February 17th, 2013
I am thinking about the fundamentals of the creative process. The first part is radical brainstorming, ideation, and the stretch of divergence — in which many ideas are created to solve a central opportunity. During this free-form divergence phase, the facilitator and team will tap into many different creative exercises to expand, liberate, and augment the mind of the team from old thinking, unprofitable constructions, and strongly held but not viable preliminary ideas.
At some point in the creative process, we stop diverging and go to convergence. The model of Creative Problem Solving has the intersections of divergence and convergence move like an electrocardiogram up and down, up and down, throughout the entire process. Sometimes, for lack of time, however, we simply divide the time in half. The first half is pure divergence, the D phase. The second half is pure convergence, the C phase. Convergence means that, given the huge pile of ideas we’ve just created, we now brainstorm criteria for choosing a few of these ideas for further exploration, and then begin to actively select the most potentially doable and intriguing ideas to expand, evaluate, and finetune in the C phase.
During this later C phase and after we’ve explored the potential of new ideas, we might come to the sub-phase called Great Doubt. We take a few of the ideas that are promising and subject them to deep questioning. This is intentional. We question every element of the idea with strictness laced with kindness. This is never a first step –which is the usual mistake of untrained teams — but one of the last. Great Doubt is applied in order to be sure that the enactment of a particular idea has not forgotten something major and important.
I took this idea from Gengo Merzel who is a Zen master and Jungian philosopher with a website and process called Big Mind. The reference to his blog, Big Mind, is http://bigmind.org/blog/the-value-of-questioning-everything
I’m planning on trying Great Doubt as one of the final convergence exercises that I train on for an upcoming creativity training workshop for qualitative researchers in Dallas called Facilitating Consciously: A Mini-Training Workshop on Creative Techniques. As the reader reviews the article below, one can change the word “enlightenment” to “creativity.” One can alternate the word Buddha for “process.” It is true that in qualitative market research and creative process, we hope to attain many things — insight, understanding, a good idea, a solution, breakthrough, unique selling proposition, direction, and the core of a successful strategic plan. But, during the creative session itself, it can be beneficial to allow a period of Great Doubt to finalize the ideas and action plans before getting carried away on the heels of overexcitement, anticipation, and positive expectations, as valuable as enthusiasm and spirit for the work can be.
Always, in creativity, we must consciously alternate expansion of possibilities and free-form ideation with intentionally imposed limits, contractions, and doubt in order to shape the final solution into a truly workable breakthrough. Rather than blind faith — as valuable as this can be at the outset of a creative session — Great Doubt at the end may make the difference in how we view the category, brand, and our world.
The Value of Questioning Everything
Genpo Roshi, January 21, 2013
True enlightenment only comes after going through Great Doubt, which means questioning everything including one’s own realization, that of one’s teacher, the Buddha, and all the great Ancestors. There is nothing too sacred to be questioned and doubted completely. No stone should be left unturned or blade of grass not looked under. Great Doubt is no other than the seed of Great Enlightenment.