Using Depth Intuition In Creative Problem Solving
And Strategic Innovation
O. W. Markley
The Journal of Creative Behavior, Vol. 22, No. 2, 85-100, 1988
[Note: This article was reprinted as Selection Forty in the Creative Education Foundation’s (1992) Source Book for Creative Problem-Solving — A Fifty Year Digest of Proven Innovation Processes, edited by Sidney J. Parnes.]
Intuition is widely known to be an essential ingredient in strategic vision, creativity, and problem solving. It is often difficult to know just what to do in order to effectively actualize intuition however. In fact, the well-known four-step formula for creativity (preparation, incubation, inspiration, verification), set forth by Wallas (1926), indicates that once you have “done your homework,” you should simply wait for a flash of intuitive insight. Might it be possible to access the intuitive depths in a more systematic and sustained fashion? Recent writings indicate that this is both possible and practical (Rockenstein, in press).
Described below are four of the more useful methods by which to awaken, facilitate, and apply your intuitive capacities for problem solving and innovation—whether personal or organizational—that this author has found in more than a decade of search and exploration. Depending on how they are adapted and used, these methods are particularly suitable for three broad classes of applications:
These methods employ what may be called “visionary” and “transpersonal” knowledge processes in order to gain access to relatively deep levels of intuition. Visionary processes use imagistic (as contrasted with rational/analytic) thinking as a principal mode of expression. Transpersonal knowledge processes, more difficult to define, generally involve ego transcendence and expanded awareness of preceptual thought. Several recent books (Vaughan 1979, 1985; Walsh & Vaughan, 1980) provide a good introduction to readers unfamiliar with these concepts – and describe as well a number of useful methods for both beginners and more experienced practitioners.
Successful use of these procedures requires skills not commonly encouraged by most schools or workplaces. First is the ability to voluntarily suspend judgement or evaluation of whatever is being considered. Second is the ability to use what in biofeedback training is termed “passive volition” (essentially, letting go and allowing the desired phenomena to happen) as contrasted with “active volition” (where you try to make it happen). Although such modes of thinking are used by everybody on occasion, few people have trained themselves to do so “on call,” “on target” and for sustained periods of time, such as we are trained in school to do using rational/analytic models of thought for reading, writing or arithmetic. Therefore, in order to use the methods which follow, it is necessary either: (a) to have an experienced, skilled, and flexible guide; or (b) to learn these skills and practice them until your proficiency becomes such that you can follow the methods as written, even though you may deviate from specific suggestions of any step that don’t fit your immediate situation.
METHOD ONE. FOCUSING ON CURRENT CONCERNS: A Procedure for Need Finding
In his book Focusing psychologist Eugene Gendlin (1981) recounts how, during years of research on effectiveness in psycho therapy, he discovered that “insights” that occur solely at the level of thought rarely result in behavior change. Insights experienced as a “felt shift” in the mind and body, on the other hand, often lead to immediate and lasting changes. This is the “Aha!” sort of feeling that comes with the remembering of a telephone number or name that has been mentally blocked, bringing a shift from inner tension to a feeling of relief or peacefulness.
Gendlin developed a step by step approach, called “Focusing,” to help people experience this felt shift regarding things that may be bothering them at any particular time. Though originally developed for use by people in psychotherapy, Focusing has proven effective for a variety of purposes outside of clinical settings. One of these, “need finding,” concerns the precise identification of where and how “the shoe pinches,” so that appropriate, rather than inappropriate relief is easier to find.
The step-by-step process shown below is based on Gendlin’s method and can be used safely in a wide variety of settings. The instructions should be paced in a relaxed way, allowing enough time to comply with each one before going on to the next. The instructions can be given by another person (preferably one who has experienced the focusing process for him- or herself), or they can be dictated into a tape recorder, and then played back, one instruction at a time, using a “pause” control to ensure that the amount of time between instructions will be as long as needed when doing the method.
Perhaps the single structured psychotherapeutic process I have found most valuable to date – especially when used in conjunction with the “need finding” method described above – comes from a provocative book. The Spirit Guide Meditation, by Edwin Steinbrecher (1978). The book originally came to my attention due to the penetrating precision with which it describes archetypes.
