Bicameral Mind and Jaques

E. Forrest Christian Theory 5 Comments

Is there any way that Jaques’s ideas about creativity fit with the idea of the bicameral mind (right brain, left brain)? Reading Mintzberg got me wondering.

As I understand Jaques and Cason’s theory (which I haven’t read because I haven’t gotten the book yet), creativity is having too much CIP for the task. But I don’t see this as quite true. There seems to be a difference between high CIP and creativity, although they certainly may be correlated.

I don’t have any ideas here. I’m just beginning to put this into place into the Grand Edifice that is my thoughts about humanity.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

Twitter Google+

E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

Comments 5

  1. I assume you are referrring to “Human Capability” by Jaques and Cason. I’ve read the book (and believe it is the only text book publication coauthored by Elliott Jaques and Kathryn Cason) and cannot recall any references that defined excess complexity of mental processing applied to a task as creativity. I would suggest that creativity and high complexity of mental processing would not occur as direct correlations. I might agree however that where one possessed CMP distinctly higher than the task required and where the individual valued the assignment that he or she might be drawn to new and more creative methods for accomplishing the task, departing from conventional wisdom and experience. I would also be inclined to suggest that where the individual was properly matched with the task in terms of CMP and where he or she was endowed with a plethora of skills and knowledge that he or she might attempt creative new methods to derive new capability and efficiency in the execution of the task. With both these possibilities in mind I would favour the likelihood of the latter recognizing that in the first instance, though entirely plausible, it will be difficult to sustain a fully valuing of the task and the likelihood is the individual would be distracted and looking to apply his or her focus elsewhere. In the latter case the individual has considerably more interest in the task and more at stake. The high CMP individual is not prevented, and would likely be more inclined, to consider the capability and efficiency of a less complex task from the vantage point of a higher stratum assignment and would creatively transform the status quo from that vantage point reducing in complexity and delegating the particulars as tasks to his or her subordinates.

    Thus in the final assessment surplus CMP may either be applied to creativity or may be applied to a resigned state of boredom and indifference and well matched CMP may also bring with it creative influences. In the end I suspect it would be difficult to validate a hypothesis that postulates that there are verifiable correlations. Once you’ve read the book, you may wish to consider it further and undertake the research that would either support or dispel the hypothesis (which I highly doubt is valid).

  2. Post

    Naw, it weren’t in Human Capability. It’s from an earlier work: maybe Creativity and Work? It was from something that I haven’t read but heard about, that Jaques says that all creativity is basically excess capability. I think I agree with you, but I’ll confess to being very confused on this topic.

    To be honest, I’m not even sure what question I’m asking. Maybe it’s the problem of simply what a person is suited for. I can tell the difference between people in the visual arts: there’s a big difference between the competent artist and the great artist. And it seems like the greater artists are higher mode. Maybe it’s a problem of intuition rather than creativity, the issue of seeing a problem and knowing an answer, I know not where.

    What you’re saying makes good sense and I can see it. So maybe it’s about intuition over reasoning.

  3. The assertion that great artists are highly capable in terms of CMP does apply. I certainly have read references by Jaques that point to this exact subject and the proposition that Picaso, DaVinci, and other highly capable artists are possessed of high CMP. Jaques defined in one publication the distinctions among art works and correlating CMP. Is this however best defined as creativity? I think the reference is best left as capability. I agree that preference, this is to say that individuals who do not value the work are less inclined to apply creative energy toward the task, yet these same individuals might also be inclined to bring high efficiency or simplicity to the task with the incentive being it occupies less of their time and not valuing the work has provided this incentive. I don’t believe it’s about intuition. I’m inclined to stay with capability and creativity applied from within capability.

  4. I was sitting here trying to get back to some urgent work and found that I couldn’t resist chipping into the topic of creativity and Jaques (Lord knows I had tried when Forrest first posted this topic).
    A man came to see me recently to talk to me about an organisation/product call something like ‘Managing Innovation’. Basically, this is a service in the De Bono style claiming to be able to teach and improve innovation-aka creativity-in your company. They claim a ready take-up for their workshops and they have a compelling entertraining process. It’s principle virtue seemed to be that it was popular. (when will they stop with this necromancy?). They did have some difficulties later when, having assembled a list (with eager staff) of ‘innovative’ ideas, they simply could not see anything but incremental improvements. A further common finding was that the list would not be ‘actioned’. But that’s another story.
    At the end of our conversation, it became clear to my visitor that he was talking about ‘work’ as I had defined it in Elliot’s terms. The implications of this for his business proposition became clear – it’s a business in snake oil.
    Of course, it is important for CEO’s and other managers to understand that work (therefore creativity, if you believe me yet) cannot be conjured in individuals or companies at will. Nor will it ‘arise’ (except perversely) in anti-requisite circumstances. That is, the system provides the context, the principles and practices – including role design (with level of work) and capability for the role (CIP). In the context of levels of work, it is interesting to ask the question, “At what level in the company would you like me to direct my creativity? How creative should I be?” To be a little naughty, I might ask, “Can I expect to find more creativity in architects than engineers?”
    Elliott gives some clues about the connection between ‘work’ and what we think that we experience (individually and socially) as ‘creativity'(if not stating the obvious) in a neat paper he delivered in 2003 called ‘Work and the Unconscious’. I draw attention to this paper because it deals with ideas of the conscious and unconscious in a way that provides for possible linkages with our everyday and conventionally-held observations (myths?) about creativity, what it looks like and how we might experience it e.g. “He has brilliant flashes of insight. Even he though he doesn’t know where they come from.” etc etc. This looks to me like the ‘ineffable’ processes of work that Elliott describes. Here is a brief extract:

