These behaviors are the essence of Creative Interchange. As we
observe the infant trying to experience her/his environment we can see
these behaviors in action (cf. video clip ‘You’ – see chapter 4). They a)
need distinctive conditions and b) manifest themselves in different skills
that are developed to propagate the worth-based ‘states of mind’ and
behaviors. The behaviors (or basic conditions) are the red and the skills
the green elements of the ‘wings’ of the Butterfly Model:
The Crucial dialogue model has 4 phases, 8 basic conditions and 16
Phase 1 ‘Communication’ (corresponds with the Authentic Interaction
characteristic of the Creative Interchange process):
• Basic Conditions: Trust and Openness
• Skills: Crucial Question/Opportunity, Advocacy and Inquiry, Non
verbal communication and Confirmed Paraphrasing.
Phase 2 ‘Appreciation’ (corresponds with the Appreciative Understanding
characteristic of the Creative Interchange process):
• Basic Conditions: Curiosity and Tolerance for Ambiguity;
• Skills: Humble Inquiry, Finding positives, Integrating differences
(i.e. converting drawbacks) and the use of Mental Models.
Phase 3 ‘Imagination’ (corresponds with the Creative Integrating
characteristic of the Creative Interchange process:
• Basic Conditions: Connectivity and Creativity;
• Skills: Reframing, Use of Analogies, Use of Metaphors and 4
plusses and a Wish.
Phase 4 ‘Transformation’ (corresponds with the Continual
Transformation characteristic of the Creative Interchange process):
• Basic Conditions: Tenacity and Interdependence;
• Skills: Repetition and Evaluation, Feedback (Positive
Reinforcement & Correction), Dare to Change and Process
The creative skills given at birth are responsible for the development of
what Henry Nelson Wieman and Charlie Palmgren call ‘Valuing
Let’s start the overview of this concept with Henry Nelson’s definition of a
“A value is a goal seeking activity”
In other words, what you value is what you’re seeking out; the activities
you engage in are meant to achieve that goal. For instance if Love is one
of your values you will engage in activities to achieve love. The same is
true for Safety and all values one has. So by observing someone’s
activities, we are able to identify what she or he really values.
We are born with as well ‘valuing consciousness’ as ‘Creative
Interchange’. The first will steer our awareness. Let’s look at the activities
a just born engages in. A dear friend of Charlie’s, dr. Erle Fitz (a great
name for a psychiatrist) described this phenomenon as follows. The
moment a baby has increased interludes of wakefulness she/he is
steered by its Valuing Consciousness to discover the world. Indeed, at a
certain point in time, the baby in not solely engaged any more in the
cycle he started with: sleep–wake up–cry–eat–sleep–wake up–cry–eat–
sleep … because the interludes of wakefulness, after having eaten and
before falling asleep, become longer. The baby uses these interludes to
deploy - the longer the more - goal seeking activities. She/he wants to
appreciatively understand the world around her/him. Indeed her/his
‘Valuing Consciousness’ determines the activities she/he engages in.
Conclusion: the ‘Valuing Consciousness determines the activities a
human being engages in and those goal seeking activities become
values which become crucial elements of (and in) one’s life.
If I don’t value something, I’m not aware, don’t even see and can’t
therefor be conscious of it. Unless I see the value of something I won’t
develop activities in order to obtain that value.
This Valuing Consciousness expands the moment Creative Interchange
comes alive. The Valuing Consciousness expands through (authentic)
interaction – interchange – with other people. Fundamentally we are
social beings. Indeed, the whole Creative Interchange process comes
fully alive through interaction with other people. Through living Creative
Interchange form within with others we expand our Valuing
Consciousness, we appreciate what others appreciate and incorporate
elements of others in our own mindset, we transform ourselves in
community and therefore we transform ourselves and the community to a
higher level, to the Greatest Human Good.
Unfortunately there is another reality. Indeed another process is going
on: the Vicious Circle. The Valuing Consciousness expands until we
become prisoner of the Vicious Circle. For instance, the child is loved
unconditionally until the parents and other grown-ups set conditions
(rules and regulations; without the consent of the baby by the way). In
probably all great world religions ‘God’ loves you unconditionally.
Conditional love is coming from mankind. And the moment conditions are
set in … the Vicious Circle start its devastating work.
Learn, un-learn and relearn
It is said that Alvin Toffler once wrote that the illiterate of the future would
not be the individual who cannot read or write but the one who cannot
learn, unlearn and relearn. In the context of this essay I would like to
argue that many of us have learned to be what Henry Nelson Wieman
called ‘evasive’ in our relationships. Indeed many of us are stuck in their
‘fixed’ mindset, in their Vicious Circle. To grow as humans in our
relationships we find ourselves having to unlearn how we relate mostly to
each other and re-learn some of the creative skills we were given at
Actual brain studies do suggest that we can continue to grow new nerve
connections into even old age. This is not so much a matter of
unlearning as it is of new learning. If we continue to use the new
connections to the exclusion of the old, some of those old connections
will atrophy and possible die off.
