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Creative Problem Solving Techniques Library ‘Working with dreams and imagery’

There’s a warning on this activity, that the techniques may draw up uncomfortable events from your past.

This also highlights a major problem with such techniques:they can throw up the unexpected.

I like to think I have ample experience ‘working with dreams’ ; I have used them to develop story-lines and ideas, even to some degree for personal cognisance so it felt like an obvious one to give a try.

Context is vital, picking the right activity or game for the people you are working with.

How well do you know them?

It also makes me realise that I’d like to be in a working environment with the kind of colleagues and friends where I could employ such techniques.

I feel like a big fail; there are two activities suggested for problem solving, or creativity, innovation and change: keeping a dream diary and this, which offers ways to explore a dream’s meanings and to re-enter and work with this environment created by your subconscious.

There’s plenty troubling me at the moment but I find repeatedly that holding onto a dream is like chasing autumn leaves in a stiff breeze.

Take this morning; just a few moments awake I recall I had been dreaming and that it had been a ‘good one’: vivid but apparently not memorable enough. I tried all the tips in the book to recover or return to the dream: you have to place yourself exactly as you were as you had the dream. I still can’t get it; I feel like MacBeth clutching at the dagger; it is always just out of reach.

By way of example I have a snippet of a dream from a few days ago: returning to the campsite after some kind of trip or activity in the woods I find my tent has gone: everything has been removed, as if I had never been there. The plot is bare. Why should I be thinking this as I return to work after a two week break?

The ‘activity’ is then to work with and develop your feelings about this moment, been to re-enter the dream, not simply to see what happens next but to change or influence the outcome. This then MAY offer a solution or at least an understanding of your feelings so that you can deal with them.

How to work with a dream or metaphorical image:

  • Entering the dream
  • Studying the dream
  • Becoming the images
  • Integrating the viewpoints
  • Reworking the dream

Appreciating, reflecting, looking forward and emerging

P.S. I just returned to work and couldn’t have entered a more friendly environment, my desk as I’d left it.

P.P.S. I realise why I am ‘losing’ my dreams: stress. I’m waking up with a jolt, some unpleasant thought in the back of my mind.

Steve Jobs was hugely influenced by Zen Buddhism; this I understand would play to the importance of intuition. Intuition alone is not enough; this for Jobs was also the product of intense effort to get his head around an issue; he immersed himself in it until, to paraphrase the historian E.H.Carr he could ‘hear it speak’.




Glouberman, D. (1989) Life Choices and Life Changes Through Imagework, London, Unwin, pp. 232-6

Isaacson, W. (2011) Steve Jobs. Little Brown.


Intuition in creative decision making in business

In management decision-making:

Perception,  Intuition, tacit knowledge and apprehension of Eastern cultures have a role to play. (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995)

Logic, precision and evidence has been the way of the West.

N.B P56 the unconscious has a role to play.

Neurones and dendrites.

Plasticity: though as metaphors go I  prefer paths through a wood, rather than water on a jelly (de Bono). Telegraph, to analogue telephone, to high-speed internet broadband might be even better.

What we see is very much affected by what we expect to see.

P57 (how does this impact on a trial several years after the event?)

We recreate images of past events anew on each occasion. p57

i.e. No one has a photographic memory. People’s recollection of events change years after.

And we find it easier to recall memories laid down in a particular state. e.g. recalling a dream can be as easy as positioning yourself in bed as you were when you had the dream. (Prepare for an exam by revising and testing yourself in exam-like conditions?)

p62 Our memory of how to do things is often tied to the situation in which it was learnt.

N.B. The importance of intuitive decision-making that can assimilated information that is too complex to verbalised.

P65 Mintzberg (1975, 1996) use of intuition by managers. Isenberg (1987) managers often by-pass rigorous, analytical planning altogether, particularly when they difficult, novel, or extremely entangled problems.


For the next week keep a record of any intuitions and hunches you have, and note what led you to recognise them.

Keep a diary of intuitive judgements and decisions you make, and subsequently note whether or not you were proved right.

P76 ‘It seems we have a strong tendency to apply rules mindlessly, which means we easily miss new approaches.

P78 People perform close to their labels. Research shows. (So never label a person or child).

P84 the unconscious mind often fails to match, particularly where information is incomplete.


Claxton, Going Beyond cleverness: how to be smart without thinking.

Nonaka, I and Takeuchi , H ‘Oraganizational knowledge creation’.

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