Using your best problem-solving methods to find even better methods

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
<< CPS Techniques Index

If you have a good method for solving problems, one of the better uses of that method is on the problem of how to create better methods of solving problems! And one of the best uses of such better methods is on the problem of how to create even better such methods!

Likewise, let your process teach you better processes! Let these better processes teach you even better processes . . . . .

Keep that up for a while and you eventually begin to get some processes, some methods, that are truly worthwhile. We call this concept “Toolbuilder” because the tools use a specific method of process to create new tools, methods or processes…

This is the simple Principle of Reinvestment, of methods into better methods. There is no limit apparent as to how far or how high this can ultimately go. We shall continue to apply it, hopefully, for many years to come. And you might come up with even better methods!

“Toolbuilder” is any procedure used for the purpose of inventing a better (or at least equivalent different) procedure. Much progress has been made on two fronts:

  1. Take the basic Osborn-Parnes, Springboard-type method which started the world-wide creativity movement back in the 1950s and 60s….One element of that, of course, is everyone’s favorite — brainstorming. One particular brainstorm on “all possible CPS methods” resulted in the drafting of a taxonomy to identify and sort out and classify all possible answer-finding methods. One obvious further step could be to run a follow-up brainstorming session on all possible types of answer-finding method this initial draft overlooks, or all possible improvements to be made on this draft taxonomy, or all possible improvements to be made on that brainstorming method itself.
  2. In Einsteinian Discovery Technique, made easier and more productive by our combining it with a version of Socratic Method — in what Einstein called “mind experiments” and what he used to discover Relativity — one lets mental imagery play freely, observes it as closely as possible, and sees what one can discover from what one observes.

In Socratic Method, one gets people to examining their perceptions, inner and outer, and responding from or describing in detail what they discover there. In the combinations employed by Project Renaissance, we pursue various ways to elicit and focus mental imagery and impressions, and not only retain alertness while doing this but considerably develop those images and impressions, by describing them in detail to one-another while examining them.

Highly Effective Process

In one of our most effective “Toolbuilder” formats, you experience a garden — one with a wall and gate which separates it from the scene beyond. That scene beyond contains what we are looking for — and in this instance, we are looking for an experience or situation which trains a high level of performance in the chosen skill — but in the form of an imagined highly advanced civilization which has developed its own special ways to train or teach. We usually not only get an experience which trains us to higher performance levels in the chosen skill, but often entirely new, special ways to train or teach that skill.

Again, when your images do unexpected things instead of following the script, follow what those images are actually doing instead of what you think they ought to be doing — these seemingly undirected images are taking you by a much more direct route toward the intended payoff….or toward an even-better-for-you payoff. As an example of what happens when you let your images develop freely instead of trying to make them conform to your expectations, we have the following written description of the Toolbuilder experience of one of our workshop participants.

A Case History

Mr. M.R., a teacher, relates experiencing a garden whose trees were all willows, quaking aspens, other trailing-limb or loose-or-feathery-foliaged trees and shrubs which make almost an exaggerated response to even light breezes. Shrubs, tall cane grass and other plantings were all based on the same principle. “Whenever there is any breeze at all,” writes M.R., “(in this experience) I get an almost overwhelming impression of movement and I think that this would be a marvelous principle for landscape design in real-life gardens.”

Still writing in the present tense as instructed during the exercises, M.R. describes the rest of an experience in which he first experienced whatever images his “right brain” provides him for experiencing a garden. In this version of the “Toolbuilder” exercise, a high wall stands between M.R. and what is outside the garden, in this instance a highly advanced civilization. As per instructions, this advanced civilization was to be biologically ordinary human, yet so highly advanced that any ordinary ten-year-old could outperform any virtuoso in the skill, art or subject knowledge selected by M.R.

In this case, M.R. did not make a tight choice but simply let the experience be in the context of “education.” Just outside this garden wall was to be the point-of-experience in this civilization which demonstrated why any ordinary 10-year-old in this civilization can so readily outperform Earth virtuosos and geniuses. This “Toolbuilder” experience is so-named because the subject not only often goes through the experiences which endow him/her with that virtuoso genius ability, but often comes back with the tools, principles and methods for entire new training methods (from which many of our present methods have indeed sprung!) — teaching and learning methods, school systems and even entire child-raising systems. To resume M.R.’s narrative:

“My garden continues past the gate with flagstone path curving around a pond, with areas of grass pocketed by shrubbery which looks like large-leafed philodendrons, and feathery-fronded trees arching high overhead —

“But what first catches my attention is a very small child, maybe 2 years old or so, maybe she is Asiatic-Indian or Hispanic, she is dark-skinned.

“Even as I see her playing with a blue balloon, I see other very young children of all kinds, mostly also playing with balloons. The children are scattered up the flagstone path, individually and in small clumps.

“The way they are playing with the balloons — and the way a somber-looking, grotesque clown is also playing with his balloon is to hold it with one hand and arm, poke it in one place and have it thrust and bulge out somewhere else.

“The clown is all in dark, his attire and makeup as suited to broad-stroke drama or mime as to comedy. The children watch him as well as each other. When he changes what he’s doing, some, then others, then the rest of the children all change to mimic his new antic.

“A bronze tone abruptly colors the air and I have an image of three bells — one small, silvery and light-toned; one brassy and medium-sized; and one deep gong. The middle one has sounded.

“I didn’t notice him changing, but now the clown is blowing bubbles and feathers. Fans set high in the wall behind me are blowing through the feathery-fronded trees above and causing the foliage to move dramatically. Some kids have let their balloons blow away in the new breeze. Now the clown — and some of the children — are letting long ribbons trail in the breeze. They also play at blowing them with their breath.

“Now the silvery bell chimes and instantly the clown scampers over to the pond. The fans are no longer blowing. The pond is surrounded by jars, pans and bottles of all shapes and sizes and I begin to have an inkling of what this is all about.”

Note here as elsewhere that until this point, at least, M.R. had no conscious idea of what his “right brain” or higher consciousness was setting forth to show him. Had he directed his imagery to follow his expectations, rather than letting his images direct themselves while he described them aloud as he went to keep them focused, he could have never gotten such a discoveries-rich experience as this one proved to be. M.R. continues:

“The clown — and therefore the children — are making a game out of dipping one container full from the pond, then searching out another container the same volume but not the same shape and pouring that full from the first container. They all laugh — but amusedly at the great joke, not derisively — when someone picks a container that is too large and doesn’t fill all the way, or that is too small and sloshes over. Some of the containers are all kinds of fantastic shapes, and these two-year-olds have learned, right before my amazed eyes, to pick out which is the same volume from all these different shapes. Piaget would have had a heart-attack!

M.R. is referring to Swiss cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget, whose theories of child development have dominated the current generation of educators and child psychologists. In Piaget’s model, the average child is eight to ten years old before he discovers and understands the principle of conservation, as exemplified in the constancy of fluid volumes.

“Still in this segment — for that’s how I’ve come to think of these mime-led play sessions, each bell signaling one type of play based on one unspoken principle — still in this segment, the clown makes a show of drinking a lot of water, and then a big show of having drunk too much water and feeling bloated. Some of the kids do the same. The mime then pretends his body is like a balloon, poking it in one place and making it bulge out at other places, and the children make a great game out of this too.

“Our trainer (the one leading this fantasy experience, not the children’s clown-mime-teacher) has instructed us to become one of the children in the experience we’ve been observing, putting on the head of a child like a helmet and pulling on that child’s body like a rubber suit, so we can experience this setting through and with the eyes, ears, perceptions, body and recognitions of the child.

“I do this, becoming that little Hispanic girl, just in time for all of us to come in from the garden, make a circle and, from that circle, much to my own surprise, begin an ‘om’ chant — something I’ve never indulged in personally.

“To the little girl and the rest of the children, this ‘om’ chanting is routine just as the daily mime-led play sessions in the garden are routine. If anything, the little girl is mildly surprised at feeling my stir of surprise while I’m wearing her persona.

“While the ‘om’ is going on, first one child and then another begins to talk in sing-song cadence in counter to and with the ‘om,’ describing ‘fullness, oh the fullness, nowhere else for the fullness to go …’ While this ‘om’ has been going on in relation to the ‘fullness’ experiences in the garden, apparently the silvery chime has been sounding softly against the ‘om’.