The next chapter will introduce a model I labeled “Mindset Dynamic’. It
shows how to bring these lost creative skills back in order to allow us to
grow more freely towards the Greatest Human Good.
6. Blessing and Curse of our Mindsets (Mental Models)
“In cognition, the term Mental Models refers to
both the semi permanent tacit ‘maps’ of the world
which people hold in their long-term memory,
and the short-term perceptions which people build up as
part of their every day reasoning processes.”
- Art Kleiner
In this chapter I’ll present the ‘Mindset Dynamic’ model, which I’ve based
on a classic view of the ‘Origin of Habit-Behavior’xxii
and the Crucial
Dialogue Model. We will do this step by step and conclude with a full
blow up of the model. Please bear in mind that what I’m presenting is not
the truth. It is a personal conscious interpretation of reality through my
Mindset. I’m only presenting ‘my’ truth and, having a ‘growth Mindset’, I
know one thing for sure; ‘my’ truth is not ‘the’ truth. So you’re welcome to
challenge my actual Mindset.
There are a lot of synonyms for the concept Mindset. Mental Model is
one, Frame of Reference is another, Paradigm is still another. The
Mindset incorporates the Beliefs, Presuppositions and Assumptions one
acquires over time through experiences.
The Mindset Dynamic explains how Mindsets are created and
transformed. The creation of ones Mindset starts at birth (and perhaps
even before we’re born). Their ‘Valuing Consciousness’ (see chapter 5)
helps babies to discover the world around, being conscious of that world
and finally valuing it. This happens to be a very iterative process.
From the very moment we’re born, we communicate with the reality
around us and thus with the truth in it. Antony de Mello called this truth,
as we’ve seen earlier, ‘Faith’. The newborn’s ‘Awareness’ makes her/him
observe and her/his intuition forms an Insight, which creates a Feeling
followed by a Behavior, which has an Outcome. For instance, when a
baby sees the friendly face of its mom it feels intuitively her love, which
has the following behavior: the baby smiles. This behavior has an
outcome, the smile is returned. Another example, when the baby
becomes aware it’s hungry it has another behavior: it starts to cry. The
outcome is that mom comforts the baby and if she appreciatively
understands the message, the baby is fed.
Thus its observation creates an insight and a feeling. Those are
influenced by the ‘core’ ‘states of minds’ (cf. chapter 5) of the baby,
which are at that moment still in early development: Personal Purpose
(survival and ‘feeling comfortable’), Positive Intention and Personal
Commitment. You’ve seen these ‘core’ elements at work in the video
‘You’ (cf. chapter 4).
The baby soon appreciates that each behavior is followed by an outcome
and this outcome is put in her/his ‘database of experiences’, her/his
memory, which will, in the course of time, develop into his/her particular
Mindset or mental model.
From the moment its ‘first’ Mindset is created pretty soon the following
happens. When the baby ‘observes’, what its sees is practically
immediately ‘interpreted’ using its ‘first’ Mindset, using its consciousness
and the ‘states of mind’ are by-passed so to speak. Due to its
interpretation the baby ‘jumps to conclusion’ and displays the
‘appropriate’ behavior, trusting that this will bring the ‘expected’ outcome.
If this is the case, the ‘first’ Mindset is strengthened:
All this is going almost continuously on during approximately the first
eight months of the baby’s life confirming day after day its ‘first’ mindset.
During this period the ‘Intrinsic Worth’ of the baby is still unconditional as
has been explained in the books of Hagan & Palmgren and myself
treating the Vicious Circle.
The moment the baby can sit upright it starts to discover nature’s Law of
Gravity and it experiments to see if its spoon, muesli, orange juice,
etcetera do drop down whenever it open its fingers or put’s its bowl
upside down. After picking up the little spoon and cleaning up the mess a
couple of times, the parents soon start to make their ‘love’, and therefor
the baby’s ‘Intrinsic Worth’, conditional: “You’re loved IF you’re behaving
as follows…” and some rules are set!
Of course the baby continues its experiments, because this has become
one of its habits by then. And pretty soon its parents reject the baby for
the first time and the Vicious Circle starts to spin slowly. The baby is
learning about inadequacy – specifically its own and it soon learns that,
as a toddler, you are no match for giants who are your elders. Coupled
with the lesson on inadequacy comes the pain of rejection. The child’s
perception of its worth is now associated with not staying within the limits
and obeying the rules. The anger, fear, pain and guilt the baby feels
when experiencing rejection and thus inadequacy, causes it to work
endlessly to re-become adequate – to be, or at least appear to be,
perfect. The games, through which the baby hides its Original Self, start!
