Creative Methods in Philosophical Practice

Creative Methods in Philosophical Practice

Leif-Runar Forsth and Bodil Nordvik


From Socrates` dialogues to creative methods

Socrates are by many taken as a model (or The model) for philosophical practitioners. Many quite different methods are today presented as “Socratic dialogues”. Socrates might be a good model (or even an idol) for philosophical practitioners, but he is certainly not easy to copy. One reason is that Socrates obviously had a good understanding of the matters treated in Plato’s dialogues. Socrates guided other people on a road he himself had walked to a goal he himself (at last partially) knew. Most of us do not have the same understanding of life and man. Another difficulty is that it is not always easy to understand what dialogic methods Socrates is using. This makes it difficult to copy what he is doing. The third difficulty is that, when we scrutinise some of the dialogues, we sometimes find that the logic is not as good as it seems at the first glance. (We should however remember that the dialogues are parts of an oral tradition and that the logic might have been more convincing in a heated discussion than when read with a cool mind.) But anyway, most philosophical practitioners might still have much to learn from Socrates, the spirit of the Socratic dialogues and the methods he used. But how do we do this?

An answer is to use creative methods and techniques. In the last forty to fifty years a lot of research has been done in the field of creativity. Such methods and techniques have also been extensively used in practical cases. See e.g. Forsth (1987), VanGundy (1988), Isaksen (1987) and Isaksen et. al. (1993). Stievater (1999) gives a bibliography of fifty books on creativity and problem solving published in 1998 and 1999.

Many creative methods are mostly meant for use in groups. In a creative group there are three different characters, the problem owner, the facilitator and the resource group. The problem owner is the one that has the problem to be solved. His main job is to describe the problem, listen to the suggestions from the resource group and to choose among those suggestions. The facilitator takes care of the problem owner and the treatment of the problem. She chooses and directs the creative methods to be used. The resource group gives suggestions for facts to be considered, formulations of the problems, ideas to solve the problem and how to apply the ideas.

When we, more than twenty years ago, learned such creative methods, we had limited possibility to participate in the training that was available. We could not afford to go the expensive training in USA. We then used a “poor mans” approach to learn. This was to do a lot of individual practising with the methods (even those meant for groups) and with each other two by two. When practising two by two, one was facilitator and the other combined the roles of problem owner and resource group. We discovered that most of the creative methods, even if they were meant for groups, directly or with some modifications, could very well be applied in a process with one facilitator and one problem owner, and sometimes also as an individual process. In this way we developed ways of using some of the creative methods for such use. This development was partly caused by the fact that we, before we learned modern creative methods, were much influenced by philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. Because of this we also saw a lot of similarities between modern creativity and Plato, and especially Socrates dialogues. Modern methods and techniques in creativity are based on research and practical experiences on how we best can use our mental resources, individually, in groups or in the whole organisation. The same way of understanding the human mentality, we can also find in the Socratic dialogues. It is then not surprising that the principles used by Socrates in many ways resembles those found in modern creative methods and techniques. Some examples of this are given in Forsth and Nordvik (2001).

By chance we then had discovered a practical way of doing Socratic dialogue. We also found that the creative methods and techniques might be easier to apply than to try to copy Socrates. Socrates always seemed to guide others on a road he himself had walked before. In creativity, the facilitator (process consultant) guides, by creative methods and techniques, the guided on a road none of them have walked before. The process consultant is more like the neutral midwife Socratic says he is (but seldom in fact is).

This paper presents some important principles and methods of creativity and how these might be used by philosophical practitioners. A practical case clarifies this.


A practical case

To make the methods described here more understandable, we also show them applied on a practical case:

“A woman in her sixties feels that she has too little freedom in her life. She sometimes feels like she is trapped by duties and expectations.”

The case shown is a real case treated by the described methods. For clarity and pedagogical reasons (and for space), a shortened version of the process is described.


Creative methods and techniques

There are in principle three ways of defining creativity, by results, processes or experiences.

Most people associates the word “creativity” with some creative result like a painting, a musical composition, a book or a new theory in science. Creativity is not only to make something completely new, but also to combine known objects in new ways. A creative result might then be defined as something new and useful (or enjoyable etc.) or a new combination of known parts.

