Creative Discussion using Plain Pair Groups

Creative Discussion – a key to insight and change

William Plain
Emeritus Professor, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Plain Pair Group Teaching (Plain PGT)
- for universities and schools
Plain Pair Group Discussion (Plain PGD)
- for decision making and staff development
- for informal or community creative discussion

A flash of insight is the spark of cosmic intelligence.
Small group sharing of insight can change the pattern of human intelligence. &

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Creative Discussion Groups

Plain Pair Group Discussion (Plain PGD)

Something new


Taking part regularly in two different discussion groups; comparing and confronting ideas presented in each group; thinking deeply about a range of issues and presenting one’s own ideas in the group; listening to others with respect and having others listen to you with equal respect; questioning all pre-established ideas, especially those held by oneself; “listening” for insight, for totally new understandings, in what others present and in one’s own reflections; coming to realise that change can only occur in one’s self, and that the world can only change if I myself change.

Today we are facing many serious challenges involving education, decision-making and personal development – at all levels, personal, social, international and planetary. This seems to be due to a crisis in vision: we are largely unable to see clearly and then to transform our understanding into appropriate action. (See: The Awakeness Paradigm). While many individuals are evidently capable of fundamental change, organisations seem much more resistant. It appears as though the interface between individual and group requires a radically new element of creativity, a means of helping the individual to access inner resources of insight and a process by which the organisation can respond to the vision of multiple individuals.
今日、私たちは個人的、社会的、国際的、世界的といったあらゆるレベルにおける教育、意思決定、自己啓発など数多くの深刻な話題に直面しています。理由としては、洞察力、想像力の危機があると思われます、というのも私たちは物事をほとんどはっきりと見ることができず、それゆえに思想を適切な行動に移すことが出来ない、ということです。(詳細は”The Awakeness Paradigm”をご覧ください)個人個人が根本的な改革を行う能力を備えていることは明らかである一方、組織がそういった変革を嫌っているような現状です。個々と団体との橋渡しとして必要なのは、まったく新しい創造性、個人のひらめきの潜在的能力を発揮させるための手段、そして組織が個人個人の見解に対ししっかりと返答できるようになるプロセスなのです。

In an appropriate setting, each and every person can discover that “I” am effectively the centre of insight, the place where the collective self discovers ‘something new’ – “I” am where it all happens. The Plain Pair Group approach to Creative Discussion is designed to make this not only possible, but natural.

Organise a group

Organise a small “creative discussion group” of friends, family, colleagues. Two others would be sufficient, with a maximum of six people in the discussion group. Arrange to meet regularly (for example once a week) to present and discuss topics chosen freely by each person.

… and a Pair Group

Then each person in the group should also join or organise another Creative Discussion Group, so they can present the results of one group discussion to the other group, comparing and confronting the ideas of the two groups. Each group is a “pair group” to the other.

For details of how to set up a creative discussion group see:

Campus Creative Discussion

Choose “an important topic”

For each meeting, each person should choose a topic that:

helps you “see the world in a different way”
helps you grow and “evolve”
succeeds in arousing an “ah-ha” of discovery around your group.

あなた自身が成長、「発達」出来るような、 そして、グループ内外で「アハ体験」が出来るような、

Present, and listen

In turn, present the most interesting ideas you have discovered through your reading and thinking during the week, as well as the most interesting ideas from the Pair Group. As you listen to the others, take notes to help you in developing new ideas for the following week.

The principle rules of creative discussion are:

Responsibility: search for topics which will help you, people around you, and the planet to grow and evolve.

Equality: equal time for each person to present their ideas (one person in turn can act as ‘facilitator’).

Respect: listen with attention and respect to the ideas presented by others in the group.

Difference: where possible, arrange for ‘difference’ in your group. Include someone who is different – in age, experience, background, someone who can bring ideas you may not have met before – maximise heterogeneity.

Insight: search in what others say and in your own ideas for new understandings, for that flash of insight – the “ah-ha” experience.

Earthsight: ultimately, personal insight and creativity come from our collective experience as human beings and as part of a living planet and can be a source of creative understanding and action.

Creative Discussion can be used in a range of situations

Informal Creative Discussion groups:

With people you know, in your family, among friends. Arrange to meet at home, in a school or public facility, in a place where you regularly meet. If one group is with people you know well, form a Pair Group with “other people”.

Community Creative Discussion groups:

Issues that affect a community can be discussed in a structured manner such that each person can better understand the issues concerned, reach a considered personal opinion, and have an equal opportunity with all others to express that opinion in a way that it can be heard by a large number of other people.


Creative Discussion groups in education:

Teachers and lecturers can activate the natural “super-learning” capacity of their students by alternating highly teacher centred presentation of knowledge with totally student centred group-based ‘experimenting with knowledge’. A detailed guide to classroom management is available (see Plain Pair Group Teaching in Contents).

Campus or School Creative Discussion groups:

Groups of students meet to discuss ideas from the different classes, from their own reading or thinking. Meet at lunchtime or any other free time. Where the teacher/lecturer uses the creative discussion process in the classroom, informal group discussion can act as a Pair Group, taking a different view of ideas encountered.


Professional Creative Discussion groups:

Colleagues can arrange to meet regularly, to discuss professional questions or wider issues. This can be part of an organised process of professional development or can be arranged individually.