The games the toddler is learning to play can be labeled as follows:
Interact in such a way that what unacceptable about yourself does not
show. Over time the child learns the complete meaning of the ‘mother’
culture game: Interact with people in such a way that what is
unacceptable about yourself and the other person doesn’t show.
The baby is taught, trough everyday socializing processes and
conditioning, to value certain behaviors to exclusion of others. Roles and
images are created to enable the toddler, child and teenager to play its
games successfully. These are solidified over time into demands and
expectations for itself and others. The young adult is more and more
disconnected from its Original Self and has formed when it is a young
adult a constructed Self. This created (or adaptive) Self embraces
illusions as Control, Certainty, Stability and Security.
At this point, the journey is complete. The false ego has landed. The trust
of the child has given away to a demand for security. The child’s curiosity
is buried by the need for certainty. Creativity has been stifled by the need
for stability. In the mean time our once unconditional worth has become
conditional. We’ve somehow lost our Intrinsic Worth. An Extrinsic Worth
that has to be earned has replaced it, and roles and images and their
efforts must be ‘controlled’, to meet our assumed demands and
expectations from others and ourselves. By then our ‘first’ Mindset is
completely transformed in a new constructed Mindset through the
devastating work of the Vicious Circle:
You can find the full coverage of the Vicious Circle in the books I’ve
mentioned. Allow me to underline though that the box of ‘demands and
expectations’ (see above figure of the Vicious Circle) ultimately becomes
‘our box’ and we strive to limit that box at a size that we can cope. In fact,
as we grow up, gradually our box of ‘demands and expectations’ (re.
ourselves and others) expands in a ‘natural’ way. The more ‘roles’ we
have to play – let’s name some of them: girl/boy, wife/husband,
mother/father, friend, employee, and member of several communities–
the more demands and expectations we encounter.
At some point in time it is simply not possible to meet all those demands
and expectations and then we experience first frustration, which pretty
soon develops nasty side effects. Guilt and Pain are turned inward (we
aren’t a baby any more) and we experience Blame and Shame; Anger
and Fear are transformed in Hostility and Anxiety and Fight and Flight
are transformed in Stress (distress to be exact) and (di) stress related
Illnesses. Once caught in this negativity, the adult begins to show awful
Symptoms and ultimately … reject herself. Because such rejection is in
direct violation of her sense of Worth, the cycle starts again: we feel
inadequate and hide in a smaller set of ‘Demands and Expectations’,
which becomes ultimately our so-called ‘comfort’ zone.
Whenever a new initiative – for instance a drastic change in our personal
and/or our organizational life - invites us to go ‘beyond our box’, huge
resistance is mostly our ‘knee jerk’ reaction. The red arrows in next
picture gives are a representation of the working of the Vicious Circle
within an adult:
We use a lot of energy in order to stay within the limits of ‘our’ box. At
that moment we’re totally disconnected from our Intrinsic Worth and –
since Worth has been defined as “the capacity to engage in transforming
creativity” – the Eagle has become a Chicken.
The blessing of our ‘first’ mindset (survival and feeling comfortable) is
transformed in the curse of our ‘nine dots’ in which we are prisoned. We
have developed a ‘fixed’ Mindset and became and stay Chickens. Our
‘box’ has indeed become the Mindset of our ‘created’ self and in order to
re-connect with our ‘original’ Self and become the Leader we were meant
to be, we have to disrupt that ‘fixed’ Mindset. We will have to transform
our ‘created’ Self through leaving our comfort zone, so to speak. We
must ‘adapt’ our Self; the ‘created’ self must become an ‘adaptive’ self.
The way to do this – the way to transform the Chicken into the Eagle he
was born - is to live the Creative Interchange process from within, which
is far from being easy or comfortable.
"Doing what you are afraid of,
getting out of your comfort zone,
taking risks like that - that is what life is."
- Amy Poehler
Using the metaphor of the Matrix (see chapter 3) we have to chose
deliberately for the Red Pill, and transform continually our ‘adaptive’ self
into a ‘higher’ version, nearer to our ‘original’ Self. In other words, we
have to become aware and conscious of the need of a continuous
‘adaptive’ Self. “Becoming a Leader is Becoming Yourself”, said as well
Warren Bennis as Russ S. Moxley (see chapter 3). Reliving Creative
Interchange from within, we become slowly the Eagle we started out to
be from the beginning. If we don’t choose the Red Pill and go for the
Blue one, we stay a Chicken. Warning: choosing for the Red pill is not
choosing for a smooth, ‘free’ ride; on the contrary!
To start this voyage we have to stop our ‘knee jerk reaction’ style, our
‘habit’ behavior following immediately our observation. The first step in
order to truly understand our observation is to use what we call a Reason
test. We’re testing our interpretation of our observations through Inquiry.
