The Empowering Creative Triad

By Dennis C. Williams, Dean – College of Teaching and Learning, Southern Nazarene University

I was up early this morning, working through the four quadrants that Ken Wilber identifies in his Marriage of Sense and Soul and thinking about how he might be going to use them to lay out the plan for integrating the Beauty and Good as equal peers with imperialistic scientific materialism.  Yes, I suspect, I’m late to the Ken Wilber party. I was also thinking about an upcoming trip to Finland, where I’ll be attending the 2014 World Creativity Forum and where I might have an opportunity to serve on a panel on interdisciplinary collaboration.  I hope I get to.  I’ve been meditating on the topic for some time.

In that morning twilight space, it occurred to me that the Triadic structure that John King talks about in he and David Logan’s Tribal Leadership and the classical triad of body, mind and spirit that Wilber recalls is perhaps the key to structuring creative, interdisciplinary teams at all levels of education and work.

First, some background: I’ve been a student and friend of John King (co-author of Tribal Leadership) for some time now and he introduced me (virtually) to the work of Ken Wilber.  I’ve been reading Wilber’s The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion over the break. Since the topic of religion and science integration has long been a topic in which I’ve had a deep interest (see my God’s Wilds: John Muir’s Vision of Nature), it is a bit of a surprise that I’ve not read any of Wilber’s work before.  I think I may have started his Sex, Ecology and Spirituality many years ago, but was too deep into teaching outside my field to get far into it and the moment was lost.  What fascinates me about Wilber’s work now is how much of what I’ve done over the years has prepared me to read it with an integrating eye – something I probably would not have been able to do in the middle 1990s given that I was “arguing” with my elders about the true location of that historical space in which evolutionary science and faith integration had existed in harmonious partnership.  I was so busy “arguing” about location that I was not listening very well.  Thanks to Vera Hance, Anthony DeMello, John King, Richard Rohr, and life experience, I’ve grown much more open to listening now.

That context behind us, the important inquiry for me today is how might we integrate John King’s Triadic Work Structure and Wilber’s I, WE, IT – Art, Religion, Science – Spirit, Mind, Body differentiations to empower CREATIVITY?

A few provoked ideas –

First, we would need to construct a Creativity Triad. In general, the triad I’m talking about consists of three people (probably representing groups of people) working to enact a Noble Cause.  Each of the people at the apices of the triad will to work together because they share resonant core values associated with the noble cause and each is particularly motivated or empowered by one (or a subset) of the core values. The shared values are key to energizing the work and stabilizing the project.  For the team to work effectively and when the going gets tough, these stable partners attend to the health of the value connections – often reminding one another of the values shared between them.  This serves to keep the team grounded and the vision in clear view.

By way of example, one might imagine a group of people with a noble cause and resonant core values drawn from the local business community, the local educational community (K-20) and local civic action groups (churches, synagogues, mosques, various social service NGOs, etc) who each desire a community filled with “creative, empowered, productive citizens.”  The civic action groups value people living together civilly, working together to keep up their neighborhoods, and living healthy and meaningful lives.  The business leaders desire educated, engaged employees with necessary skills and work ethic who take pride and responsibility in their work and find it meaningful and rewarding.  The educators desire deep partnerships with a community of parents that works alongside them to encourage students to learn and with business leaders who value the work of schools and ensure that graduates have an opportunity to get good jobs locally that draw upon and reinforce the knowledge and skills that they have learned in school.  If such a group existed, and I’m sure it does, how would it organize itself in a productive, integral manner for the good of creatively creating a community filled with creative, empowered, productive citizens?”

I’d offer that this would be just the right situation in which to form a Creativity Triad – a small social organization whose noble cause is to bring a new idea (or ideas) into reality. A Creativity Triad is intentionally constructed of disciplinary practitioners from the worlds of art, social well-being and science to represent respectively Beauty, Good and Truth?  Each partner would bring his/her worldview, well honed skills, and access to their respective spheres of work. Each would speak the language of their discipline and engage with one another from a position of openness (because each desires to see the Noble Cause enacted).

In the effective triad, the small scale social dynamic would be such that science would have a difficult time being too imperialistic (which Wilber identifies as the source of the disaster of modernity) because it is socially difficult for one person to stand up to two united for long.  Science brings what it is good at and what is vital to successful creation – organizing materials and work. Art brings what it is particularly good at – manifesting a clear and powerful vision out of the morass of sensation, perception, emotion, concepts and symbols. Morality speaks for the benefit of the socio-cultural world – asking what intended good and what unintended harm the innovation might bring – always calling for the higher good.

Of course there will always be snags and disagreement, and this is why the Triad is such a powerful tool. For, when one of the disciplines begins to bear over another, becoming domineering and narcissistic, when arguments and dysfunction break out between two of the partners, the third partner plays a critical role – that partner reminds the the others of their shared resonant values, speaks for importance of collaboration for the good of noble cause, and works to prevent a dissociative fragmentation that will doom the project.

Imagine how creative such partnerships could be!  Imagine them at work inside the company, the classroom, and community center. What magnificent work they could accomplish! Wouldn’t it be fabulous to attend to such collaborations both locally and globally!?  What Noble Causes has a hold on you that you could use a Creative Triad to  help bring it into the world?

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