Academic Creative Discussion

Professionals who may easily make use of creative discussion include academics or teachers. Regular meetings with colleagues to explore issues of common concern can be an integral part of academic and personal development.

Corporate Creative Discussion groups:

Members of a company or organisation can arrange to discuss questions relating to the workplace, and to examine the role of the organisation in a wider social and planetary perspective. While one discussion group can be among colleagues, the Pair Group should be ‘vertical’, across hierarchies.  (See: Creative Potential in Contents)
企業や組織のメンバー同士でもグループを作り、職場に関する質問をしたり、より広い社会的、国際的な観点における組織の役割を研究することも可能です。1つのグループが同僚間で組まれたものである場合、ペアグループは階級を超えた「縦」のつながりで構成されるのが理想です。(詳細はContentsのCreative Potentialをご覧ください。)

Over-60’s Creative Discussion groups:

The one group of people who ideally have the time and the experience to bring a new vision to the world are those who have concluded the obligations of work and career. Meet with other people of the “wise generation” to reflect on the world around you. As a Pair Group, form groups with younger generations.

Creative Discussion groups – “on the borders”:

If you belong to a group which is disadvantaged in some way (physically, socially, ‘opportunity’) taking part in a creative discussion process can help you see your situation in a different way and to discover new solutions. Simply realising a sense of personal and group ‘worth’, discovering personal dignity, can be a major part of effective change.

Why “Plain Pair Groups” for Creative Discussion?

Creative adaptation and appropriate change can only come about through individual awareness. Organisations, from small informal groups to supra-national conglomerates, can only become conscious of the need for change through the perception of individual members. The human tendency to leave thinking to others avoids the reality of personal responsibility. “They” will rarely change anything. “We” may be able to do something, but only through intense cooperation among individuals. Only “I” can see the need for change and through insight take appropriate action. This can only happen “here” – within “my” sphere of awareness; and “now” – that (ever) present moment which is never quite the same as previously.
判断を人任せにするという人間の傾向は個の責任という現実を避けているだけです。「そういう人たち」はほとんど何も変えようとはしません。「私たち」にはきっと何かが出来るはずですが、それには個人間の熱心な協力が欠かせません。「自分」だけが変革の必要性を感じることができ、ひらめきを通じて適切な行動をとることができるのです。その意識が生まれるのは「ここ」-「自分」の認識の範囲内であり、「今」- 過去とは全く同じでない、今この瞬間しかないのです。

The continuous attention of the individual and a sense of personal responsibility for ‘the state of the world’ (global, local and personal) are essential. Interaction with others can both aid one’s own understanding and be a means by which “my” insights can generate an increased consciousness in others. Regular interaction in a small group where presenting one’s own understandings is accompanied by intense listening to the understandings of others can generate a dynamic of creativity which helps each individual member. In addition, if each member in turn joins or forms another group or groups and brings back new ideas from those groups, the possibility of being subjected to structured patterns of thinking – of conditioning – is greatly reduced, while increasing the scope for discovering new ways of thinking.

Through an open network of creative discussion groups, the dynamic of creativity, of multiple individual insight, can ‘ripple out’ through the formation of new groups and help each individual participant to give value to insight, to be attentive to one’s own personal discoveries, and to participate actively in a process where “I” can have a direct influence on ‘the state of the world’ – primarily on my own inner world, and as a result on the outer world.

For an explanation of the reasoning behind creative discussion groups see:

The Awakeness Paradigm

For details of how to set up a creative discussion group see:

Campus Creative Discussion

What is already happening – please join:

Creative Discussion has been used for many years in Japanese university classrooms by the author and a number of colleagues as “Plain Pair Group Teaching”. This method provides a ‘natural learning’ setting for content classes where an alternation between teacher-centred and highly student-centred interaction results in heightened learning, creativity and personal responsibility. It has also been used to facilitate a process of academic development among university colleagues, and for informal creative discussion groups on campus, where students of different classes meet in their own time to discuss academic ideas, generally in the foreign language being studied. The overall project has been successful in attracting significant government research funding and has been presented to colleagues through research publications and conferences and workshops in several countries.

Collaboration in this ongoing research project is invited with other teachers in universities or schools. The role of Creative Discussion in corporations or organisations is also seen as promising, while informal groups can be formed in any setting.


If you decide to experiment any of the above forms of creative discussion I would welcome your report on results obtained.

I may also be able to provide further details to facilitate professional or informal application of these ideas. To contact me see email address at: Author details
もちろん上記の方法の専門的または非公式な活用方法を促進させるような詳しい情報の提供もします。私のeメールアドレスはこちらのサイトをご参照ください:Author details


You are reminded to respect the conventions of copyright by making appropriate reference/citation if you make use of any of the methods presented in this document or on the related website or materials that may be provided.

What people are saying

A large number of comments are available, especially by students in classes where this method has been used (see student report). These, and other comments I may receive, will be added to this document in due course.
非常にたくさんのコメントが寄せられています。特にこの方法を取り入れた授業に参加した学生の声は、ウェブサイトからstudent reportをご覧ください。今後寄せられるコメントにつきましては随時更新していきます。

Recognition and remuneration


© William Plain  1990-2023 (print); 2005 - 2023 (website)