This will give us a better insight into the reality, which will inevitably
create other, more accurate, feelings. The second step is to decide to do
something about what we’re feeling and to generate ideas in order to
change the unsatisfying reality.
“The key to seeing the world's soul,
and in the process wakening our own,
is to get over the confusion by which we think
that fact is real and imagination is illusion.”
Original Self: living with Paradox and Originality
As you can see in the figure most of the time we still ‘jump to conclusion’
whenever we’ve found what appear to us as a ‘good idea’. We start to
implement that idea and our behavior has an outcome, which is added to
The problem is that the outcome of some of our actions is not
instantaneously. Between action and outcome the time lapse is
sometimes long. Not having an immediate outcome is sometimes
interpreted wrongly, which feeds our mindset wrongly. When we are
children, problems are never far from their solutions and those solutions
have almost always a direct outcome. Whether it is positive or negative,
the experience helps us to change our mindset gradually. Years later, as
grown ups, we still tend to believe that the world still works the same
way. Unfortunately, cause and effect are, in the adult world and in more
complex human systems, not closely related in time and spacexxiii
. So we
have to let go of the notion that cause and effect are close in time and
space, and stay aware! On the other hand most of the time our behavior
change is not a lasting one. We do not implement the action tenaciously.
Indeed we do not perform those actions long enough – or we learn over
time that we do not have the necessary means to perform those actions
long enough – in order to create a lasting transformation.
Hopefully over the years our mindset changes and we learn to add a
second Reason test to find out, before we implement ideas, if we truly
have the necessary ‘freedom’ to implement them. Experiences have
taught us that sometimes we lack willingness, at other times we simply
don’t have the necessary resources: action plan, people, time, …
This leads us to the complete Mindset Dynamic model:
7. Toward the Greatest Human Good
“The teach a new way of thinking, don’t bother.
Instead, give them a too, the use of which
will lead to new ways of thinking.”
We come to transformation toward the Greatest Human Good through
living Creative Interchange from within. Henry Nelson Wieman called this
Man’s Ultimate Commitment. A commitment to recapture the required
behaviors we all are born with and in doing so to transform the way we
form and nurture our relationships and transforms our lives.
The three ‘states of mind’ – Personal Purpose, Positive Intention and
Personal Commitment – that we’ve discussed before, together with the
eight basic conditions, if provided, and the sixteen skills, if lived and
practiced, will ultimately lead to the Creative Interchange outcomes:
Individual Freedom and Shared Meaning, Integration and Synergy and
finally Accomplishment and Productivity.
In a two or more person relationship (such as a couple, team, company,
community or institution) a relationship-level Mindset is created out of
common experiences. Each person is bringing her/his purpose, intention
and commitment to the table and is practicing the skills and thus
displaying the connected behaviors. Each of the two is engaging in the
‘Mindset Dynamic’ (see chapter 6). The thus created experiential
‘Mindset Dynamic’ between two people can be pictured as follows:
Relationships anchored in creative interchanges, using worth-based
skills and behaviors will therefor experience the already mentioned
Creative Interchange outcomes. In this way, a community-level ‘Mindset’
has impact on the future experiences and growth of that community. This
community level ‘Mindset Dynamic’ looks like:
During their Dialogue based on Creative Interchange, the participants
create a ‘shared meaning’ on which they act and the outcome creates a
The Mindset Dynamic is why our ‘states of mind’ and the needed
conditions are so important to our unlimited growth as human beings
toward the Greatest Human Good as well as the productive growth of our
work teams, organizations, institutions, communities and societies.
Enlightened Organizations – called DDO’s (DDO = Deliberated
Development Organizations) in Robert Kegan, Lisa Liskow Lahey et al.’s
book ‘An Everyone Culturexxiv
’ – see a direct linkage between their own
success and profitability and an evolving, thriving society of highly
cultivated human capacities. The chief task of corporate leaders is a) to
communicate and motivate in such a creative way as to develop the
unlimited potentialities of employees, and b) to provide the safety and the
conditions whereby all employees learn from one another and learn from
the work that they can perform best. Those conditions have already been
mentioned in chapter 5: trust, openness, curiosity, tolerance for
ambiguity, connectivity, creativity, tenacity and interdependency.
The first step in transformation to worth-based, Creative Interchange is to
commit to live and improve oneself in the skills we use to obtain
Authentic Interaction, Appreciative Understanding, Creative Integrating
and Continual Transformation behaviors, in order that those become
Authentic Interaction Skills
Advocacy and Inquiry
This skill enables the parties involved in the dialogue to express their
own thoughts and to inquire the thoughts of the other(s). When balancing
advocacy and inquiry, we lay out our reasoning and thinking and then
encourage others to challenge that reasoning and thinking. And we invite
the others to lay out their reasoning and thinking and then they
encourage us to challenge those, in order to fully understand each other.
Advocacy is a clear, open and honest communication – sharing with
integrity – is the best way for us to present the way we think and
understand our ideas.
