Times are tough. A statement that takes a completely different meaning in the contemporary time. Most, if not all, can attest to having encountered novel challenges for the past year or so. And that’s just on top of our already present daily share of difficulties. Although each can be unique in context and intensity, there is a shared existence of experiences wherein we had and have to creatively tackle and solve certain challenges.
One of the most interesting, yet commonly passed over, concepts involves that of diskarte. It’s a term that’s extremely familiar yet at the same time fuzzy. There is truth when Vanzi (2020) said that
“Diskarte is a Filipino word that does not quite translate accurately.”-Vanzi (2020)
So it begs the question, what really is diskarte?
In her profound and perceptive paper, Morales (2017) attempts to theorize and define the construct by proposing it as the interaction of cognitive processes; personality traits; and social, situational, or environmental constraints. Her conceptualization is also founded on robust and comprehensive research on creativity.
(Creative) Problem Solving
In practice, diskarte is a form of creative problem solving. A key distinction should be made here since other forms of problem solving exists. Although tempting, it should not be immediately confused with resourcefulness. The two are similar in the way that they require the need to accomplish a goal; need to solve unique but well determined problems; and the need to cope with a given situation. Nevertheless, they differ in the way that resourcefulness may not provide solutions to context-sensitive problems, hence, the role of and need for creativity. The same care should be given when comparing directly with everyday creativity. Here, they share the process of reacting and adapting to situational limitations, the process of creating original solutions to everyday problems, and the unique style one has in doing things. Nonetheless, diskarte is still differentiable in the way that it might not always necessitate creative ideation. Instead of being spontaneous and proactive, it rather favors being adaptive and reactive.
The first element of diskarte involves cognitive processes. In here, abilities to make remote associations, cognitive flexibility, and divergent/convergent thinking are important. Remote association ability enables one to connect seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts together. This tends to produce solutions that are original. Original ideas are often needed when conventional answers are not immediately present or when traditional fixes don’t anymore cut it. These conventional or traditional solutions are often the product of automatic responses. Having the skills to employ cognitive control and flexibility in blocking or delaying our often dominant but faulty automatic responses, allows for more effective use and access to higher executive functions. Divergent thinking then enables one to generate fresh and unfamiliar solutions which when combined with convergent thinking, allows for evaluation, appraisal, and application of the most feasible of the conceived solutions in creatively problem-solving.
Certain personality traits such as psychoticism and openness to experience are also involved with creative problem-solving. Since trait openness lies at the convergence of natural aptitudes and unique dispositions, the production of novel solutions necessitates flexibility and fluid thinking abilities together with innate characteristic tendencies (McCrae, 1987). Certain individuals are also naturally inclined towards creativity. Creative individuals tend to score high on psychoticism in the same way those with autism or those of schizoid individuals are inclined to be genuinely creative (Eysenck, 1992; 1993). In more extreme or dangerous cases, as what Bonilla (2013) refers to as brinkmanship, some can even be willing to push the limits of what might be socially (or legally) acceptable in an attempt to get around restrictions and creatively problem-solve.
Tying the cognitive processes with personality traits lies constraints. These constraints serve to prompt the activation of the two and might come in the form of social, environmental, or situational limitations. The type of limitation also frames the unique challenges needed to be solved. In this way, each solution is deemed novel and context specific. The types of norms within the culture, social structure, social position, social identity, social mobility, social pressure, source of power, power distribution, and resource limitations are some of the barriers that elicit the need for creative problem-solving.
Towards her synthesis, she stressed the importance of the construct of culture in trying to understand diskarte. Being an omnipresent construct, it mainly determines what can and cannot be considered creative. That in the context of Filipino culture, diskarte could be the integration of pamamaraan, talino, and pagkamalikhain.
Additionally, and despite not being part of her proposed framework, she holds that the construct of diskarte is also closely tied to the concept of kapwa. In here, the idea of “hindi ibang tao” allows one to recognize and be aware of a shared identity with another (Enriquez, 1986). In effect, all goals imagined; methods employed to adapt; and efforts made to creatively problem solve might also benefit those the individual considers as kapwa. This becomes possible since the ako as ego and the iba-sa-akin as others are now indistinguishable under kapwa.
I concede that this does not fully exhaust the depth of what can be learned from Morales’s (2017) paper. But in sum, diskarte is arguably deeper than what we usually pass it off to be. Understanding what underlying processes might be at play can perhaps help us tap into it more often or to actively train it as a skill to be tempered. I for one would like to hone mine more. Can you recall the last time you were saved by yours?
Bonilla, C.M. (2013). Arenas of Brinkmanship: A Culture of Pa-simplihan. Diliman Review, (vol. 20, issue 1-4, pp. 87-103). https://journals.upd.edu.ph/index.php/dilimanreview/article/view/4864/4391
Enriquez, V.G. (1986, January 1). KAPWA: A CORE CONCEPT IN FILIPINO PSYCHOLOGY. In Enriquez, V.G. (Ed.) PHILIPPINE WORLD VIEW. ISEAS Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1355/9789814379021
Eysenck, H.J. (1992). THE DEFINITION AND MEASUREMENT OF PSYCHOTICISM. Personality and Individual Differences, (vol. 12, issue 7, pp. 757-785). Pergamon Press Ltd. Great Britain.https://doi.org/10.1016/0191-8869(92)90050-Y
Eysenck, H.J. (1993). Creativity and Personality: Suggestions for a Theory. Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, (vol. 4, issue 3, pp. 147-178). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli0403_1
McCrae, R.R. (1987). Creativity, Divergent Thinking, and Openness to Experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, (vol. 52, issue 6, pp. 1258-1265). https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.118
Morales, M.R.H. (2017, December). Defining Diskarte: Exploring Cognitive Processes, Personality Traits, and Social Constraints in Creative Problem Solving. Philippine Journal of Psychology, (vol. 50, issue 2, pp. 114-139). Psychological Association of the Philippines. https://www.pap.org.ph/sites/default/files/upload/pjp2017-50-2-pp114-139-morales-defining_diskarte_exploring_cognitive_processes_personality_traits_and_social_constraints_in_creative_problem-solving.pdf
Vanzi, S. (2020, July 19). Diskarte is how Pinoys cope with the pandemic. Manila Bulletin. https://mb.com.ph/2020/07/19/diskarte-is-how-pinoys-cope-with-the-pandemic/