“When the middle bronze gong softly colors the ‘om’ one child and then another in sing-song against the ‘om’ describes blowing, trailing out against the wind, blowing free with the wind….

“The sound of children’s very young voices doing the ‘om’ and sing-song-describing against and with the ‘om’ is electrifying, hair-raising, I can hear it now anytime and can never forget it, one of those magic dream-images that stay with you forever. As our (exercise trainer) guide directs us to come back, I can hear and can still hear many of the children beginning to develop rhythmic descriptive chants against and with the ‘om,’ a spontaneous patterning of melody and free verse that I know is spontaneous and childish and yet is some of the most spine-chilling choral music I have ever heard….

“My excitement at all of this I can barely contain. As an educator I cut my teeth on the theories of cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget, and his stages of mental development of each child. Piaget is an epistemologist (the philosophical study of the nature of knowledge and of knowing). It is of supreme importance to him that each child be permitted to develop his or her own recognition of key natural principles out of his or her own experience. From his famous conservation principle, for example, key to the principles of reversible and irreversible operations and to so much else, the child needs to discover for himself that the amount of contents remains the same whatever the shape of the container. If, for example, an adult manages to ‘teach’ — i.e., persuade — the child the fact that the amount of water remains the same no matter what kind or size container that water is poured into, the child will probably accept that but his own perception of how things work, thereafter will be enormously attenuated and impaired.

“In Piaget’s analysis, children seven and eight years old were usually still too young to arrive at this ‘conservation-of-quantity’ principle. The propensity of schools to ‘teach’ — i.e., persuade — such principles to young children was a matter which distressed not only Piaget but many of us who perceive his model.

“Yet what I observed in this session — and I’m convinced that what I observed is ‘true’ in the sense that if done that way, it would work! — was children two and three years old, immediately and richly creating that principle for themselves in their own experience, and establishing thorough grasp of that principle through many levels of consciousness.

“That ‘om’-chant and sing-song description really blows me away, thinking how much information is stored or carried in interference patterns as in a laser holograph. I can hardly stand to think about that; it’s so exciting in its implications.

“That two-year-old Hispanic girl in my experience had a far richer, better and more comprehensive comprehension of the conservation principle, incredibly richer, than the optimally-raised child under Piaget’s scheme at age ten or even twelve. And in that school, at least two and sometimes three such principles were experienced or re-experienced everyday! I can’t sit still when I think about what that means!

“The more I examine this experience, the more richness I find in it. If it had been another day or if I’d had the time during the exercise to stay, I’d have observed three play segments, one associated with each bell — when the one bell’s tone is in the air, so to speak, all the play activities led by the mime exemplify one and the same principle. Another bell, another key principle and another set of play activities. Yet the whole thing is natural, the children follow the mime/clown because it is fun and interesting to do so, not because of direction. And they’ve formed the habit of noticing what he does next and responding to that or to other children responding to that, even though they are mainly focused on their own play experience. Just this aspect of the experience teaches me at least a half-dozen key insights about teaching and schooling young children, each one of which I feel is enough to start a revolution, each way of which I now have a working feel of how to accomplish, not just an intellectual understanding though that excites me too.”

That working feel for the insight is, of course, intrinsically characteristic of understandings garnered by means of such processes. The individual’s own higher consciousness, “right brain” or integral mind by whatever name, gives him or her the aha! experience in the form most meaningful and useful to him or her.

We remind that the foregoing is but one educator’s experience generated by following the “Toolbuilder” protocol, and is typical(!) in fact of the breakthroughs experienced sooner or later by most who practice it, whether in workshops or on their own following the taped and/or printed instructions offered by Project Renaissance. What has not been typical was detailed written descriptions following these experiences, and we are especially grateful to M.R. for writing up his “revelation” from that protocol and then giving us permission to cite his experience.

Here below is a complete step-by-step group-directed procedure for the current strongest form of the Toolbuilder experience, followed by an adaptation for using the procedure when working alone.

Detailed Group Script for Toolbuilder


You experience a garden — one with a wall and gate which separates it from the scene beyond. That scene beyond contains what we are looking for — and in this instance, we are looking for an experience or situation which trains a high level of performance in the chosen skill — but in the form of an imagined highly advanced civilization which has developed its own special ways to train or teach.