Advocacy and Inquiry are in fact question-and-answering skills that show
an authentic interaction behavior.
This skill enables the parties involved in the dialogue to be clearly heard
and to confirm what each understands about the other’s communication.
Confirmed Paraphrasing is practiced on three levels: content – what is
understood about what is said and heard; emotion – what feeling is
connected with what was said, and meaning – what values and beliefs
underlie what was said. Through repeated use of this skill, one develops
a level of trust in order to be able to evaluate which level or combination
of those three levels of paraphrasing is needed in a particular dialogue.
These and similar skills (Goal Sharing/Crucial Question and Non verbal
communication) will affect worth-based, expansive motives and attitudes
(which I often call ‘conditions’) of trustingness and trustworthiness such
that there will less likely be hidden agendas and more likely result in
open, honest and integer communication (i.e. Authentic Interacting)
setting the stage for the next behavior of Appreciative Understanding.
Appreciative Understanding Skills
Finding Positives and Converting Drawbacks
This set of skills strives to train individuals to appreciate value and
respond emphatically to new ideas even if those ideas seem at first sight
‘not so good ideas’. It’s about finding ‘the plus behind the minus’. By
identifying positives and evaluating ‘negatives’ as drawbacks that may
likely be ‘turned around’, participants change typical perceptions related
to an ‘either/or’ orientation to recognition of ‘both/and’ thinking. These
skills often include chaining positives and drawbacks and the yes/wish
Questioning Mental Models
Mental models are the images, assumptions and stories we carry in our
minds of ourselves, other people, organizations, institutions and every
aspect of the world. They are the spectacles through which we see the
world. Mental models determine what we see because they interpret the
reality we see. Mental models are ‘mental maps’ and all these mental
maps, by definition, are flawed in some way. Differences between mental
models explain why two people can observe the same event and
describe it differently. Mental models (part of the left side of the ‘Butterfly’
model) ultimately shape how we act (the right side of the ‘Butterfly’
model) and thus the outcome.
The concept Mental Model has many synonyms like Frame of Reference
and Paradigm to name two of them. In this essay we mostly use, as you
have seen, the concept Mindset. Because mental models are part of our
consciousness, below the level of awareness, they are often untested
and unexamined. The core task of this skills set is bringing mental
models to the surface, to explore and to talk about them with minimal
defensiveness – help to see the qualities of our ‘spectacles’,
appreciatively understand their impact on our lives and find way to re-
form the glass by creating new mental models that serve us better in the
Two types of skills are central to this endeavor: they are reflection
(slowing down our thinking processes to become more aware of how we
form our mental models) and inquiry (holding conversations where we
openly share views and develop knowledge about each other’s
The Mental Model metaphor ‘colored glasses’ (see above figure) is
based on The Ladder of Inference of Chris Argyrisxxv
Individuals who lack those skills have difficulty to hear what others
actually say. Instead, they hear what they expect others to say. They
have little tolerance for multiple interpretations of events because they
often “see’ only their own interpretations.
Through increased trust and clarity of message from the authentic
interaction skills, these and other positive skills (like ‘humble inquiry’ – cf.
Ed Schein and ‘the left hand column’ – cf. Argyris) engender attitudes of
curiosity and comfort with ambiguity. Those are the needed conditions of
Appreciative Understanding. Skills of appreciation allow us (1) to hold
lightly to our convictions, recognizing that our worth is not based on
others accepting our convictions and (2) that those others may hold more
enlightened positions that the ones we currently hold ourselves. Living
those skills make us grow in our freedom and broaden our mental
models and achieve a sense of shared meaning and value with another
in our relationships. We are ready for skills of Creative Integration.
Creative Integrating Skills
How do we regain the childlike playfulness that served us so well in our
early learning years? I don’t mean child-ish, I do mean child-like.
Rekindling the abilities to make absurd connections in our observations,
by engaging in fantasy, by ‘battling the windmills” in our mind we accept
the ultimate purpose of our life, i.e. to obtain the Greatest Human Good.
These skills are reframing the issue at hand, recognizing the relevant in
the irrelevant, and the use of analogies and metaphors to expand our
4 Pluses and a Wish
This skill enhances the ‘value’ of each idea. The underlying truth is that
any idea has some value. This skill is particularly helpful to stop our
created knee-jerk reaction to kill every idea, which we do not directly
value. It is also used in schools and in parenting; there it is used to
motivate a child’s cooperation and it is based on the idea that, “Children
who feel respected are far more motivated to comply with parental
wishes than children who do not feel valued”xxvi
. I learned it from Charlie
Palmgren who incorporated this skill in a Problem Solving methodology I
It works as follows: whenever an idea is uttered by one of the members
of the team the so-called ‘client’ values that idea by naming four pluses
(things she/he appreciates in the idea). In case the idea is not fully
satisfying yet, one wish (a thing he/she wished the idea should
incorporate to make it even better) is expressed. When someone in the
group has a new idea that responds to that ‘whish’, he gives it to the
group. The client values the now strengthened idea and this goes on
until he is fully satisfied with the final idea. This way everybody
collaborates to create ‘great’ ideas.
These skills help break down polarized thinking and the barriers to
creativity. Through greater spontaneity (nobody’s idea is shot down) and
connectivity (we connect and built on each others ideas) we enjoy
greater freedom to integrate what we creatively experience through our
relationships into our expanding individuality – to constantly evolve into
the infinite potentiality of our being.
As shown in the ‘Mindset Dynamic’, the progressive, creative integration
works at the individual level as well as the relationships level, constantly
changing our individual and collective mindsets for our marriages, our
work teams, our organizations, our communities and our societies. At the
same time a sense of shared vision is created.
If we are successful in integrating all of these skills into our teams we’ll
creatively find ideas to continually transform our reality toward the
Greatest Human Good.
Continual Transformation Skills
Feedback (Positive Reinforcement & Correction)
Feedback Processes are pivotal skills in transformation. Feedback
involves providing those involved with information about their functioning.
Feedback can be positive and reinforces in this case the actions taken.
Negative Feedback (correction) is almost always considered external
while reinforcement can be external or intrinsic (i.e., generated by the
The importance of feedback to learning and transforming is great since
knowledge of results is necessary to correct mistakes and to motivate
the team members to behave in certain ways. One of the critical
variables in both cases is the length of time between the response and
the feedback. In general, the more immediate the feedback the more
learning is facilitated.
Process awareness ensures that we are not only aware of what one is
doing, but also how one is doing it. In addition it makes sure that one is
aware of the extent to which what and how something is done, is
congruent with the terms of the Creative Interchange process. In its
simplest form Process Awareness is a dual awareness. A portion of the
awareness focuses on the task (what is done) and the other part focuses
on the process itself (how it is done). In our case this process is of
course Creative Interchange. The Process Awareness Skill can monitor
what you say and do, identify and evaluate what others say and do,
monitor how the team members are living the Creative Interchange
process and most of all identify if you yourself live or hinder that living
Process. The latter means too that through Process Awareness you are
aware of the functioning of your Vicious Circle. This is often called self-
awareness, beautifully painted by Albert Einstein’s quote:
“The superiority of man lies not in his ability to perceive,
but in his ability to perceive that he perceives,
and to transfer his perception to others through words.”
Process Awareness is also linked to the concept ‘transcendence’. You
certainly have heard once following expression: “Being in the world and
not from the world.” Being in the world means that you identify yourself
with your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Being from the world suggest
that you are nothing more than a conglomerate of your experiences and
actions in this world. Not being from the world means that you can
observe the world ‘from a distance’. One is, so to speak, ‘above’ the
world and can therefor observe the world and his/her behavior without
being effectively concerned. Being capable of both is an ideal we strive
This way, the created or adaptive self – the by-product of the Vicious
Circle – is from this world. This self is a unity created from the mix of
experiences, perceptions, roles, images, games, demands and
expectations and so on. The Original Self is not from the world. The
Original Self is ‘beyond’ the world being with both feet in the world.
Process Awareness has to do with being receptive to information
associated with the task or activity being performed, and to information
connected with the Creative Interchange Process while being at work
with others (i.e. being in the world) AND at the same time being open to
analyze oneself, the internal data that are generated by those actions,
without being prisoner of these data (i.e. not being from the world).
If we have successfully transformed ourselves though the transforming
power of Creative Interchange (Yoda’s Force!), we will have begun to
experience (1) an interchange that has as its core authentic
understanding and appreciation of the uniqueness of others, and
ourselves and (2) how this transforming power enables us to continually
re-create ourselves by integrating what we experience from others.
Through an ‘ultimate’ commitment to Creative Interchange we start to
transform ourselves and invite others to do so, in the direction of ‘The
Greatest Human Good’.
Henry Nelson Wieman made following observations:
• “The fullest attainment of humankind can only be achieved when
people make the ultimate commitment to engage in Creative
Interchange, the true source of human good and transformation.”
• “People are made for creative transformation as a bird is made for
• Creative Interchange occurs when the individual finds one or more
persons with whom she/he can engage in that kind of interchange
which creates in each an awareness of the original experience of
the other person.”
• “We must counteract the forces that obstruct Creative Interchange,
such as prejudice, all forms of ignorance; everything that blocks the
• “There are no guarantees that Creative Interchange will bring this
world to peace and justice, and it has that potential.”
8. Creative Interchange: The Hidden Force of
“Is a dream a lie if don’t come true
or is it something worse.”