    “Work: My exercise of judgment and making of decisions in order to overcome the
    obstacles I would inevitably meet in carrying out my assigned tasks.

    This construct of work turned out to have very far-reaching consequences. In the first
    place, it raised the question of what was involved in the use of judgment and the making
    of decisions. Out of these deliberations came the realization that the process of decision
    making was decidedly not a conscious process. We realized that you could not know what
    your decision was until you had made it and were directly engaged in beginning to carry
    it out without so much as a reflective thought about it. It was only when you had arrived
    at a decision, or indeed any choice whatever, and were engaged in acting on it that
    you became aware of what that decision or choice might be. It just popped out from

    In the course of deciding what to do at a choice point, you might consciously think up
    all kinds of options, but then the choice would suddenly turn up, as though out of nowhere,
    and might often be a choice that you had not even been aware of considering. In psychoanalytical
    parlance, work in the sense of judgment, decision making, and choice making
    is an unconscious process.”

    and further:

    “The unconscious is the drive aspect of the nonarticulatable ineffable work process, in
    which needs (the psychoanalytical unconscious drives) are transformed into intentions
    which get formulated into choices and decisions and specific goals toward which the
    organism locomotes (in Kurt Lewin’s language). The “unconscious” is thus one part of a
    much more complex combination of needs, intentions, judgments, and choices that emerge
    as decisions in the form of specific actions, including communications to other organisms.”

    Creativity sounds like work to me.

  5. Agreed that creativity is applied from within the construct of work. Also agreed that the decision process is one that emerges from the unconscious mind. We might also consider whether the needs that are attempting to be satisfied in association with the discretion of one’s judgment and the resulting locomotion that occurs differ when the needs are experienced in deficit versus being experienced as satisfied. Am I apt to be more creative (from the latin creatus or to grow) when my needs occur in deficit or are experienced as being satisfied?

    I wish to postulate that creativity, or the creative process as applied at work, leaves the distinction that the state has been altered, this suggesting that something has been provided that transforms the conventional method of executing the work to a higher level of capability or efficiency versus simply performing the task in the traditional manner.

    Thus creativity is expressed through work and perhaps is most visible when the individual is driven by his or her own understanding of the need that is salient and seeking satisfaction and which has its relationship from the response of the individual to the definition of context and purpose (taking into unconscious consideration both the need defined in the context and purpose for the task and the individual’s psychoanalytical and perhaps psychopatholgical drives.)

    I might hypothesize further that where the context and purpose is presented in terms of the expression of satisfied future need or creating a powerful future in the execution of the task versus being expressed in terms of a burning platform that the creative response differs. Certainly individuals can generate significant creativity when the effort applied to the task defines whether the organization and its occupants continue to meet their deficit needs or not applied against the risk to security and physiological need defined by the context. Similarly, the same individuals might also express creativity in the execution of work where they are inspired to deliver some future goal that allows for satisfying current and evolving need from the hierarchy of need moving from deficit to being needs, and perhaps creativity at work becomes stagnant and only the status quo or the conventional performance of the task prevails absent compelling context and purpose. Contrary to conventional wisdom people embrace change, wish to transform their work to higher capability and efficiency and resist change only to the extent that they do not understand the context and purpose associated with the change and how they interpret and assign meaning absent this understanding. Obviously there is the full suite of managerial practices applied within a requisite structure that support and nurture creativity applied in the execution of work and those organizations that simply have the burning platform on offer for context and purpose as a going concern have defined the dysfuntionality of their organization recognizing that the stagnant state (within an antirequisite organization) has persisted to the point of crisis.

    It is certainly agreed that creativity is applied in the execution of work at all levels within the organizational hierarchy. We might consider in addition that creativity applied inside of work has a relationship with the organization’s willingness to assume risk and to design systems that do not attempt to overspecify the execution of the work such that only minimal discretion remains for the task executioner.

    Yes creativity sounds like work, yet I would like to distinguish that it is the transformation of the work in respect of continuous improvement, transformation, and increased capability and efficiency derived from the execution of said work.

    I currently have a book being printed that discusses, among other considerations, the interrelationships among human need, human capability, and human behaviour. I have not however drawn any distinctions with respect to creativity. In the final assessment it is agreed reativity is expressed as work.

    Rest assured there is no shortage of snake oil salesmen in full locomotion peddling their wares to organizations around the globe.

Tell Forrest how wrong he is: