square-50cm-spacer.jpg making the genre of invention six-times more productive

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  1. What Are Creative Quartets?
  2. What is it NOT? - it is not a design method. Nor is it a problem-solving tool.
  3. What does it do? - it turns existing assets & resources into an abundance of new & intertwined synergies.
  4. How does it work? - it pluralises the act of bisociation at an optimum (i.e. manageable) scale.
  5. Outcomes? - unforeseen opportunities and/or new ways of thinking (e.g 'problems' may become 'assets').
  6. Who are its beneficiaries? - users of the Creative Quartet system, their communities, and/or others.
  7. What are its limitations? - users may find it hard, or even impossible, to attain predictable outcomes.

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Why Do We 'Design' When We Could (re)Combine?

  1. It is likely that mankind's first attempts at 'design thinking' was in the shaping of single objects.
  2. The traditional act of 'invention' can be seen as a genre of focusing on possible new 'gadgets'/'widgets'/Apps etc.
  3. Traditionally, humans are accustomed to manufacturing these new products from virgin materials.
  4. However, in the living world, innovation more often occurs when existing assets (DNA etc) re-combine.
  5. In any case, all creative thinking is the result of what Koestler called bisociation.
  6. This combinatorial process therefore is less a focus on things and more upon the relations between them.
  7. As relations outnumber things, a combinatorial approach could unleash an almost limitless range of novelties.

Limits to Thinking in Parallel

  1. There are cognitive limits to the number of relations humans can manage effectively.
  2. Indeed, humans find it increasingly hard to innovate in clusters bigger than four (c.f. the genre of invention)

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Fig. 1 - optimising the abundance of possibilities and our ability to manage them

    • (see figure 1 above)

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  1. A quartet is six times more productive than a duet
  2. This can be explained visually, using a tetrahedron
    • A tetrahedron has 4 vertices and 6 edges.
  3. We can see this as a model of how there are always more relations (edges) than things (nodes).

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The room is normally laid out as a flat tetrahedron
square-50cm-spacer.jpg Creative Quartets Diagram
square-50cm-spacer.jpg N.B. A quartet can be understood as six duets

Session 1A Brown Lady
Turquoise Man BThe creative meeting between A and B
20 minsC Green Man
Purple Lady Dtakes place at the same time as C and D.
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Session 2A Brown Lady
Green Man CThe creative meeting between A and C
20 minsB Turquoise Man
Purple Lady Dtakes place at the same time as B and D.
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Session 3C Green Man
Turquoise Man BThe creative meeting between C and B
20 minsD Purple Lady
Brown Lady Atakes place at the same time as D and A.


  • Bateson G (1979) Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. New York: E. P. Dutton
  • Bohm, D., (1980), Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, Boston
  • Florida, R., (2002), The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life by Richard Florida today! Basic Books, New York
  • Jones, H., (2007) Bisociation within Keyword-Mapping; An Aid to Writing Purposefully in Design, Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, Vol. 1, Issue 1, pp.
  • Sheldrake, R. (1981), 'A New Science of Life',
  • Taleb, N. N. (2007) 'The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable' 2007. New York: Random House
  • Taylor, P., & Wood, J., (1997), "Mapping the Mapper", a chapter in "Computers, Communications, and Mental Models", eds. Donald Day & Diane Kovacs, Taylor & Francis, London, ISBN 0-7484-0543-7, pp. 37-44, January 1997
  • Wood, J., (2005), “How Can We Design Miracles?”, introduction to “Agents of Change: A Decade of MA Design Futures”, pages 10-14, (June 1, 2005), Goldsmiths College, (Hardback), ISBN 1904158617
  • Wood, J., - chapter 8 of his book Design for Micro-Utopias

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