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Posted on February 10, 2020
Updated on October 13, 2021

The Workforce and Co-Creativity

TA in Organisation

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

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 organisations do not intentionally hamper creativity and aspiration. They do so in a framework and belief system that is about minimising risk.

  1. A clear outcome, goal or vision
  2. Accounting the current reality
  3. Meaning constantly evolves through dialogue
  4. Discourse creates systems (and not the other way around)
  5. Therapy is the co-creation, in dialogue, of new narratives that provide new possibilities
  6. 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.

Organisations are about what goes on between people to achieve the organisational goals. Ideally, this is about Adult to Adult 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 Adult to Adult relationship rather than in a symbiotic process.

We 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 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.

People and organisations 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:

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.

Mindful Learning 

The concept of mindful learning has sprung, among other sources, out of the recent research about the neurophysiology of the brain. Its principal proponent is Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard.

The central idea in mindful learning is how to promote a greater level of awareness, openness and flexibility in dealing with the world and our experiences. This in turn has implications for how teaching is best carried out.

Some of the signs of a lack of mindfulness might be:

1)    “overlearning” – unthinking habitual ways of approaching situations

2)    Reading notes taken in a lecture afterwards and having no idea what the meaning of these might be

3)    Inability to (or simply absence of) application of  learning from one situation to another

4)    “Drilling” - mindless repetition of a skill until it is embedded.

5)    Only following the  “accepted way to do things” rather than doing things in ways that are best for us

The above can easily be linked to TA through the concept of discounting. When we discount, we are not being fully in the present with respect to ourselves, others or what is going on around us.

The more learning is done in a “rote” way, the bigger the chunks of the learning are likely to be – in other words, the subtleties and nuances are sacrificed.

In general, Langer argues that teaching should be done in ways that leave room for doubt. If giving instructions for an exercise for instance, phrases such as “one way might be” rather than “what you will do”. The result of the former is an invitation for learners to do more work in the learning process, rather than be invited to see the teacher as the expert, and passively and unthinkingly swallow information whole.

Some qualities which the learner can develop:

1)    openness to novelty

2)    alertness to distinction

3)    sensitivity to different contexts

4)    implicit or explicit awareness of multiple perspectives

5)    orientation in the present

Finally, a short Japanese poem:

Pleasure is the state of being

Brought about by what you learn

Learning is the process of

Entering into the experience of this

kind of pleasure

No pleasure, no learning.

No learning, no pleasure.

Song of Joy



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

Summers G & Tudor K (2000), Cocreative Transactional Analysis, TAJ 30:1

Langer, Ellen J. (1997) The Power of Mindful Learning, Merloyd Lawrence Books

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

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