Let your process take you to the point of experience which best shows you why it is that everyone in that otherwise ordinary human civilization becomes able to outperform our Earth’s best virtuoso in the skill or subject area you are pursuing.

Go through that point of experience, as a child or whoever in that civilization, to glean some of those virtuoso effects for yourself by whatever is done to or with that child. What you experience there, which causes anyone there in that civilization to become so virtuoso in that talent area, not only has whatever impact on you and your abilities the experience provides — for this is what you’ve asked your subtler resources to provide you — but more often than not also reveals a new method or system for training or creating that skill or expertise!

A fair example is M.R.’s Toolbuilder experience described in the preceding pages — even though M.R. didn’t pre-specify what area he wanted to learn in. He discovered a school system and methodology, based on Jean Piaget’s schema for cognitive development, which virtually guarantees that children passed through such a system would emerge comfortably as geniuses in understanding.

M.R.’s experience showed him why young children would develop precocious levels of understandings per Piaget through the shared and demonstrated experience with the teacher/clown and through their recapitulatory chanting afterward. In your civilization, what makes people there into virtuosos in what you are seeking? Like M.R., you may learn an entire new system from what you find beyond the wall — or just some little knack or trick which you’ll have to look closely at indeed to detect what is happening in the surprise experience waiting for you beyond the wall …

The process

Arrange for a calm space undisturbed for an hour. Waterglass rules are in effect (see Dynamic Format). Each member is to pick a skill or subject proficiency they wish to build at this time. Have the members of the group partnered in pairs, eyes closed to visualize more freely, simultaneously perceiving and describing in “co-tripping” mode, so as to get as much experience as possible into the available air time …

