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Posted on March 2, 2020
Updated on October 13, 2021


Co-operation or Co-creativity?

Co-operation - the act of working together for a common purpose

Co-creative - when two or more people bring something into existence which is not a product of either of them individually as it is mutually constructed.

We define co-creation as any act of collective creativity that is experienced jointly by two or more people. How is co-creation different from collaboration? 

It is a special case of collaboration where the intent is to create something that is not known in advance. The concept of co-design is directly related to co-creation. By co-design we refer to collective creativity as it is applied across the whole span of a design process. By these definitions, co-design is a specific instance of co-creation (Sanders & Simon, 2009). 

Organisational TA clearly uses co-creative approaches to working with people. Summers and Tudor (2000), describe the co-creative process within a “positive health perspective” of transactional analysis. They state that the principles of constructivism are relevant to co-creative transactional analysis:

  • Meaning constantly evolves through dialogue
  • Discourse creates systems (and not the other way around)
  • Therapy is the co-creation, in dialogue, of new narratives that provide new possibilities
  • The therapist is a participant-observer in this dialogue

In co-creative Transactional Analysis, there is the guiding principle of “we-ness”. This “we-ness” offers a context and acknowledges the reality of interdependence. Further, more cultures are collectivistic than individualistic and co-creativity helps to move away from the latter and acknowledges the dynamic of relationships.  

Summers and Tudor also believe in working in the present, rather than past relationship. This is not to say that they don’t acknowledge the past but co-creativity is about the present.

Schmid’s focus on empathy is helpful. He states the following:

Without empathy for the emerging future and promising actions, co-operation is not easy and co-creation is almost impossible…If co-creation and cooperation goes well and is beneficial, this may also create bonding and relatedness.

                                                                        Schmid (2008)

Organisations are about what goes on between people to achieve organisational goals. Ideally, this is about Mindful to Mindful transactions and what happens when people get together to create products, solve difficulties, make decisions and so on.  

When people get together then the total output is usually greater, more dynamic, more creative than one person working on their own.

Basically, the space is created for something to happen in a particular context at a particular time. This would be the same for coaching as it would be for a project-based team, fixed teams, board meetings, management meetings, etc.

To be creative with others we need to be in Mindful to Mindful relationships rather than in a symbiotic process.

We (Mountain Associates) also consider the questions of goals and choice as an important pre-requisite of co-creativity. Unless we have made fundamental choices about our purpose – whether that be at an individual, group, or organisational level – then all other choices and decisions will be difficult and could develop an impasse.

Fritz (1984) discusses the creative process offering the example of brain-storming as coming from a problem-solving model. The vital questions is “What do I want to create?”. Rather than generating alternatives, we need to forge a pathway toward the final creation.  

If generating alternatives were the best way to creativity then perhaps more music would be composed in this way. Instead, music involves critical judgement on the part of the composer. The greater the mastery of the processes involved the more direct the pathway is to the final composition. 

In order to focus the mind, we, therefore, require an object on which to focus in order to create the pathway. We need to focus on what we want rather than on what we do not want. 

We need to know what currently exists.

If we were painting a picture we would need to be aware of each stage as it develops. In TA terms if we discount reality, it is difficult to know what actually exists. Once we have our vision and the current reality has been considered we need to take action and experiment. At such times, when experiments do not work it is often easy to quit as this is the path of least resistance. At these times we need to learn as we go and the recognition of our learning will encourage us to continue. 

The first stage of creating can often be exciting as we are often doing new things. Once this newness has worn off and we start to integrate the process we are nearer to the outcome. Once we are moving to completion we are also getting ready for our next project as being creative often leads on to increased creativity.

When we move from being reactive to creative then life is different.  Reactivity is like having walls around us, whilst creativity is like taking them down. 

When we want something but believe we cannot have it or it is not possible, it is our beliefs that often prevent our desires and goals coming to fruition. This desire, coupled with the script belief, creates an oscillation that is detrimental to fulfilment. 

