Manifestos for Creative Thinking and Problem-Solving

(part of the Fall 2013 Collaborative Explorations: Creative Thinking for All series)

A Collaborative Exploration (CE) in which participants develop their own program—or "manifesto"—for creative thinking and problem solving.


Books such as Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way provide readers with a program for developing one's creativity. If, however, a mark of creativity is to develop one's own program, not to follow someone else's, what would your program—or "manifesto"—for creative thinking and problem solving look like? Can it make clear the set of principles or elements—in Ben Schwendener's terms, the "vertical unity"—from which changes (i.e., improvisation or creativity) "horizontally" flow?

If that charge is not quite enough introduction or guidance, consider the following additional detail:

All invention involves borrowing, so the challenge is really to synthesize elements from sources encountered during and before this CE. These syntheses or manifestos should be selected and organized so as to inspire and inform your efforts in extending creative thinking and problem-solving. For a brief intro to the experience of graduate students who wrote manifestos for critical thinking, see section 2 of (The full manifestos from a 1999 class, including Frangie's, will be made available to participants on the private google+ community.)

In asking that the manifesto express the vertical unity of the field you are working in, we are following Ben Schwendener, a musician, composer, teacher of music and composing, who offers a graduate Seminar on Creativity at UMass Boston. One way to convey the vertical unity is to lead into the manifesto with a publicity bio that explains how you came to be the person for whom this creative work is important. Now, Ben does not give us a recipe for articulating the vertical unity. Indeed, he is critical of method because to work from method is to pursue the horizontal without attention to the vertical unity of elements upon which change flows naturally. An example of this problem might be a curriculum that says topics A-H must be covered. In contrast we might identify the six themes that underlie the subject matter (as proposed by science educator Paul Jablon, Lesley University). The student in a course that "covers" the required topics is assumed to be able to draw on knowledge stored in their brain (subject to an inevitable decay if the knowledge is not used). However, a student who appreciates the six themes approach has a coherent, integrated perspective from which to address future areas of learning. Other approaches to articulating a vertical unity, even though they were not created with that idea in mind, are the 4R’s sequence (Respect->Risk->Revelation->Re-engagement) of developing as a collaborator or the many Rs of developing as a Reflective Practitioner during the CCT program of studies.

CE: expectations and mechanics

Whatever thread of inquiry participants pursue in any specific Collaborative Exploration (CE), your posts and contribution to live sessions should aim to stimulate and guide the learning of other participants, and build towards the final tangible product described in the scenario. The complementary, "experiential" goal is to be impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

The CE will take place over 22 days and consists of four sessions spaced one week apart, in which a small group interacts in real time live via google hangout for 60 minutes.* The day and time is arranged to fit the schedules of applicants, but often 9-10am, 4-5, 5-6 or 6-7pm to maximize the coverage of international time zones. Participants spend time between sessions on self-directed inquiry on the case, sharing of inquiries-in-progress, and reflecting on the process (which typically involves shifts in participants' definition of what they want to find out and how). Prospective participants are asked not to sign up if they cannot guarantee live participation in most of the sessions and an equivalent amount of time between sessions spent on the case. (Sessions will be available as a private unlisted youtube for participants who have to miss once.) A public google+ community, open beyond the small group, allows interested people to view and respond to any posts posted by the small group, which may, in turn, draw on them in their private discussions. The structure of each live CE session is predefined, but the CE builds in room for participants to take stock so as to inform future proposals for improvements in these structures.

To register to participate: complete