A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships

Proposal for a Unique Colloquium for the World-Wide Creativity Movement

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 90 (May/June 2006)

We propose a unique colloquium in which —

  1. Various programs and disciplines and method systems, involved with forms of CPS (Creative Problem-Solving) and creativity, will be showcased side by side.
  2. The entire conference will revolve around one, or at most three, defined major world problems.
  3. Initial keynote speakers will define, inform and motivate regarding the selected problem, before the total audience.
  4. That audience will then break into ten or twenty or however many working groups. Each working group will be facilitated by a different creativity-involved or CPS method. Each working group will work in parallel, using that method to attempt to find solution to the defined problem.
  5. All proceedings will be recorded and transcribed.
  6. The audience will recombine into whole-group mode to operate as a Grand Panel of the Whole, developing further the propositions and ideas created by the various working groups.
  7. Results will be incorporated into a reset/redefinition of the task, and the larger audience again dissolves into the facilitated working groups. This alternation between whole-group and facilitated working group may recur several times before the conclusion of the colloquium.
  8. Both formal and informal proceedings will be published, together with a tradebook or so and some popular articles.
  9. The thrust of those publications will not be, “Look, World, here’s the answer!” Rather, its thrust (and purpose) is to say, “Look, everyone, here is what a bunch of mostly ordinary people were able to come up with by using these methods. What could our responsible leaders accomplish on this problem if they were to employ these methods, instead of what they’ve been doing.”

Creative Problem-Solving in the World

The world-wide creativity movement is now more than a half century old — and has yet to be used on any of the problems of common concern, the major world problems, the problems most worthy of being solved. Nor has use of creative problem-solving methods appeared to penetrate policy-making levels of any government on the planet, from national governments and international agencies on down to city and county and district level.

Various of us in the creativity movement offer this or that set of problem-solving methods as being wonderfully good for solving problems — then we hem and haw the moment one of the real problems comes up to attention. Most of the oldest problems in history are still with us, major new issues threaten even worse, and meanwhile people are dying and suffering.

Of course we all should, in full confidence, continue to entrust the resolution of these matters, and of our property, and of our lives, and of the fate of our progeny, to the qualified professional hands of the power elites who have been handling policy matters up until now?

If you are one of those who have seen use of one or asnother CPS method produce effective answers and solutions — and many who read this here have — it is time to cry, “Tilt!” More, it is time to take action to —

  1. Get use of whatever effective CPS methods into the hands of those who hold our collective fate in their hands, and
  2. Get whatever — and whoever’s — CPS methods into service on some of the great problems.


The first and main objection to using CPS methods on major national and world problems is the question of “ownership” of those problems. One can argue — as, indeed we have — that the decisions and outcomes of these matters certainly affect us so that we have every right to claim ownership. However—

There is a very real consideration about the other form of “ownership,” in the familiar CPS sense that the problem-solving should involve “owners” — those individuals who can take effective action on the matter once they perceive what will solve it. Otherwise, you have the familiar second problem, usually more difficult than the first:  that of “selling” the idea of the proposed solution to those who can act upon the matter in question; and of attempting that “selling” in a world where everyone is trying, at the top of his lungs, to lay his own proposed answers to issues upon everyone else — and to a power elite whose potential enthusiasm for the matter is somewhat dampened, to say the least, by the fact that it wasn’t their answer that is being promoted.

“We” have, however — the collective “we” of the various programs and practices and disciplines of creativity enhancement and creative problem-solving — let this “ownership” problem stand totally in our way for more than a half century.

One would imagine that, long since, someone would have defined this as a problem and set out to solve it. We have here a failure either of imagination or of method. I don’t think that it is the method that’s at fault.

Fifty-some years overdue, I would like to propose a possible solution to this problem, with as many of you reading this as possible, and as many as possible of the many different creativity and creative problem-solving methods and systems and programs and experts, to be a meaningful part of this solution.

Summary of the Proposed Solution

Hopefully, many different programs and disciplines and method-protagonists will be willing to take part in, co-sponsor and conduct the proposed problem-focused colloquium. This conference will not only showcase the various methods, but showcase how these various methods can be used to address those greater problems of common concern.