When we study creativity, we find that even if we are going for the results, we cannot always do this directly. Research showed that those people that made creative results, often followed some special working processes. A creative process might then be defined as the processes, individual mental processes or group processes, which often leads to creative results.

But to know the processes is not enough. An important question is what motivates such processes? What are the driving forces? Research showed, as most of us would guess, that this is the creative experience: The happiness, enjoyment or the satisfaction of having created something or solved a problem. Creativity might then be defined by those feelings that accompany a creative result or a creative process.

Sometimes there is agreement between these three ways of defining creativity, sometimes not. The discrepancy might be because our limited understanding of the many complex mental and social processes that might be involved in creativity. As a creative facilitator or a philosophical practitioner the most important thing is not to have a precise definition of creativity, but to have a sufficient good understanding of its nature, basic principles and how the methods can be used.

The basic principles in creativity may be summarised as:

  1. Delay evaluation
  2. See and notice the positive and the opportunities
  3. Delay choice
  4. Use more of your brain (or more ways of thinking) including looking at the problem and its solutions from different angles.
  5. Divide and combine
  6. Divergence followed by convergence

7      Solve the problem step by step

Even if these principles seem simple, they might be very difficult to apply. This is because they require other ways of thinking than we are inclined to use when we are facing a problem. Creative methods and techniques are based on such principles and are easier to apply than the principles alone.

By a creative method we mean a complete method for taking us from a problem to a solution. By creative techniques we mean more limited approaches, e.g. to analyse the problems, stimulate idea-generation, develop ideas or make plans of actions. A creative method may then include several creative techniques. In a creative method as CPS (explained below) we may use many different creative techniques.

VanGundy (1988) describes 10 techniques for redefining and analysing problems, 61 techniques for generating ideas (30 individual and 31 for groups), 16 techniques for evaluating and selecting ideas and 4 techniques for implementing ideas. In addition he classifies 14 other techniques as “Eclectic or Miscellaneous”. VanGundy (1988) does not distinguish between what we call “method” and “technique”, he calls both “technique”. Smith (1998) analysed 172 creative methods/techniques to search for a smaller number of active ingredients contained in these. He organised his findings in 15 main categories of active ingredients, further subdivided in 50 idea-generation devices. Forsth and Nordvik (1987) give some advises on practical ways of stimulating the brain in problem solving processes. Parnes (1981) and Forsth (1987) show how different creative techniques might be used in the different steps of a creative method like CPS. Some of these are described and demonstrated in this article.

Even from this short introduction to creativity, we notice some resemblance with Socrates dialogues. Socrates (Diotima in Symposium) defines creativity this way: “All that cause the passage of non-being into being is a “poesy” or creation, and the processes of all art are creative.” This is a process understanding of creativity. Most of the dialogues describe processes that start with a problem (a question). Socrates uses his dialogic methods, as we use our creative methods, to look for a solution. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes not. E.g. in Charmides we look for a solution to the problem of finding out what temperance or wisdom is, in Laches what courage is, in Protagoras what virtue is and in Theatetus what knowledge is. But we do not find any final answer. Similar in creativity. The processes do not guaranty a solution, only increases the possibility of finding one. But at least we end up with a better understanding of the problem and its complexity and we have got stimulation for our thoughts.

That our search might give results and even satisfaction and happiness is also made clear by Socrates. Probably most clear in Symposium where Socrates tells what the woman Diotima, who explains love and knowledge, told him: “This, my dear Socrates, is that life above all others which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute”. Another example is in Republic where Socrates says: “Virtue seems then, to be a kind of health, fine condition, and well-being of the soul, while vice is disease, shameful condition, and weakness.”

Socrates uses the method of division in Sophist where he divides the arts in classes as acquisitive art and productive or creative art. These are further subdivided. Another example is found in Statesman where he divides the art of measurement. In Phaedrus Socrates comments on the principles of combination (or syntheses) and of division: “First, the survey of scattered particulars, leading to their comprehension in one idea … The second principle is that division into species according to the natural formation”  In Philebus Socrates divides pleasures and knowledge into different categories or classes.