Change is difficult when people do not have permissions to change and may in fact have been told “not to rock the boat”. Organisations can reinforce this process through their culture and employ people who don’t “rock the boat”. Changing beliefs can be difficult, particularly when we do not have a contract for this work. Individuals and organisation do not intentionally hamper creativity and aspiration.  

They do so in a framework and belief system that is about minimising risk.

People and organisation also appear to change when they experience themselves to be at risk, i.e. to take action to remedy something rather than to create something. This means that they are moving away from a negative consequence rather than toward a positive goal. Therefore, the power lies with the circumstances not with the individual or the organisation.

Structural Tension

Structural tension has two components:

  1. A clear outcome, goal or vision
  2. Accounting the current reality

Structural Tension

In order to deal with these tensions positively we need to consider, fundamental, primary and secondary choices.  

Leaders know, or need to know, about these choices.  Primary choices are about outcomes, goals, objectives, and secondary concern teams, hours of work, training, research, meeting etc.  

A fundamental choice on the other hand is about a state of being. We need these fundamental choices as the foundation to the primary and secondary choices. When this occurs we can be creative. If we want to be the predominant creative force in our lives, rather than being reactive to circumstance, this will mean a fundamental shift in our being. Then our primary and secondary choices are congruent with the fundamental choice. Fundamental choices are not subject to changes in circumstance, either internal or external.

Every day we create new sentences, new interactions and new ideas.  We tend not to see this as co-creativity. When most people consider the term “creative” we tend to think about the less “ordinary”. 

In order to be creative, we need to be able to develop a perception of the possible. Part of this relates to the use of intuition. Berne’s concept of intuition related to what had already occurred. Schmid (2008), related it to the future as well and explored the blocks to intuition.  

Rather than look at the blocks, let’s look at what is required to use our intuition in terms of our perception of the possible. We need permission to:

  1. to be OK/OK/OK
  2. be autonomous in our thinking – allowing free-thinking in all aspects of reality
  3. achieve our desires and wishes
  4. develop and change
  5. be innovative
  6. take risks
  7. be intellectually empathic with others
  8. co-operative and be co-creative with others

Creativity in the workplace is likely to be affected by a range of different aspects: the national culture, organisational culture, leadership style, individual beliefs about self, others and life.  

Krausz (2006) quotes the study by Towers Perrin that concerned levels of employee engagement – the measure of people’s willingness and ability to give discretionary effort at work. The highest levels were found in Mexico with 40% of participants and Brazil with 31% who declared themselves as “Highly Engaged”. The lowest were in the four Asian countries in the study, with Japan presenting only 2% of highly engaged respondents. Krausz noted that Mexican and Brazilian cultures are “people orientated and tend to value warm interpersonal relationships….while Asian cultures are spirituality orientated and tend to value discipline and self-control”. 

She goes on to quote Wiesenfeld et at (1998) whose research found that “communication can affect employee attitudes that may be strongly related to organisational identification”. 

When starting in a new position, employees determine the problems and the limits and then set about seeing how they can work in that context in their own way. Naturally, the level of this will depend upon their levels of adaptation. These levels of adaptation will therefore affect their levels of creativity as people function not only psychologically with their personal integrities but also social-psychologically. Social structures and psychological processes are constructed and reinforced in reciprocal ways. These psychological processes operate in a systemic context and not only to serve the individual, but they are also part of the expectancy and empathic processes occurring between and among people to link them interdependently.  

People co-create and are structured by the social processes that join them together as they experience psychologically both their participation in group living and its influences on them (Massey,1995).

In order to learn we need to be available to getting things wrong and to then understand how come something did not work. When this occurs within an organisation it is not only important that individuals think for themselves and are autonomous, but that they are also collaborative.  

Collaboration involves two factors: confrontation and cooperation.  “Collaborative learning occurs when conclusions are confronted - but only when that confrontation is in the spirit of increased understanding rather than ‘winning’” (Dixon, 1994). 

