The Creative Interchange Process – Part I

It’s paramount to understand the creative interchange process before focusing on the required conditions and helpful behaviors for its operation in transforming the human mind. Henry Nelson Wieman defined the process in the introduction of his 1958 book, “Man’s Ultimate Commitment (MUC).” He said, “ By creativity I do not mean creative work, science, technology, social organization or any other area of human achievement. … But I shall be examining … the creative transformation of the individual in the wholeness of his being ….” He continues, “Creative transformation of the individual is distinguished from every other kind of change by four characteristics. These four are not the only features pertaining to it, for creativity is very complex and in its depth fades into mystery.”

Elsewhere, Henry Nelson Wieman makes a distinction between an original creative self and a conditioned created self. The created self is a construct within the original creative self and authors much of the creative work, science, technology, arts and what is usually referred to as creativity. In another section we will discuss how excessive identification with the created self leads to what many call the false or ego self. The focus here is on the creative process that creates and transforms the created self. Wieman identified and named this process creative interchange. Creative interchange is what expands indefinitely the human conscious mind.

H.N. Wieman did not presume to have the final understanding of what creative interchange is nor how it transforms the mind. He said, “Creativity is an expanding of the range and diversity of what the individual can know, evaluate, [imagine] and control [from the inside out].” In the closing paragraphs of MUC he concludes “… creative and transforming power …means two things: (1) [an] interchange which creates appreciative understanding of unique individuality and (2) integration within each individual of what [they] get from others this way, thus creating [their] own personality in power, knowledge, and capacity to appreciate more profoundly diverse individuals, peoples, and things.”

In summary, creative interchange operates when individuals authentically interact and appreciatively understand one another’s’ unique perspectives and creatively integrate those perspectives in a way that transforms their own mind and behavior. The more individuals, groups or organizations engage in creative interchange the more they will undergo continual transformation. It is our opinion that the more we learn about the required conditions who foster this creative interchange, the more we can experience continuing transformation of our minds and gain greater control of our lives.

The four characteristics of Creative Interchange are:

  1. Authentic Interacting
  2. Appreciative Understanding
  3. Creative Integrating
  4. Continual Transforming

To symbolize the Creative Interchange Process we’ve chosen the ‘official’ symbol for the concept infinity: the Lemniscate, since Creative Interchange is infinite.


In the next paragraphs of this section “The Creative Interchange Process” we will present those characteristics and their interrelating.

First Aspect of Creative Interchange

The Left Side of the Lemniscate

Characteristic 1: Authentic Interacting


For many people authenticity and honesty mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. As it relates to creative interchange, honesty means that one’s motives, values and beliefs are aligned and congruent with one’s existing mental model, their words and behavior. Authenticity includes another condition of greater self-awareness. The condition of awareness will be taken up in a later section (concerning the required conditions for Creative Interchange).

Authenticity has different meanings for different people. As it relates to creative interchange, it means that one’s intentions, values and beliefs match and conform to and are congruent with one’s words and actions. What is being expressed is worthy of trust, can be relied upon, as being the best that person understands to be factual and true at the moment. There is no intent to deceive, manipulate or give misinformation. Hypocrisy and dishonesty are antithetical to authentic interacting. It is both a matter of integrity and humility: ‘What you hear and what you see, so what you get, is what there really is’.

Authenticity requires courage, the courage to be open and transparent. It is based on an individual’s non-judgmental felt sense and awareness of her/his intrinsic self-worth. Such awareness tends to be the exception in most cultures of the world; especially in most organizational cultures. In other words it is the awareness of self, others and the world as seen through non-judgmental observation based on one’s intrinsic worth. 

Characteristic 2: Appreciative Understanding


Appreciation, like authenticity, lends itself to a variety of interpretations. Appreciation as used here involves accurate assessment and critical judgment. There is an effort to perceive a whole range of facts and values, both positive and negative. It is a “both/and’ appreciation that any idea, person, event or situation has positive and negative aspects.

As it pertains to others it means ‘seeing’ (observing) them as they are and not ‘perceiving’ them as we are. It includes what is commonly referred to as empathy. This is the capacity to enter the frame-of-reference or perspective of another and understand their assumptions, beliefs, values and reasoning. One must place value on ‘observing’ others as they are in order to move beyond identifying differences without the ability to reconcile them toward mutual growth and transformation.

Henry Nelson Wieman talked about what he called our “valuing consciousness”. For him a value is a “goal-seeking activity.” Values initiate intention and direction and result in action. We seek and pursue what we value. Any change in our valuing consciousness has behavioral implications and consequences.

This means that in living Creative Interchange we have to be both, curious regarding the frame-of-reference of the other and embrace and engage the ambiguity this generates. Since what we see “through the eyes of the other”, when we observe them as they are, is often different form who we are, we can learn from the differences, rather than, polarizing them.

So the first aspect of creative interchange (the left side of the Lemniscate) has two characteristics, 1) authentic interacting that results in 2) appreciative understanding of what is unique and original in the thinking and perspectives others. This is more than our conventional communication or information exchange. It involves sharing both information and its context. The characteristics of authentic interacting and appreciative understanding are reciprocal and can be mutually supportive when we don’t polarize them.

Interrelating characteristics 1 and 2

(Divergent Thinking)


Authentic interacting and appreciative understanding are distinct but not separate. This interrelating is pictured by the smaller vertical Lemniscate within the larger horizontal Lemniscate.

The more authentic our interacting the more appreciative we can become with others and ourselves. Conversely, the more we understand and appreciate others and ourselves, the more trusting, authentic, open, curious, and empathic we are capable of becoming in our actions, as we increase tolerance for uncertainty, ambiguity and differences.

These characteristics are not sequential. The more trusting and open we are in sharing our intentions and knowledge the more opportunity there is for appreciative understanding. The more we are appreciatively understood the more willing we are to trust and remain open to authentically interacting and sharing the best we know. We become more transparent in our sharing and receptive to experiencing others as they are. Authenticity fosters appreciation and curiosity while appreciation fosters and supports greater authenticity and openness. Characteristics 1 and 2 form the basis for divergent thinking. They support new possibilities for transformation.

It is important to introduce an additional distinction, but not separation, Dr. Wieman alluded to is between what he called the creative self and the created self or adaptive self. The created self is the self that develops as a result of our “ social conditioning.” This includes parenting, formal education, peer involvement and all forms of life experience. The created self is the one that most of us identify with and come to believe is our only or true self. It is our conscious self. This will be discussed in greater detail in a following section where we develop the required “conditions” for the creative interchange process.

The created self has both stable and developmental qualities. It includes our current mental model or mindset and our openness and predisposition to grow and develop. As we become conscious of the differences in the perspectives of others we must become open and permeable to growth and development. The initial experience of such differences involves ambiguity and uncertainty. If we are to undergo transformational change as a result of encountering and appreciating these differences we must be willing let go of the way we are and open to discovering and inventing new ways of being.

When a person becomes attached to an existing way of being and has identified with it, the prospect of letting go is often experienced as threatening. This is a critical juncture point in determining to what extent the person will be resistant to change. This requires moving beyond our current way of being, our created self, and being open to our creative self. The creative interchange process requires people share authentically and appreciatively their differences. Most people have difficulty managing differences. They are conditioned to make judgments that polarize them into agree/disagree, like/dislike, right/wrong and good/evil. This will be examined in depth later in a section on the Vicious Circle.



Creative Interchange is being authentic and appreciative. It is sharing with integrity and humility and appreciating others as they are, by observing and being empathic.








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