The principle of looking at the problem from different angles or finding solutions from different angles is extensively used by Socrates. An example is in the Republic where he discusses justice. Other examples are in Symposium where the subject is love. The principle of asking others is illustrated in Laches where Socrates and two generals of quite different opinion, Nicias and Laches, are asked to give advise about the upbringing of young people. The principle of analogies is used in several places, e.g. the cave analogy in the Republic.

In most dialogues Socrates uses criteria to choose between ideas and arguments. Many examples can be found in the Republic. In Laws Plato describe procedures and criteria for how to choose guardians of the law, generals, priests etc.

Socrates shows his ability to see the positive in Crito and in Apology when he even finds some positive in meeting his own death.


CPS – Creative Problem Solving

Creative methods as e.g. CPS (Creative Problem Solving, developed by Sidney Parnes) are based on such principles. Torrance (1987) has shown that CPS not only is a method of creative problem solving, it also increases the creativity of the user in situations when she does not use the method. We will use CPS to explain how the creative principles are applied in practice.

CPS is a seven‑step method. The CPS steps are:

1      Describe the Situation

2      Search Facts

3      Search Problems

4      Search Ideas

5      Search Solutions

6      Search Accept

7      Plan of action

Steps 2 to 6 are divided in two, a diverging and a converging phase. In the divergence we try to find as many suggestions as possible in the time available. In the convergence we choose the most important ones. The succession of the steps and the division of step 2 to 6 in a diverging and a converging phase guaranties that we delay evaluation and choice.

In each of these steps we may use several creative techniques. Most of these might be used in more than one step but we mention them only once. It is important that the problem owner alone make the final choice in the convergent phases of the steps. The facilitator stimulates in the divergent phase and only guides in the convergent. It is important to use creative methods and techniques flexible, not exactly as described here.

Socrates does not use the same stepwise approach as in CPS, but there are some similarities. A step by step approach is used in most of Socrates dialogues. He also delays the final evaluation and choice. And the principles expressed in the CPS steps are also found in Socrates dialogues.

Noller et al. (1976), Parnes et al. (1976), Parnes (1981) and Isaksen and Treffinger (1985) are early descriptions of CPS. Treffinger et. al. (2000) give a more recent description.


1      Describe the Situation

In the creative situation we have a gap between the present situation and the situation we want to be in. In creativity “problem” means this gap and a desire to close it. Creativity is also to find, analyse and understand the present situation, the goal and the ways to bridge the gap between them.

One way of identifying our goal is to build a vision of where we want to be. A practical method is described in Forsth and Nordvik (1995B). On the surface a vision is a description of our wanted future situation. More basically it is an expression of our deeper, inner feelings, beliefs and hopes. A good vision is also an accumulation of previous experiences. When we are finding what or where we want to be or have, we always have to base this on our previous experiences. In a way we can say that a vision is a picture created by fragments from our previous life and our dreams. Daydreaming is an excellent form of visionalizing.

The following list of questions is a simple way of clarifying the situation:

1 Formulate your problem in one sentence.

2 Why do you want to solve this problem?

3 In what ways does this problem concern you?

4 In what ways does this problem concern other people?

5 What have you done to solve this problem?

6 What do you intend to do with the problem?

7 What possibilities do you have to do something with this problem?

8 If you could have the solution of your dreams, what should the solution be like? (You do not have to be realistic),

In addition to these questions we use why-why, what-if and what-if-not questions. Why-why is to follow an answer to a why question with a new why question, and similar for what-if and what-if-not questions. We combine these questioning techniques with the above list. Such questioning should be done with flexibility and not strictly in agreement with a specified scheme. It may give a good indication of the problem, how serious it is and the motivation to solve it.

The example:

Q shows the facilitators questions and comments.

A shows the problem owners answers.


Q: Please try to formulate your problem in one sentence.

A: I feel like I am a prisoner.

Q: Why do you want to solve this problem?

A: To get more freedom and to understand better.

Q: Why do you want to get more freedom?