By Creative Interchange Henry Nelson Wieman meant two things: an
authentic human interchange that creates appreciative understanding of
our unique individualities, and the progressive integration within each of
us what we discover from each other this way.xxviii
Open to external
influence and dialogue, the process transforms the mind as the mind
cannot transform itself. The prerequisite is that the mind is open for
transformation, which makes me think of Thomas Dewar’s quote once
paraphrased by Frank Zappa:
“Minds are like parachutes - they only function when open.”
Creative Interchange: The Hidden Force of Transformation
We want to suggest that any of the interpersonal transformations models
that have been popular over the recent years work because one or more
of the worth-based behaviors of Creative Interchange are involved:
Authentic Interaction, Appreciative Understanding, Creative Integrating
and Continual Transformation.
Take for instance the nowadays-popular Theory U ‘movement’ started by
and C. Otto Scharmerxxx
. According to Joseph, the
birth of the U-Theory took place following a conversation Joseph, Otto
and Garry Jesula had with W. Brian Arthur of Xerox PARC in Palto Alto,
Callifornia on April, 16th
. While reading C. Otto Scharmer’s
Theory U I created a Storify stating that Creative Interchange is the
hidden Force of Theory U.xxxii
Conflict Resolution techniques employ empathetic listening,
paraphrasing and mostly ‘compromise’ strategies. Compromise is
generally an outcome of evasive communication because it often seeks
the least common denominator among the offered positions.
Nonviolent Communication of Marshall Rosenberg originated as a
conflict resolution technique and became a basic work on
. I only found out the existence of the work of dr.
Rosenberg after my book ‘Cruciale Dialogen’ was published. My book is
based on Creative Interchange and since many people have pointed out
that both books ‘Nonviolent Communication’ and ‘Cruciale Dialogen’ are
surfing on the same wave, it is clear to me that nonviolent
communication’s hidden Force is Creative Interchange!
With creative worth-based communication (as in Crucial Dialogues) the
parties can expect integrated, synergistic solutions, which often are
beyond and superior to the original opposing positions. Empathic
listening and confirmed paraphrasing are practical skills leading to
Appreciative Understanding and Creative Integrating.
Transformational Leadership is about engendering integrity and spirit for
the purpose of self-organization, being comfortable with ambiguity, and
working toward shared meaning. Transformational Leadership’s four
components the so-called 4I’sxxxiv
, include (me paraphrasing Bernard
• Idealized influence: Leaders who express their conviction clearly
and emphasize the importance of trust; they live their values from
within and urge their followers to do the same; they emphasize the
importance of purpose and commitment (cf. Authentic Interaction);
• Inspirational motivation: Leaders who articulate an appealing vision
of the future, they are with their followers and support them in
many ways (cf. Authentic Interaction and Continual
• Intellectual stimulation: Leaders who question old assumptions,
beliefs and mindsets; they stimulate in others new perspectives,
they encourage the expression of ideas (cf. Appreciative
Understanding and Creative Integrating);
• Individual consideration: Leaders who deal with others as
individuals; they consider individual needs, abilities and
aspirations; they listen in order to appreciatively understand and
support individual member’s development, they advice, teach and
coach (i.e. living Creative Interchange from within).
Creative Interchange is at its best, when all the required conditions are
aligned. In Transformational Group Dynamics the facilitator will strive to
establish high levels of trust among participants, keep attitudes curious
and imaginative, encourage worth-based communication skills, and seek
behaviors of openness and appreciative understanding regarding new
ideas and foster synergy and continual transformation.
Creative Interchange is at the core of many current efforts to stimulate
the so-called “out of the box’ thinking, like Design Thinking. Modern
formal education has tended to over emphasize divergent ‘either/or’
thinking, although the natural associative functioning of the mind is to
engage in ‘both/and’ thinking, which is so critical to creative thinking.
Creative Interchange is “both/and & different from’ thinking. I claim that
Creative Interchange is the hidden Force behind Design Thinking. My
claim becomes clear if one looks closely at the Double Diamond Model
of the UK based Design Councilxxxv
. Divided into four distinct phases –
Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver – the Double Diamond is a simple
visual map of the Design Thinking process.
1. Discover – The first quarter of the Double Diamond model covers
the start of the project. Designers try to look at the world in a fresh
way, notice new things and gather insights (cf. Authentic
2. Define – The second quarter represents the definition stage, in
which designers try to make sense of all the possibilities identified
in the Discover phase. Which matters most? Which should we act
on first? What is feasible? The goal here is to develop a clear
creative brief that frames the fundamental design challenge (cf.
3. Develop – The third quarter marks a period of development where
solutions or concepts are created, prototyped, tested and iterated.
This process of trial and error helps designers to improve and
refine their ideas (cf. Creative Integrating);
4. Delivery – The final quarter of the double diamond model is the
delivery stage, where the resulting project (a product, service or
environment, for example) is finalized, produced and launched (cf.