Every general session, and every facilitated working-group session, is recorded and edited, toward publication of proceedings, popular trade books, articles and websites whose message is not that of, “Here is our solution to this and that problem,” rather, “Here is what we, essentially as amateurs in the fields of this problem, were able to do with this and that specified procedure for problem-solving, as described. What could our proper professional leaders and experts, responsible for those problem areas, do with the same problem if we can come up with such ideas on it as you are finding here?”

The publications would also publicize some of our better answers as proposed solutions and hopefully get them to the level of public debate. The main thrust, however, is to model the use of these procedures on the great problems and in a way that invites, indeed almost requires, our public leaders to either follow suit or go one better. Our protocols can also be spelled out — many of them already are — in such a way that any reasonably intelligent leaders can themselves use them to tackle such problems, and other problems, and come up with their own ingenious answers and possible solutions.

Select Details of the Proposed Solution

The proposed conference will mainly not offer a set of answers as to how the spotlighted world problems should be resolved. Instead, while it will publish as many ingenious answers as it can find, its proceedings at various levels will be published as a working example of how even mostly “ordinary” people were able to come up with at least these answers….how much better, then, could the experts solve these and other problems if they were to use similar methods!

  1. Project Renaissance invites other creativity-involved and CPS groups and programs to co-sponsor and host this proposed colloquium, and to facilitate one of the working groups with its favorite method(s).
  2. The whole conference may be devoted to one major world problem. No more than three at a time should be undertaken. We envisage this being the first of an annual series of such conferences, following this colloquium format on different specified major world problems. Each of these would result in a similar outpouring of publications underscoring the same basic message, that our responsible leaders and experts need to be using some of these methods.
  3. Each program or method which is represented at the conference will head a working group comprised of a mix of its own people and mostly ordinary conference attendees. It will facilitate, by its own special method(s), that group toward solving the selected world problem as defined. Some people will stay with the one method throughout, while others, between plenary sessions, move into other groups and methods, some of them learning thereby use of those methods. Small groups are creatively more productive than larger groups, so we would want to have twenty, thirty, forty or more of the working groups operating in parallel.
  4. Every step of the way will be videoed and thoroughly documented in detail. This documentation is probably the most costly aspect of the program. Third-party underwriting and perhaps funding will be sought, so that all expenses don’t have to be recovered against fees charged to participants.
  5. The published proceedings will document, hardcopy and online, in thoroughgoing detail, step by step, how each group and each program processed on the defined world problem. Also, more popular books, and articles in the popular press, will help make the point. The more convincing the proposed answers are, the better; but the main point has to be that these were what mere ordinary mortals came up with by using these methods. If our responsible world leaders and experts would use these methods, what more could they do with them in finding solutions which save lives, fortunes, entire peoples? Drive that point home at every opportunity, once the conference has been run.
  6. Recommended format of the conference:  Modified colloquium format—
    • Before the keynotes on the defined major world problem, participants warm up in the method(s) of what will be their working group following the keynote.
    • With media, informative presentations and impassioned pleas, three or four keynote speakers highlight key aspects of the selected major problem, and define the task for the working groups.
    • Participants go to their chosen or designated working group and are facilitated through that group’s method(s) toward solving that major problem.
    • Accumulating results are posted on physical and electronic bulletin boards.
    • Reconvened session-of-the-whole then process the results, redefine the remaining task, return people to their facilitated working groups to further that task. This cycle might repeat two, possibly three times before final suggested actions and working scheme are arrived at.
      We note that various programs have practiced methods for audience-to-audience de-briefings, to help render more productive the sessions-of-the-whole.
  7. If this conference is successful, and if it succeeds in stirring at least a modicum of interest, similar conferences on other major world problems might be held each year or every two years.
  8. Once enough different programs and disciplines agree to hold this first conference, third-party funding and/or underwriting can be sought. The stated main purpose of this conference and its publications is highly compatible with the stated and chartered objectives of many funds and foundations.
  9. A rising tide lifts all ships. Even short of getting creativity/CPS-related methods into use by the policy-makers, the promotion of the conference, the conference itself, and the publications following it, will stir a very considerable rising tide of public and corporate interest in such methods — and in the sources of supply of these methods.
  10. This is the right thing to do. These things should be done. Those chronic, deepening and destructive world problems should be addressed by competent methods and brought to effective resolution. People and peoples should not die or be ruined needlessly. National and world policy should be improved through use of creativity and CPS-related methods. The various creativity-related programs and disciplines should get together to cooperate, on this and on many other things. The task to be done is so much more huge than even we all together; how much more so with us separate?