A: Because freedom is a wonderful experience.

Q: Why do you want to understand better or more?

A: If I understand better what is going on, then it might be easier to live with the limitations in my freedom.

Q: What is it that you do not understand?

A: Why do other persons ask me all this questions about things I have done or plan to do? Why do they want to know what I am doing? And why do they tell me what I should do? Are they really concerned about me and my welfare? Or do they want to control me? Or is just their habit or way of talking?

Q: In what ways does this problem concern you?

A: I can sum it up this way: I feel that I am always controlled or watched by others.

Q: In what ways does this problem concern other people?

A: May be they think they do not have enough life themselves? Maybe they want to live partly through me?

Q: Are there other ways this problem might concern others?

A: If I tell them how I experience this, they might be unhappy. Maybe they mean it well?

Q: What have you done to solve this problem?

A: Not much. I have talked about it sometimes. I try not to ask such questions to these people, hoping my example should show how I like to be treated.

Q: What do you intend to do with the problem?

A: Nothing. I cannot see what I can do. I think the problem in fact is unsolvable. I suppose I have to live with this problem.

Q: If we suppose that it even then might be solvable, and you allow yourself to dream, what should the solution be like?

A: My dream? To live my life without questions from those who are watching.


Comments: This first short conversation is just to get a first understanding of her problem and her motivation to solve it. This understanding comes not only from her words, but the way she spoke this, sometimes with strong emotions. We have learned that she feels that this is really a problem. In one way she very much want to solve the problem. But at the same time she think it is insolvable.In step 2 «Search problems» we will go more into the problem.


2      Search Facts

In the divergent phase we find facts that might be relevant to the problem. As many as we can in the time available. We do not only find facts, but also other information and speculations. No evaluation is allowed in the divergent phase. In the convergent phase the problem owner chooses those suggestions that she finds most relevant or attractive. The purpose of the fact step is to describe the problem, but also to stimulate the process. The facilitator might ask questions like:

– What facts do you think might be of importance for your problem?

– Who are involved or might be involved in the problem or its solution?

– Which ones of your previous experiences does this problem make you think of?

– Do you know any ways that such problems have been solved by others?

– If you imagine analogies in nature to you problem, which ones do you see? How does nature solve such problems?

The convergence is to choose the most important of these, usually three to five.

The example:

Q: What facts do you think might be of importance for your problem?

A: I cannot think of any.

Q: Who are involved or might be involved in the problem or its solution?

A: A lot. My family, friends, neighbours and members of the same organisations.

Q: Which ones of your previous experiences does this problem make you think of?

A: When I was a kid. Someone should always know everything about what I did, where I went and when I came back. For everything I must have permission.

Q: From who?

A: My parents, my grand parents or my aunts and uncles. I thought that all of this would go away when I grew up, but no.

Q: Did you meet this problem when you become adult?

A: Yes. My husband (she is now a widow) decided so many things. He even bought much of the furniture for our home without consulting me. I kept my face and tried to look happy, even if I wanted quite other things.

Q: Do you know any ways that such problems have been solved by others?

A: No. I do not think others have this problem. Sometimes I want to think and take care only of myself.

Q: If you imagine analogies in nature to you problem, which ones do you see? How does nature solve such problems?

A: In my own garden there is a «war» between the flowers and the weeds. I try to take away the weeds that I do not want to be there. I remove them carefully and friendly, put in the compost so it can become good soil.

Q: Which one of the facts we have considered, do you think is most important for us to notice.

A: It was acceptable to be controlled like that when I was a child, but not now.


Comments: As can be seen, we do not strictly go for facts. If the problem owners have some other comments, this is accepted. We let them talk, but carefully guide them back on the track. From this question and answer section we learn the root of the strong feelings, what she had experienced as a child and, even more important (from her voice and emotions during talking), when she got married. Her example from nature (her garden) gave a nice metaphor that illustrated the problem. It was serious as a «war», but even then she tried to take care of even the weeds. It is quite clear that she feels her problem as really serious and annoying. But then, how should she solve it without hurting anyone?


