You are required to read and agree to the below before accessing a full-text version of an article in the IDE article repository.

The full-text document you are about to access is subject to national and international copyright laws. In most cases (but not necessarily all) the consequence is that personal use is allowed given that the copyright owner is duly acknowledged and respected. All other use (typically) require an explicit permission (often in writing) by the copyright owner.

For the reports in this repository we specifically note that

  • the use of articles under IEEE copyright is governed by the IEEE copyright policy (available at

  • the use of articles under ACM copyright is governed by the ACM copyright policy (available at

  • technical reports and other articles issued by M‰lardalen University is free for personal use. For other use, the explicit consent of the authors is required

  • in other cases, please contact the copyright owner for detailed information

By accepting I agree to acknowledge and respect the rights of the copyright owner of the document I am about to access.

If you are in doubt, feel free to contact

The language of interaction: creative tension in heterogeneous groups


Publication Type:

Conference/Workshop Paper


Workshop on ‘This Motley Crew’: managing ‘creatives’ and the creative unit


A basic condition for creative solutions and successful innovations is bringing together individuals that represent a diversity of experiences and notions regarding the particular problem situation. In the theory of creativity the notion of variety is a fundamental one so that when different viewpoints interact, the outcome has the potential of being innovative. In the initial phase in the processes of innovation there are various brainstorming techniques for collective creativity (Stein, 1974). One of the creative collective’s fundamental challenges is to maintain the vitality in cross-disciplinary meetings without getting caught up in endless negotiations never reaching any constructive solution or outcome. This paper points to the paradox between the aspects of ‘motley crew’ interaction and divergent thinking in the domain of creativity on the one hand and the striving for consensus in the process of decision-making on the other. The notion of consensus is often taken for granted, implying that collective activity must originate from mutual agreement. This paper presents two specific group activities that were supposed to be creative on a collective level: a brainstorming group at an industrial design firm in Stockholm and a group of temporarily assembled improvising professional musicians. A question that this report is dealing with is: How might we manage this motley crew of ‘creatives’ who represent variety in several dimensions, in order to make them interact constructively? Differences might often cause misunderstandings and a confusion of languages; the tension that is built-in in a diverse multitude might be both constructive and destructive. The tension in the intersection between different domains of knowledge might be managed constructively so as to eliciting energy, momentum and driving force in the mutual effort to reach productive and durable solutions. It is all about elaborating interactions where differences spur and fertilize new ideas. But this creatively managed interaction might also lead to a stalemate and even to conflicts where differences and clashes of opinions become reenforced and ingrained. Such a development is most likely destructive resulting in abrupt single-minded solutions. One possible key for facilitating and managing such a creative collective is the awareness and conscious utilization of the ambiguity of language. Tension or inertia might originate in the tendency of each member to take her or his own domain-specific concepts for granted. Such a naïve unproblematic view of language might constitute a trap but also provide an opportunity. Since our perception is a process of continuously interpreting and making sense hermeneutics maintain that we are intentional beings. Practising analogous thinking might provide a constructive way to the handling of variety and the productive maintenance of creative tension. Each profession has developed its own specific language so that, for example, a designer has refined an ability to spontaneously make rough sketches and a musician uses her instruments to clarify a particular meaning or message. In this study the improvisational musicians had no sheet music, a condition that forced them to formulate their aesthetic intentions with sound, playing and singing. One aspect of verbal language limitations is articulated in the concept of “verbal overshadowing” introduced by Schooler (1997). When subjects in a study were requested to describe a face, a smell or a taste, their words seemed to overshadow their experience. If words prevent thinking or recollection then we might have to be cautious with verbal descriptions. This also points to the importance of the choice of languages for mediating ideas. What kind of language, or depiction, facilitates constructive creative collectives?


@inproceedings{Koping Olsson1525,
author = {Bengt K{\"o}ping Olsson},
title = {The language of interaction: creative tension in heterogeneous groups},
pages = {1--16},
month = {March},
year = {2007},
booktitle = {Workshop on ‘This Motley Crew’: managing ‘creatives’ and the creative unit},
url = {}