When this OK/OK culture is developed, then co-creativity is more likely to flourish as employees feel safe to take risks and get things wrong. When risks are taken with exploration, and then implemented, evaluation of that action is undertaken and learning developed the organisation is more likely to go onto greater heights. Where an OK/OK collaborative culture is not developed then employees are likely to take the safe option and think “inside the box”, thereby reinforcing any level of over-adaptation they may have.

When people are encouraged to be co-creative they are likely to experience increased dissonance. Employees in interaction are more likely to come up with solutions that are at odds with their own reasoning and solutions which they believe to be sound. This dissonance enables them to use and develop their critical analysis and reasoning skills. As a result they reconstruct their meaning, incorporate new information or reframe the way they view an issue.

Being creative also means choosing your attitude. There is always a choice about the way you do our work, even if there is not a choice about the work itself (Lundin et al, 1995).

Theories about People

Theories about motivation developed in the 1920s and 1930s following the Hawthorne experiments. The conclusions of which included:

➢    People are motivated by social needs

➢    Rewarding relationships are important at work

➢    Individuals are more responsive to pressure from work colleagues than from their managers.

The early scientific management promoted by Taylor (1912) required workers to undertake tasks according to science, in return they would be rewarded with an increase in pay. This theory was uni-dimensional, with employees being seen as economic beings. This had correlations with the Skinner experiments with animals. 

On the other hand, McGregor believed that people want to learn. He believed that people want the freedom to do difficult and challenging work by themselves. If we go with McGregor’s views, then managers and leaders need to dovetail the human wish for self-development into the organisation need for maximum productivity.

Today, modern theorists recognise the need to take into account social needs. The environment also needs to be considered including room layout in order to ensure a balance between technical needs and social needs.


Berne distinguished three different types of psychological energy.  Psychological energy is also referred to as cathexis.

The three different types are: free, bound and unbound.

Bound energy can be understood as the energy that is potential. Free energy is energy that can be consciously and wilfully directed. Each ego state has its own potential or “bound” energy. Unbound cathexis is so termed when the energy is not within the conscious control of the individual, for example, someone who washes their hands obsessively.  

The handwashing has become problematic as it is done from contaminated beliefs and the energy that was bound has become unbound i.e. they are handwashing in a way that is connected with script. Therefore there is a lack of autonomy for this person. 

The ego state with most available energy will be in executive i.e. in charge of the behaviour. Positive use of energy comes from the Structural Integrating Adult ego state directing the free and bound psychic energy in a healthy way which will enable levels of motivation to be maintained.

Contracting is an example of how an organisation can channel this energy. The process of contracting changes bound to free energy. By ensuring that there is a contract, and that the contract is measurable, manageable and motivational, the bound or potential energy will be freed up to move into positive action, reducing the potential for games - unbound energy.

Newton’s contribution (in Tudor and Summers 2014), whilst about education is also relevant for trainers, facilitators, coaches etc. 

This characteristic of both co-creative transactional analysis and authentic learning has been diagrammed recently in two ways: by Sills and Mazzetti (2009), based on script, and very differently by Tudor (2011a), based on transactions. Both these visualisations show the engagement and openness to change of the therapist - or equally, of the teacher. For Sills and Mazzetti this is the “relational field” which, as Chinook (2011) has described it: “represents the mutuality and bidirectional nature of the relationship between supervisor and supervisee” (p343). This inter-subjective relational field also exists between teacher and learner; if learning is a change in, or expansion of, Adult we can also think of it as each “re-doing” our meaning-making and some aspect of our identity.  

In Tudor’s (2011a) diagram at the reciprocal repeated description in transactions “and so may the therapist” could equally apply to a teacher, trainers, facilitator, or animator. 

In organisational work, we need to take account of the social, political and cultural context. Our contracts are usually multi-party and so influence each other and thus are co-created.

Giving Rewards

George Homans (1951) stated that when rewards were withheld this leads to apathy, and yet when we are over stroked the value of the strokes we receive can be reduced.

It can be helpful to ascertain in which ego state we are obtaining the most strokes, and whether this meets our need. If there is a discrepancy between the ego state, which receives the strokes, and the one we need to be receiving the strokes, there will be a discrepancy.