Further, the best methods by far are yet to be discovered. We can cooperate to be the ones discovering them as we work together, or we can wait to be pushed aside by someone else who has the advantage of standing on various of our shoulders. This proposed conference and others like it would generate experiences which could lead to even better methods than the ones we would be promoting there.

This definitely is not to be a typical academic or formal scientific conference. Nor is it to be a trade fair, though how well a program’s working group performed would have definite future “sales” implications for it. All participants would, by this colloquium format, be fully and meaningfully engaged and making meaningful contributions — no matter how “ordinary” many of them may be — by processes similar to what would have to engage our policy-makers and experts — however varied and ranked those may be — if we hope to get these methods effectively into the use and practice of those policy-makers and experts.

Beyond the World Problems Conference(s)

Artistic, scientific and technical problems are also susceptible to solution by many of the various creativity, problem-solving and innovation methods. These domains, now under-represented (especially science) among creative problem-solvers, might in future be addressed by somewhat similar multi-disciplinary colloquia. Project Renaissance is preparing a book of many good methods for heightening creativity in science, accelerating the rate at which one is able to arrive at the best hypothesis to test. Upon review, it seems likely that there are some distinctive methods in almost every major program of creativity which can be engaged to similarly advance the practice of science.

A special note here:  Many scientists would object to this in the belief that there can be no better method than “scientific method” for solving problems. We cordially invite anyone who holds this position seriously, to undertake putting scientific method to work on the problem of how to create a better problem-solving method. If scientific method is good enough, it will find it. If it is not, shouldn’t you look further? Here we are early in the 21st century, after thousands of years of history and of evolving civilizations, and it is we, in this generation, who are so suddenly seized of the ultimate and final answer to such matters? — Hmmm, shouldn’t we, maybe, be at work toward finding a better method, via whatever methods?

I mention science because, among other things, if improvements can be made in the way science is done, the benefits of that will spill over into the lives of us all. Similar considerations pertain to the arts and to the human domain as well. There is so much more to be accomplished by creative method if creativity-related programs can get together, in such conferences and in other forms of cooperation.

There are many issues and opportunities in which cooperation among the various programs relating to creativity could yield results which are presently out of the reach of each of us separately. Even political matters might be addressable. For example, in South Africa there is a provision in the tax codes wherein corporations, in lieu of a part of their taxes, allocate a small but definite percentage of their income to training programs, to build new abilities into their respective workforces. (We once had a similar provision here in the States for art and decoration.)

What would it mean to creativity professionals and programs to have a provision like South Africa’s, here in the States and in Europe? I’m not yet to the point of advocating that this is something we should do. I’m simply indicating what scope of goals can be brought within reach if we work together, where alone none of us would have a ghost of a chance for getting such a provision enacted. If we were working together, we’d at least have some options in working toward our common interests.

Lastly — though deliberate and trainable creativity has been effectively demonstrated over and over in the experience of many of us, the original paradigm and general theory of creativity are in shambles. There are many key issues to be researched, new models to be planted in the ruins of the old. If even a few of the various programs and disciplines can get together to bring that into focus, all of us will find a much better footing to work from than we now have.


There are many areas where it could prove beneficial for the various programs, disciplines and professionals, with our differing creativity methods, to work together. At this writing it seems we have far more to gain by working together than by remaining separate and/or regarding one another as rivals.

The most immediate and most easily reached among those various areas may well be the conference proposed here, the colloquium on select major world problems. The main objective of the conference is to document and demonstrate that interesting answers can be found even by “ordinary” people using such methods, so that experts and policy makers should do still better to solve those problems if they used such methods.

This point would be supported by very detailed published proceedings, and popular books and articles would further seek to drive it home.