3      Search Problems

In this step we try to get a better understanding of the problem and to give it a good formulation. We get ideas to problem formulations from the original problem, the situation and the facts. We often express the problems as questions to stimulate the thought processes. The facilitator might ask questions like:

– What are the causes of the problem?

– What might the results be?

– What if this or that happens? (Or, if not?)

– Why “this” or “that”?

– Are there connected problems?

– How can the problem be divided?

– What is the real problem?

A simple but effective method is to repeatedly ask questions like these. And to the answers, ask questions again. Why-why, what-if and what-if-not questions might be used.

In the problem step we, like Socrates, often use unfinished situations. This means that we rise questions that are not answered. This stimulates the mental processes, conscious and unconscious.

The convergent phase is to choose the problem that seems to be most relevant to solve. This might be the same as we looked at in the situation step or a narrower or wider formulation. Or it might be that we have found that the real problem is something else than what we first thought.

The example:

Q: What are the causes of the problem?

A: I do not know. I do not question and control others like this.

Q: Can you think of some reasons that other people behave like this to you?

A: May be their lives are not interesting enough?

Q: What might the results be if you go on experiencing this problem?

A: I do not like to be questioned. I like to tell something when I decide myself what to tell and when.

Q: Are there any other problems connected to this problem?

A: I want other people to trust me and have confidence in me.

(Comment: Here we had a conversation about the meaning of the word freedom, the ways of experiencing freedom and lack of freedom. She gave the impression of having a good understanding of such questions both in her own situation and in more general cases. Her situation in life was very satisfactorily in most ways, she had a caring family, good friends, a nice house and sufficient money. Those other lacks of freedom she might experience she did not experience as problems. The problem she in the beginning of the session described as «lack of freedom», was the problem with «the questioners». The only related problem that was found, was that she also experienced some of the questioning as lack of trust and confidence).

Q: Can you formulate the problem as you see it now in «How-to» or «How-can-I-questions» (Comment: Those were described and explained).

A: How to get other people to understand that I am grown-up?

How can I think and take more care of myself?

How can I get other people to show me more trust?

How can I get other people to understand that I can take care of my self?

Q: What is the real problem?

A: In 60 years I have lived with this problem. It seems I have to live with it. I do not want to hurt other people.

(Comment: We now had a conversation of what problem to treat in the rest of the session. The problem for the facilitator was that she on one hand thought that this was an unsolvable problem that she had to live with and on the other hand very much wanted to solve the problem. The facilitator told that some problems might be solvable even if they did not seem to be. The problem owner agreed in this, but this was not the case for her problem. We then agreed that even if we could not solve the problem completely, it might be a relief for her if we could solve it partly, which meant that she would get less questions. We ended with these formulations of the problem:)

– How to get less questions from other people?

– How to handle such questions better?


Comment: Even this short description gives a good indication of what her problem is and its causes. Even if she did not think other had such problems, an experienced facilitator will recognise her situation. In a creative process, we do not go into details of the reasons for her strong emotions (e.g. childhood and marriage), just get enough information to understand and get good formulation of the problem. It also important that the problem owner analyse and formulate the problem (as well as finding solutions). This process is then in itself empowering and develop the problem owners belief in her own power to handle this and similar problems.


4      Search Ideas

In the divergence we find as many ideas as possible to the problem we chose in the previous step. To find ideas we can ask:

– What ideas do the facts give?

– What ideas do the problems give?

– What do our previous experiences suggest?

– What do others experiences suggest?

– Should we use another professional advise?

– Do we see any analogies?

– What associations do we get?

There exist a lot of idea-stimulating techniques that might be used in this step. See e.g. Parnes (1981), Forsth (1987), Forsth and Nordvik (1987), VanGundy (1988) and Smith (1998).

The convergent phase is to choose some ideas to go on with. This choice is done by the problem owner in mostly an intuitive way. In the next steps she chooses again in a more analytic way.

In choosing an idea to be a solution, it is important to be able to see the possibilities or positive sides of the idea.

The example:

Q: Do you have any ideas how to solve this problem?

A: No! As I have told you I think this problem is unsolvable. I just have to live with it.

