Decisions Using Intuition & Creativity

Essays Introduction

Decisions Using Intuition & Creativity


No Left-out People

As If

The Crystal Structure

On Leadership

The Myth of Success

Doers & Creators

I, Committee
I am working this out as I write, but it is not a new idea. It seems to unfold into different shapes every time I explore it.

The observation is simple. Watch an ant hill in action - or observe a single ant. Destroy part of the hill. Frantic activity. For a while the activity does not look organized, but in an hour or a day calm is restored; the colony continues.

There is an obvious parallel between the frantic activity of the ants and the scene of people scurrying around in our cities.

The difference is that you could ask each of those people where they are going, and why. And you would receive a meaningful answer. Or would you?

Buildings appear because of the activity, or profit motive, of individuals who may be identified. Politicians and civil servants stake their careers on providing the services that people want. The current state of the technology determines the materials and systems that will be used. Does this explain the patterns and direction of our civilization?

Compared to humans, ants are fairly simple creatures (if any form of living thing can be considered 'simple' by mere human intellect). For example, to avoid the complexity of balance, ants stumble forward on two sets of tripods - crude, but it works.

It seems that our science can often determine the ant's programming. A searching ant discovers a food source (the picnic basket) and soon there is a line of ants marching from the ant hill to the source, and back to their hill. The line must be marked by a chemical because it is easy to erase the line and watch the confusion of the ants.

Similarly, when a developer erects a condo with 20 floors of residential plus some retail on the ground floor and parking below, it is possible to explore her/his motives. While foraging, this person discovered the potential condo site (like the picnic basket), envisioned the building and the profits, and used her/his experience to acquire the land, to arrange for the financing, for the architect and contractors; and finally to find clients to the units.

For me, this is the hard part. Do I really see what is going on here? By watching one ant I may figure out the motive for one action - but I do not know ant hills. Knowing something about water does not immediately suggest the shape of clouds and the future direction of weather.

I have looked at clouds from both sides now...
- J. Mitchell
Anthills happen. Beehives happen. Termite mounds happen. Cities happen. Where is the programming for the hills, the hives, and the mounds? It must be like holograms, where each individual insect has the whole code, but it requires the colony to give the hologram depth and perspective.

A hologram is a wonderful example and metaphor. I sense that I have not grasped the full meaning of the metaphor.

It's holograms' illusions I recall
I really don't know holograms at all.
- J. Mitchell paraphrased.
By understanding city bylaws and the financing of projects I feel that I am missing the essential part of human civilization. I think that, as I wrote the paragraph about the developer 'foraging' I recall that I edited out a word that might have been essential to the process. At the point where the developer has seen the site, and before the process of envisioning begins, there is a time of thrill and knowing that there is a possibility for a great structure and for handsome profits. The word is 'instinct.' To be pedantic, and to quote from the A. Heritage dictionary on my computer:
"instinct n. 1. An inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species..."
I am suggesting that the developer who puts together a business plan for a condo is acting out of the same kind of instinctive impulse as the ant that is laying down the chemical trail to the picnic basket. The difference is the developer had to learn her/his craft; the ant knows what to do.

In this case I want to distinguish between craft and instinct. Anyone can learn about business plans, construction, etc., but without the instinctive ability to recognize a possibility, civilization will not move forward. I suspect that everyone shares parts of these instincts.

Civilization is not a condo - that is just a metaphor too. It includes condos though. It is systems, processes, dreams, fiction, hopes, and games. It is a refugee deciding to emigrate, and it is a family deciding to watch less television.

The essence seems to be in the process of making decisions which result in action (or deliberate inaction).

There seems to be a belief that decisions flow out of deliberate thought-processes. Both my current reading and my experience suggest that this is not so.

One of the most useful guides to making decisions is S. Johnson's 'Yes or No.' The first part of the book describes the decision-making process that you might expect - gathering information, thinking it through, etc. The second part requires a process of self-examination; including intuition, integrity, and insight. There is an assumption in this work that we know more than we know we know. This is consistent with the way that I have relied on my creativity.

I do rely on a mysterious creative process. It has always been there for me when I need to come up with a novel planetarium show, or a newspaper article for my column - or the end to this essay.

First, I have long pictured myself as a committee, and not an individual. (See the essay on this subject.) I feel as if I have only a little control over the group (of me) whom I require to come up with good ideas. The dummy that I see in the mirror, and present to the world, has never had a really good idea. He seems to be methodical, not creative. His responsibility to the creative group is to state the problem (the creative group may decide to re-state it), provide information, and a little (or a lot of) pressure for a resolution. Then the creative group needs a bit of time and the space to do whatever they do. Sleep and some food seem to help. After that, the rest of us wait until the creative group announces their solution. So, I feel as if I 'nurture' my creativity, but I do not feel as if I 'do' it.

Sometime when I have a problem, I will not even know I have a problem. Sometimes I know I have a problem to the extent that I will wake up in the middle of the night, and knot will form in my stomach, and my body temperature will rise until I am slick with sweat. I used to think that this physical reaction was due to my inability to find a solution to the problem. More recently I have discovered that the real problem is that I am troubled, but I have not really understood or articulated the problem. In a recent situation I discovered to my surprise, that the source of my anxiety had nothing to do with the problem on which I was chewing. (This process of self-discovery is called 'Focusing,' described by Eugene Gendlin, in a book by the same name.)

All of this gives some validity to the notion that we do know more than we know we know. People do act out of intuition; and that is a reasonable course of action (if you know how to use it, and to trust intuition).

Unfortunately, when people use the word 'intuition' it suggests something weak - like a whim. I am describing something very solid and powerful - it is just one step removed from being a tool that I can easily grasp.

For instance, it is my creativity that has always supported my family and provides me with most (all) of the satisfaction and other real rewards for being alive. When I commit to projects (or to anything) I count on that creativity to allow me to do the job, task, or responsibility. I know that it will be there for me even though I cannot see it or even command it to perform. It is real; even though it is a tool I cannot grasp.

There is a shape to the anthill, to the beehive, and to the termite mound. There is programming that provides for the propagation of the hills, hives, and mounds. Each ant knows what it has to do today, but I suspect that none are aware of the destiny of their hill, and of ants.

There is a shape to our civilization. We, as a species, seemed to programmed as 'doers and creators' (that is described in another essay written in 1986). Most humans know what they have to do today. A few think about the destiny of our civilization and about our species. Sometimes our intuition seems to give us an inkling of where we are going.

I would be interested to receive any comments you may wish to contribute. Please send me a note to


Return to Essays Introduction
Return to Ballantyne & Associates

© 1996 July 3, Robert J. Ballantyne
All rights to this essay are reserved.
It is here only for your enjoyment
at your computer screen.