If we structure our time in a tense highly pressured work environment, working 50 hours a week obtaining strokes for our Parent ego state whilst requiring strokes our Integrating Adult ego state we will fall short of our stroke quotient and are likely to become stressed and be unable to be motivated to be creative and innovative.


Things that get in the way of being creative and co-creative:

➢    Discounting the existence, severity of the problem

➢    Discounting the options or ability to solve the problem

Discounting is involved when we:

➢    Lack courage

➢    Lack relationships (no-one to talk with about the issue)

➢    Lack wisdom – disorganised, over-confident, doing too many things at once, over-indulgent in my own feelings, thoughts etc.

➢    Lack of all three – not relaxing, not trusting other, over-controlling, lack of learning from experiences, wanting to go it along, believing the process is pointless or meaningless.


To problem-solve we need to:

➢    Define the problem – this needs to be a detailed description, determining the extent and the nature of the issues involved.

➢    Define the significance of the problem – determine the personal or hidden unconscious importance of this issue for you and for the team, department, or organisation.

o   Why is this a problem or issue for me/us?

o   Why is this issue important to me/us?

o   What elements in this current issue are similar to events and people in the past, and what can I learn from this that will help this situation?

➢    Define the solvability of the problem – problem resolution can be prompted by such statements as I can resolve this issue by……….

➢    Apply yourself/selves to the solution of the problem – once all the above have been dealt with then action needs to be taken to implement the options until the problem is resolved.  The passive behaviours will be resolved in this stage.


Beliefs affect our thoughts, feelings and perceptions (RAS) and this in turn affects our behaviour. Therefore, it follows that when our beliefs about self, others and the world come from OK/OK then we are more likely to be creative and co-creative. We can change our beliefs and therefore our behaviour will change. We can change our behaviour, get different feedback and thus change our beliefs. 


Berne E. (1972), What do you say after you say hello?, Bantam Books

Clarkson P. (1992), Transactional Analysis psychotherapy, an integrated approach, Routledge

Dixon N, (1994), The Organisational Learning Cycle: How we can learn collectively, McGraw-Hill

Fritz R. (1989), The Path of Least Resistance, Fawcett Columbine

Gallagher K et al (1997), People in Organisations, an active learning approach,Blackwell Business

James N. (1994), Cultural Frame of Reference and Intergroup Encounters: A TA Approach, TAJ 24:3

Homans G (1951), The Human Group, Routledge and Kegan Paul

Krausz R (2006) Interpersonal Communication, Relationships and Organisational change (in Growth and Change for Organisation, Transactional Analysis, New Developments 1995 – 2006,ed. Mohr & Steinert, ITAA)

Kuritz, P.T. (1975), The Creative Actor: A Transactional View, TAJ 5:2

Langer, E.J. (1989) Mindfulness, Merloyd Lawrence Books

Lundin S.C. Paul H, Christensen J. (1995), Fish, Hodder and Stoughton

Massey R. (1996), Transactional Analysis as a Social Psychology, TAJ 26:1

Massey R (1995), Theory for Treating Individuals from a Transactional Analysis/Systems Perspective, TAJ 25:3

Mayo E. (1949),  Hawthorne and the Western Electric Company, (in Gallagher K et al (1997), People in Organisations, an active learning approach, Blackwell Business)

McGregor D (1960), The human side of enterprise, McGraw-Hill Book Company, quoted in Villere M.F. & LeBoeuf M (1978) TAJ 8:3.

Newton T (2014), Learning to be transactional designers, in Tudor K & Summers G, Co-Creative Transactional Analysis, Karnac

Sanders L & Simons G (2009), A Social Vision for Value and Co-creation in Design,

Schmid B (2008), The Role Concept of Transactional Analysis and Other approaches to personality, Encounter, and Cocreativity For All Professional Fields

Siegel, D J. (2007) The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, Norton

Summers G & Tudor K (2000), Co-creative Transactional Analysis, TAJ 30:1

Tudor K & Summers G (2014), Co-Creative Transactional Analysis,