Q: When we talked about the facts, you mentioned several groups of people who were involved. Can you specify each person that ask you those kind of questions?

A: Yes, but I do not want. It is too personal.

Q: OK. I do not have to know, but you can think of them without telling me. Can you also think of those situations when they ask such questions?

  1. Yes.

Q: You told me that you have faced this problems many times from you were rather young. I assume that you have had different reactions and handled the problems in different ways. Do you remember some times when you have handled it in successful ways?

A: Yes, sometimes when I was younger I asked the questioners why they asked such questions and if they did not know that these annoyed me. They were surprised and could not answer well.

(Comment: The problem owner told this with energy and obvious satisfaction)

Q: Did they stop asking you such questions?

A: Yes, mostly they did.

Q: Can you do the same way with those that ask you questions today?

A: No. I am now older and I do not want any conflicts any more.

Q: Can you talk to some of them without creating a conflict? May be just telling them that you do not like to be asked those kind of questions?

A: Yes.

Q: You mentioned several people. May some of these help you? May be they could talk to the ones that ask you questions?

A:  Yes. I talked with some before and they understand me. Sometimes they protect me by being close to me when the questioners approach me.

(Comment: The problem owner showed energy and joy. We now talked about the problem and possible solutions along these lines and ended with these ideas:)

– Try to avoid some of those people that asks unwanted questions and/or the situations when they ask such questions.

– Talk to those of the questioners that the problem owner think she can talk with and explain them how she feels. Some of them she might tell directly that she does not accept such behaviour.

– Talk with those friends and family that understands her and her problem and ask them for help. This is to help her with the two previous ideas.


5      Search Solutions

The difference between an idea and a solution is that an idea is a suggestion for what might be done, a solution is something we want to do (an idea we want to use).

In this step we first find the criteria the solution should fulfil. We then choose again between the ideas, the ones that best fulfil the criteria. First we choose among the ones we chose in the idea step. Then we might, after this afterthought, choose some of those we did not chose in the idea step.

We then develop the ideas to be in more agreement with the criteria. We may also divide the previous ideas and put the parts together to a new idea.

The example:

The solution was first to clarify how she wanted her situation to be. Then she found which people she should talk to (questioners and helpers), and what she should say to each one of these. She also found ways to avoid the worst questioners.


6      Search Accept

The purpose of this step is to make the solutions more acceptable to those that might influence it or be influenced by it. We first identify those persons or organisations. We then identify their criteria and go on as in the solution step.

The example:

In these step we worked more with the solutions to fit them better to the problem owner (what she wanted to do and were able to do) and the others (questioners and helpers).


7      Plan of action

The best solution is the one that is best when it is realised. A good idea that just stays an idea, is of little value. Often the solution is stopped by a practical difficulty we did not consider. It is therefore necessary to consider the actual actions necessary to realise the solutions.

A plan of action made in the last step, is also a commitment by the problem owner. Before this commitment, the process might be more of an academic exercise.

The example:

Her we made a plan of who she should talk to and when. Some of the talks she could take the initiative to herself, others she should wait for the right moment.

Comment: The problem owner was very satisfied with the solutions. She saw a possibility to reduce the problem so much that it would not bother her so much.

After she had acted out her plan, the problem in fact was much reduced. The facilitator judged this to be of several reasons. First, she experienced less questions of the kind she disliked. Second, she was satisfied with her talks with questioners and helpers and the results of these. Third, she was very satisfied with her own performance, especially that she had handled the problem by her self and partly solved it. Last, because of this, she was more tolerant to those questions that she still got.


Socrates and Creativity: Similarities and differences

There are some other important similarities between Socrates dialogues and creativity. Socrates often comes back to the same basic questions. He also touches the most fundamental human questions and problems. As creative process consultants, especially in vision building and working with basic values, we also often end up with the same questions as Socrates treated. The most important example is love that is especially discussed in Symposium. Other important examples are justice, knowledge and virtues. The main similarity is that both creative process consultants and Socrates try to help people to think and reflect by themselves.