  1. “Experience and describe a garden, perhaps a very different one this time or perhaps the one you’ve seen before, but nevertheless strangely beautiful. Alongside at least one side of this garden, a high wall. Perhaps this is a different wall, on another side of this garden than before, if you’ve used this garden before, because this wall stands between you and a high civilization, not just the answer to some question or problem. On the far side of this wall is an entire advanced civilization, but this civilization is made up entirely of ordinary human beings like you and me. — Ordinary except for one thing:  everyone there, however ordinary, even ten-year-olds, is somehow a virtuoso in the thing you want to learn or gain proficiency in. A high virtuoso at least by our own Earth’s standards … “
  2. “Something happens there in that civilization which causes everyone there, however ordinary and seemingly untalented, to develop this particular skill or proficiency, the same one as you happen now to be seeking, to beyond our own Earth’s best virtuoso. The Joe Dokes and Jane Does of that high civilization are far more virtuosic in this one thing than anyone in our world here. We’re about to go look and discover why, find out just how it is that everyone on the far side of that wall becomes so remarkably proficient.
    “We’ll go over there and go through whatever methods, training, techniques, school, child raising system, or whatever experience it is that causes it to be, that everyone over there becomes such a virtuoso. We’ll go through its effects to build our own virtuosity, and by carefully detailing of this experience we may also bring back with us the system or method through which others here on our Earth may also be enabled to flourish as virtuosos.”
  3. “Don’t sneak a peek yet at what’s on the far side of that wall, so our subtler resources can fully set the scene for us of that key point of experience in that civilization. For now, staying on this side of the wall, look around you in this garden and, in richly textured detail, paint word-pictures of this garden, making it utterly real for your listener. Starting with what’s directly in front of you in this garden and then all around, in all senses, please detail your garden to your listener starting now … “
    Allow 4-5 minutes. With any slightest letup in the buzz-murmur thereafter, sound the chime once lightly, saying something like “half-minute’s notice, keep going … ” A half-minute or so later at the next lull in the buzz-murmur, sound the chime three times and say,
  4. “Thank you, eyes still closed, moving even deeper into this experience, let’s move over toward that wall now, the wall on the far side of which is that advanced but human civilization. Please stay on this side of the wall for the time being and don’t sneak a peek yet, so your subtler faculties have full opportunity to set you a scene over there whose contents can surprise you. On this side of the wall, the garden side, please come up to the wall but don’t peek over it, just put your hand on it to study the feeling of it as well as its looks. Maybe lean your forehead up against it, studying not only the feel of the wall but its slight smell of stone, brick or wood, and how things sound this close up against the wall … Using all your senses, continue describing but now be describing this wall in richly textured detail, making that wall utterly real for your listener through your richly textured detail as you resume describing now … “
    Same instructions as follow # 3 above. After the three bings, say:
  5. “Good, eyes still closed, moving even deeper into this experience — please don’t sneak a peek yet. When we go over the wall we want to go over suddenly, to catch by surprise and be surprised by what we find over there, whatever that is. Over there, though, in some way is the key point of experience in that highly advanced civilization which makes even the most ordinary people into virtuosos at the skill or subject area in which you yourself are seeking now to gain proficiency. Somehow that happens, and you’ll go through that experience yourself not only to gain that proficiency, but to learn how that civilization does it, how everyone over there becomes so remarkably proficient. That’s over there, we’re on this side of the wall over here. When we eventually go over, pick up on your first impression of what’s over there and start your describing from there, on that very first impression. For now, here we are on this side and now — let’s jump over now! — ” (sound chime simultaneous with emphasis.) ” — Good, first impression now, whether it seems to fit or not, whatever it is, starting with what’s directly in front of you and then around, start describing to your partner now … “
    Same instructions as before, but allowing five to seven minutes. After the three bings, say:
  6. “Excellent, eyes still closed, moving around and even deeper into this experience to bring more into view: if you’ve not done so already, bring a human child into this point of experience and watch closely what happens with this child and/or with the children, that somehow results in this child and others becoming such virtuosos. Watch closely whatever happens, however surprising or however trivial it might seem, and describe in richly textured detail as you watch, as you resume making this experience utterly real to your listener now …”
    Same instructions as before, allowing from four to ten minutes depending upon how animated the buzz-murmur is. After the three bings, say:
  7. “Still oriented on this one child, in this experience — Feel the amused permission of this child for this next step … Stand this child a a step or so in front of you, back to you. Make yourself a lot smaller in this experience, and just sort of waft yourself forward into this child, to become this child. Bring your eyes to where the eyes of this child are, so now you are looking around this point of experience through and with the eyes of this child. Bring your ears to where the ears of this child are, so you can now listen around you through and with the ears of this child … Bring all of your senses and awarenesses forward into this child as you become this child. Now as this child, go through this same experience again, only with the perceptions of this child and with whatever differences that makes in what you perceive of this experience now. Perhaps some of those differences, between what you as this child perceive now and what you were perceiving before, are surprising. Going through this experience, as this child, make utterly real to your partner the differences in what you the child are now experiencing, as you resume describing now … “
    Same instructions as before, allowing four to eight minutes. After the three bings, say:
  8. “Excellent. Please now return the child’s head to his or her own shoulders. Exchange a warm feeling of thanks with the child … Perhaps the child is also thanking you, because this was such a neat way of sharing an experience which is important to him or her. Now please bring into this scene some grown-up, some adult who is responsible for this set-up and knowledgeable about it. Perhaps a teacher, perhaps an engineer or inventor if some sort of device is what’s making virtuosos, perhaps a parent if this is some system of childraising — whoever, allow to come into this experience with you some adult who is responsible for what you’ve found here and is very knowledgeable about how what you’ve found here works to create virtuosos. Please describe this adult, and the warm welcoming feeling from this adult, in richly textured detail for just a minute or so to your partner as you resume describing now …”
    Same instructions, only for three or four minutes. After the three bings, say:
  9. “Thank you, excellent, eyes still closed and moving well deeper into this experience: please stand this adult a step or so in front of you, his or her back to you. Thank you. Now waft yourself forward again, this time into this adult. Bring your eyes to where the eyes of this adult are, so that you, as you become this adult, are seeing through and with the eyes of this adult. Bring your ears to where the ears of this adult are, so that you are listening to the sounds of this experience but through and with the ears of this adult. Bring all of your senses and awarenesses forward into this adult and, as this adult, look closely at this same experience yet again, but this time with whatever additional perceptions and understandings are brought into view by your being this knowledgeable adult. Perceptions first — stay as sensory as possible in your descriptions and the understandings will take care of themselves. As you run this experience forward again, which enables even the most ordinary child to become such a virtuoso, looking with the eyes of this knowledgeable adult, what differences does this make in what you are seeing of this experience? Please make these differences in the experience utterly real to your listener through the richly textured detail of your description as you resume describing now … “
    Same instructions as before, allowing four to seven minutes, depending on the liveliness of the buzz-murmur. After the three bings, say:
  10. “Excellent. Eyes still closed. Please return this adult’s head to his or her own shoulders. Exchange a warm feeling of thanks with this adult for so sharing an important experience. Now is the time to assess what you’ve seen and to ask this adult, while you have him or her here in this experience, questions about what you’ve seen. Ask your questions very softly out loud but loudly in your mind, watch for what this adult points to or watch for changes in the scene as responses to your questions, or listen intently and maybe you can hear this adult’s answers to your questions. Report in detail to your listener as you go. What’s the first question you want to ask this knowledgeable adult? — O.K., ask it now, softly out loud but loudly in your head, and report whatever answer you experience … “
    Same instructions, allowing two to ten minutes, depending on how lively the buzz-murmur. After the three bings, say:
  11. “Thank you. Return now over the wall, through your garden, to this space here on Earth where we are now. Coming fully alert and refreshed, feeling terrifically good! — OK, for the debriefing, we each switch to a different partner, let’s see if we can all be with a different partner in ten seconds … nine seconds … eight seconds … ” (good-humoredly and stretching it out beyond one second with a “half-second,” “quarter second,” etc., if need be). Have your people de-brief as before:   eyes open, present tense, within two to three minutes as much detail of those experiences as they can squeeze in.