As you can see, it’s not difficult to identify the four characteristics of
Creative Interchange in the Double Diamond Model. Following visuals –
the first is another picture of the Double Diamond and the second is a
visualization of the Creative Interchange process - make the underlying
of Creative Interchange regarding Design Thinking – and thus my claim -
Creative Interchange is also at the basis of much of the current work on
learning and transformational organizations theory and practice. It is at
the heart of the Learning Organization, the Dialogue Process and
Appreciative Inquiry. In fact I like to state that Creative Interchange is the
sum of Appreciative Inquiry and Problem Solving, since Creative
Interchange is also the underpinning of the Synectics Problem Solving
In short, Creative Interchange is the meta-process that determines
whether any of the current models of Communication, Conflict
Resolution, Dialogue, Creativity, Innovation, Agility, Resilience,
Leadership, you name it, are or will be successful.
Through this essay we hope we have raised awareness of this liberating
process called Creative Interchange that Henry Nelson Wieman wrote
about: this from his dissertation ‘The Organization of Interests’ (1917)xxxvi
on till the end of his life (1975). With the acquisition of a few enabling
skills and a commitment to maintaining the worth-based conditions in
one’s everyday life, each of us can experience that which transforms our
lives and those around us in ways we are unable to imagine nor achieve
In this essay we’ve suggested that the health and growth of any
organization is directly tied to the health and growth of its employees and
the communities in which the organization operates. These
interdependencies are manifest in the vitality of the various interpersonal
relationships among employees, customers and other community
The symptoms of an unhealthy organization are poor moral, high
turnover, strikes, elevated absenteeism due to burnout, low engagement,
above-average occupational injuries and material damages and a
general decline in productivity. For instance, the annual cost in a tiny
country as Belgium of extended absenteeism is 6.4 billions of Euro!xxxvii
We suggest that creating a work environment rich in the required
conditions of Creative Interchange is both a self-preservation strategy
and a moral imperative. Such a Creative Interchange environment
engenders the healthy development of the organization, its employees
and the communities within it operates.
“There are no guarantees that Creative Interchange
will bring this world to peace and justice,
and it has that potential.”
Henry Nelson Wieman
It has the potential and whether that potential becomes a reality or not
depends on us; in other words we have to live Creative Interchange from
within. If we don’t live Creative Interchange it is extremely doubtful that it
will bring this world to ‘peace and justice’.
“If not us, who?
If not now, when?”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
(paraphrasing Hillel The Elder)
When push comes to shove, Organizational change is at the end
Personal Transformation. W. Edwards Deming wrote years ago “There
is no change without Personal Transformation”. And each Personal
Transformation starts with the change of one’s personal mindset. So
everyone has to change his/her mindset, not only those ‘in the reality
of the workplace’, the workers and employees.
Conclusion: Changing peoples mindsets is mandatory for
sustaining Organizational Transformation.
I believe we are on the eve of a new Paradigm. I call it the ‘Creative
Interchange’ or ‘inside-out’ Paradigm.
What practically will change in the new paradigm? Let’s start with
change itself. Change projects will become transformation projects.
Actually most change projects want to change what is and are
constantly at war with the facts, while forcing people constantly into
new models the ‘outside-in’ way. Transformation on the other hand is
bringing out what is inside, thus the ‘inside-out’ way.
During transformation you have to see the reality in a different way
(i.e. a change in mindset). The sequence of transformation is ‘See-
As long as people don’t first see and appreciate it, then really feel it,
no transformation from within is possible. At best, people will perhaps
display another behavior, they’ll change their behavior temporarily and
nothing will really transform, the mindset will not be altered. If you
really want transformation who is enduring, it has to come from within.
This can only been done by living the Creative Interchange process.
It is my belief that deep transformation within an organization has
to start at the top!
What I see in the actual paradigm is that the change plan is first sold
to management and then, immediately, rolled out in the organization.
Deep transformation is accepting the need for personal transformation,
starting with top management. They have to live the transformation
process, thus the Creative Interchange process, by themselves – at
least six months – before starting to roll it out in the Organization.
And, after that, the rolling out should be a cascading down the
Hierarchy. Employees do have Eagle eyes and SEE the difference
between what Leaders say they will do and what they actually do,
have accordingly FEELings and will take ACTion on those.
So what is needed, is that, before rolling out the transformation
process, the members of the Management Team live the process
themselves and do ask for and do give one another honest feedback
about how they are living it. “Are we really doing ourselves what we
will ask from our people in the near future?” is the crucial question. So
that’s my dream: “That Top management embraces Creative
Interchange and live that transforming process from within.” And this
brings me back to Bruce Springsteen’s quote: “Is a dream a lie if it
don’t come true or is it something worse” …
(Written in honor of the hundredth anniversary of Henry Nelson
Wieman’s dissertation “The Organization of Interests”.)
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