All the practical experiences in creative processes give a new and deeper understanding when reading Socrates dialogues again. Our advice is to not stop reading Plato after you have become a process consultant or a philosophical adviser. It might be now that you are really able to understand Socrates dialogues.

There are some important differences between creative process consultants and Socrates. We do not use irony as Socrates often does. We use encouragement as Socrates also often does. We do not destroy the arguments of the problem owner, but we might help her to see their strengths and weaknesses. We do not argue like Socrates does, we help the problem owner to find her own arguments. The main difference is that we do not guide so strictly as Socrates does, we are more neutral midwives.


Some advises

From our own experiences we give the following advises.

Practice the methods on yourself before you use them on someone else. As a professional you should also have experienced to be guided by a facilitator before you facilitate other people. Our facilitators have to participate in at least 400 hours practical training before they are allowed to practice. The training include both to guide and to be guided on all sort of problems they might meet as facilitator. Wallgren (1998) reviews the distinguished characteristics of successful creative problem solving (CPS) facilitators. One of the most important trait was ability to use the processes in flexible and creative ways. It was also important to listen to the client and to maintain confidentiality and act ethically.

Be very careful if the client has some heavy mental problem. Our facilitators are not allowed to handle such problems if they not have been specially trained as therapist. But if they are therapist, the creative methods and techniques might be very useful as additions to their other “tools”.  Cropley (1990) sees the possibility of promoting mental health by fostering creativity in day to day life. He gives different examples One is a work by Schwarzkopf (1981).where nine adult women were trained in creativity on sewing, knitting, weaving etc. After one year the women showed less anxiety in unfamiliar situations, were more playful, more independent and lively and more goal oriented. Forsth and Nordvik (1995A) also found that training in creativity for children in primary school gave other results than increased creativity. The children became more confident, got more self-respect, showed more responsibility and were more enthusiastic. These results indicates that when the facilitator train the client in creativity, she also help him to handle life and life’s problem better.

Farr (1990) points out that creating changes in beliefs, expectations and attitudes might be important in facilitating individual problem solving. Mattila (2001) focuses on the psychotherapeutic technique of reframing, which he calls “a technique for helping clients to see their situation in a new light, from a new perspective”. As examples of techniques for reframing he mentions categorisation, analogical thinking, methaphores and points of view. He also discusses some aspects of interpretation and understanding which are relevant for reframing. Some of the techniques in creativity are in fact ways of reframing. For those familiar with reframing in therapeutic work, creative methods and techniques might be useful additional tools.

King (1997) gives an example (The Apollo 13 situation) of how pressure also might be a good condition for creativity. Her advises might be useful also in other extreme situations. On the other hand Talbot et al. (1992) found that the higher stress, the less creativity. These (and other findings) indicates that in a stressful situation, the clients creativity might decrease, but it can be stimulated. This means that he might need a facilitator to help him function more creatively and solve his problems. The method and techniques described in this article, shows how a faciliator can stimulate the creativity of the client.

Be very careful to not give your own advises.  The process consultants only facilitate the process without interfering with the contents. The rule is no direct advice, be only a neutral facilitator. This rule might be violated only if you are very sure of what you are doing.

Be aware of that even the most neutral facilitating is not neutral. The methods of questions and answers are like helping the guided to see the possible roads and to choose among them. But even the most neutral approach is never completely neutral. Each question and each answer is also to make a choice in a crossroad. Socrates guided other people on a road he himself had walked to a goal he himself (at last partially) knew. If you do not know the road and the goal, you might be “the blind that leads other blinds.” This requirement would (and may be should) stop most of us from using Socratic dialogue or in other ways being a philosophical adviser. If we have not travelled the same road as the one we guide, we should at least have travelled similar roads. Even if we do not know what is behind the next mountain, we should at least know what might be behind mountains. If you do not continually travel the roads of your own life, you should not guide others on their roads. Except, of course, if you actually are a new Socrates.


Artikkelen er basert på:

Forsth, L. R. og Nordvik, B. Creative mehods as Socratic Dialogue, At “Philosophy in Society”, International Conference on Philosophy in Practice, Oslo 2001



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You can also find a version of this article in our homepage

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