Afterward, in the group share, have whoever did get the best developed new method or system on this first try to detail it and model that success for the others. Some will, even at this late point, for the first time then realize what it was in their own experience which creates virtuosos, where they hadn’t figured it out before. Some members, at least, will have detailed new methods which can be used generally, elsewhere or at another time. A second round of this Toolbuilder experience, an evening or so later, should ensure that virtually every member of your group has come up with an effective new method or system and can readily do so again and again thereafter.

Some of your new methods, sooner or later, will be better than anything we’ve come up with before, if you pursue this enough! The sky absolutely is no limit!

This process is merely a gateway. Your whole future and high potential are wide open before you!

Detailed solo version of Toolbuilder when working alone with tape recorder

Without a live listener, describe your experiences into a tape recorder. For the final debriefing you can use a notepad or talk to a friend on the telephone. Please read through the group script first for context.

  1. Describe your garden, with wall. (Beyond that wall will be the high but human civilization which somehow enables even the most ordinary person to become a virtuoso at what you’re seeking to learn.)
  2. As suddenly as possible, take yourself over that wall to be surprised by and catch by surprise your first impression of what is over that wall. Describe what you find there.
  3. Bring in a child to go through that point of experience. Merge with that child so his/her development and experience become also yours. Describe the differences this makes in your perception of that experience.
  4. Separate from that child. Exchange thanks. Bring in a responsible, knowledgeable adult. Merge with that adult, re-experience that scene again but as this adult. Study the differences being this adult makes in what you are perceiving. (Stay as sensory in your descriptions as possible; understandings will come then of their own accord.)
  5. Separate from that adult. Exchange thanks. Ask questions, look and listen intently for your answers.
  6. Debrief, to notepad or to a friend on the telephone.

In Conclusion

By now, if you’ve done most of these experiences, you have a much richer perception than when you started, of yourself, of the world around you, and of the vast high possibilities open to you — not just the added proficiencies which you made part of some of these specific procedures.

Do drive home to genius-level proficiency at least one of your chosen sought-after skills or subject knowledge areas, so you will know unshakably that yes, you can function at genius level, in this regard and in others. Once you have that certain knowledge, no one can ever put you all the way back down, ever again.

Also, ever wonder why so many people start into self-improvement of one sort of another and then “plateau”? — It’s because they haven’t turned their gains into concrete use, so that their self-improvements feel like an expensive hobby or self-indulgence instead of the truly worthwhile thing they can be. Drive your new proficiency all the way home to genius level, and this not only frees you to the other genius proficiencies but, far more important, gives you a kind of inner permission to continue your development toward ever higher levels.

Helping others, and knowing that they have been actually helped, is another key way to give yourself permission to continue your advance. You need not “plateau,” ever!

However great things become for you, know they can become still better. Through both concrete usefulnesses and the helping of others, you can become ever more wonderfully you!

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