Steinbrecher describes how, at a deep psychological level, what most of us call perception might more accurately be conceived of as projection. (An alternative view is to consider that perception, footnoted earlier, can also be defined as the process through which projections shape perceptions.) The purpose of the procedure described below, is to use depth sources of intuition, to heal (“make whole”) our projections – especially those which concern people or things we don’t lie. Before detailing this method, however, several ethical and conceptual premises need to be set forth.
Steinbrecher warns that, karmatically speaking, it is more appropriate to change ourselves than it is to try to change others. It is wiser, in other words, to heal our own projections about people or things we don’t like than it is trying to change (heal) them. Therefore, when envisioning what in the following process is called “the target,” it is important that you not visualize actual persons or situations as you consider them to exist in real life, but rather imagine/ask for/invoke some symbol of how you currently project them to be in relation to yourself. Also, in introducing this process, it is important to discuss “the energy of higher consciousness” as an operational equivalent to “depth intuition.” Each of us has some type of projection that embodies our conception of what is highest and best in ourselves and in the universe. Some call this God; some experience a “light within;” some speak of a “higher self” or “hidden observer” within which manifests unconditional love and good will; and so forth. The point here is that in order to use this method satisfactorily, the concept of “higher consciousness: needs to be defined beforehand – and that each use of the method needs to determine for him – or herself what this is.
As with the Focusing method described above, you need to have a suitable place and mood in which to work, preferable with a guide who can translate the suggestions written below into whatever form works best for you. And as before, this may be your own pre-recorded voice, speaking to yourself, instruction by instruction via a tape player.
METHOD THREE. EXPERIENCING ALTERNATIVE FUTURES—1: A Procedure for Assessment of Strategies
In the emerging field of futures research, there is a general class of work known as “impact assessment” – the use of appropriate methods to explore the types of side effects that might occur when and if a particular technology, strategy, or series of actions is implemented. Of particular importance is the identification of ‘contingent futures” – future patterns that are expected to occur assuring that certain pre-conditions or actions (the “contingency”) have occurred.
This type of fast-feed forward sampling overview is especially useful for exploring situations in which likely future conditions differ significantly from those you or others in your culture have encountered before. Rational/analytic methods are clearly inadequate to this task, at least until intuition-based creativity suggest a “whole” context in which they can work, as in alternative future scenarios.
A method that has proved useful for this purpose is based on ideas and suggestions contained in the chapter entitled “Alternative Presents and Multiple Focus” from the book Seth Speaks, by Jane Roberts (1972). It has been previously published in the Bulletin of the International Association for Impact Assessment (Markley, 1981). Because of quite different contexts in which the method is useful, it is useful to contrast a simple with a more complex procedure through this type of impact assessment can be accomplished.
Basic Method. In its simplest forms, the impact assessment method consists of the following steps:
Advanced Method. The above procedure, though easy to learn and quick to do once you have the requisite skills, leaves much to be desired where serious analytic impact assessment studies are concern. In particular, it offers no direct way to focus on particular areas (“impact categories”_ of interest. The following expansion of the basic method does offer this type of flexibility, but takes longer and requires greater ability to focus one’s awareness as needed during a sustained sequence of steps.
In Step 4 of the Basic Method, you are asked to maintain general awareness of all that is relevant as you move through time. In the Advanced Method, you are asked to focus on only one attribute or dimension at a time, repeating your journey as many times as needed in order to cover all areas of interest. The following is a useful sequence for imagistic exploration across system levels:
NOTE: It is surprisingly both feasible and meaningful to experience “bodily,” affective or cognitive impressions on behalf of a group, a society, a planet…
METHOD FOUR. EXPERIENCING ALTERNATIVE FUTURES –II: A Procedure for Transcendental Creativity and Exploration
Each of the three methods described above are presented for practical, extrinsic purposes. (Method No. One yields a precise identification of a problem or need, and perhaps of problem-oriented responses as well. Method No. Two helps you transcend fixations or images based on past problems, so as to revision the situation and what is feasible by way of response. Method No. Three helps you understand likely consequences of undertaking different strategies by intuitively moving through different future histories.) In the fourth and final method to be described here, the transcendental dimension of intuition is explored more deeply. It is often useful for reasons that are more intrinsic than extrinsic, and leads to effects that may only become apparent long after the procedure is used.
