The Relationship Between Talking and Doing

Another insight from the experiments concerns the relationship between talking and doing as media for innovative thinking and action. In designing the experiment, we hoped that the participants would go beyond verbal communication and do something with the room, the materials, and each other. Our inclination to favor action over talk stemmed from the assumption that doing would heighten the aesthetic dimensions of experience by involving the body, the senses, and movement. We assumed that this intensification would enhance the innovative thinking of the participants and ultimately increase the creativity of outputs presented as a model of aesthetic relations “centered on exchanges of emotional energy which mark out moments of intersubjectivity between people” (Woodward & Ellison, 2010, p. 52).

The familiar Meeting-Mode configuration favored talk and other engagement at the cognitive level. Even though some of this talk touched on highly interesting insights, our inference, based on our observations of the group members and our own subjective experience of this configuration, was that discussions in the Meeting Mode generated little energy. In Session 2, which we analyzed in depth, we could observe, and feel, the gradual, positive change in energy as the group moved out of the Meeting Mode into Expansion and then Creation. Our observation of the sessions revealed relationships between the engagement with objects and changes in energy levels. We confirm that “objects are manipulated and energized as products of the relations between the material, the sensual and the embodied as they play out in relation to imagination and the mind” (Woodward & Ellison, 2010, p. 46). Our observations lead us beyond corroborating this claim; they bring us to suggest that by energizing objects, people energize themselves. The bodily experience of moving and shifting position in the process of working with the objects and art materials in the room stimulated and reinforced energy at both the individual and the group levels. The engagement of multiple bodily ways of knowing heightened the aesthetic dimensions of experience in ways that were energizing. We hypothesize that this energy made it easier for the participants to engage the uncertainty and explore new possibilities for thinking and action.

In our estimation the moment of highest energy and aesthetically most powerful experience occurred in the Creation configuration in Session 3. The participants chose to stop talking entirely. For approximately 45 min they used the artistic materials and their bodies, communicating through their eyes, movements, and touch. Ironically, the experience in this configuration led us to revise our thinking about the relative value of doing and talking. The nonverbal communication lasted until the end of the session, at which point all the participants expressed a strong need to talk about the experience. There was a sense of incompleteness without the opportunity for shared reflection. This experience led us to see talking and doing as two crucial moments whose interplay is critical in the creative process.

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