This exercise came to my attention one evening at a conference on consciousness, when I was dining with Ms. Carolyn Myss, a conferee who described herself as a consulting health practitioner who uses transcendental knowledge processes to assist medical doctors when conventional diagnostic procedures are unsuccessful. As we discussed our professional lives and the tools we find most effective, she told me of a technique given to her for looking at probabilities. It has proven useful, not only for this purpose, but also for explorations of the creative process, both in general and as applied to specific concerns. I have subsequently used it success fully with a variety of individuals, as well as in group settings which included participants who had little or no prior experience with meditation or related pursuits.
Before doing this exercise, which is described in depth below, choose something about which you have concerns for the future—or about which you wish to expand your sense of foresight. Much as we did in previous methods, we will refer to this focus of concern as “the target.”
When you are ready to proceed, get into a bodily position that you can maintain comfortably for as long as needed. Center you awareness within yourself and relax..
Note: it is strongly recommended that several moments be taken to write down your impressions. Otherwise, as cautioned in Step 24, they may quickly disappear.
A USER’S GUIDE TO CREATIVE USE OF THE FOUR METHODS.
As noted in the introduction, the methods described herein are particularly useful for three broad classes of applications:
The four methods can be used independently, but for better results may be used sequentially, or even recursively, as follows:
A CAVEAT AND SUGGESTION
Most people undertake to do exercises such as the four described in this article in order to get what they want. Although a topic that goes beyond the scope of this article to discuss fully, it is important to note that attachment to specific outcomes you may think you want can be a most detrimental obstacle to using these methods successfully.
According to an ancient teaching, “When seeking with attachment, you may get what you ask for, but it will rarely be what you want.” Releasing (Carrington, 1984), is a book which not only discusses this phenomenon, but also describes experiential methods not unlike those covered here for handling it. The methods it describes may therefore be considered a direct extension of those described here.
As with all methods of inquiry, these techniques work best when adapted to the motivational set and contextual setting of the user. Although relatively easy for an experienced guide to do, it is difficult for a beginner to know what may be changed without loss and what is essential. If in doubt, therefore, the specific instructions of each should be implemented as they are, for each is carefully constructed, with its own integrity.
Also, as with any imaginative type of thinking, one may expect to see/feel different things when a procedure is repeated. Similarly, if a project team or other type of group undertakes these exercises together, each person will usually have unique experiences. Underlying patterns across observers and their observations are usually apparent, however, which lends credibility to the intuitive validity of methods. As with other impressionistic approaches, such as attitude scaling or the Delphi Survey often used in futures research, it is these central tendencies or common patterns that one wishes to discern. And, as is generally true in alternative futures research (field of inquiry for which these four exercises were initially adapted by the author), the question of predictive validity is appropriately left unevaluated. Plausibility, utility, and cost are the preferred criteria for comparing these methods of inquiry with others.
In sum, the above techniques are useful in a wide variety of situations involving decision-making in the face of uncertainty and risk. Indeed, they are now proving more useful to executives, managers, and psychotherapists. Than to the systems analysts and futures researchers for who they were initially adapted and set forth (Markley, 1983).
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O. W. Markley, Ph.D.
Address: University of Houston-Clear Lake, Graduate Program in Studies of the Future, Houston, TX 77058.
Reprints of JCB articles may be obtained directly from Serials Acquisitions Department, University Microfilms Inc., 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.
The term “preceptual” is used here to connote two different, but related meanings, both of
which are different from either perception or conception: 1) that which precedes perception; and 2) that which guides perception (as in “preceptor”).
When stuck, ask questions:
Don’t answer; wait for the feeling to stir and give you an answer.
What would it feel like if it was all OK? Let the body answer: What is in the way of
NOTE: Professor Gendlin, the creator of this approach, emphasizes that “If during these instructions you have spent a little while sensing and touching an unclear holistic body sense of this problem, then you have focused. It doesn’t matter whether the body-shift came or not. It comes on its own. We don’t control that” (Gendlin, 1978).
Readers interested in occult symbolism and procedures may wish to review the suggestions made by Steinbrecher (1978) in this regard .