Thursday, December 2, 2010

Welcome to the 21st Century: The Perfect Storm for Creativity

Welcome to the 21st Century: The Perfect Storm for Creativity
by Gerard Puccio, Ph.D.
Chair & Professor
International Center for Studies in Creativity
Buffalo State

Written December 1, 2010

I have been in the field of creativity studies for more than a quarter of a century and have never seen a better time to be in the business of helping others develop their creativity, Creative Problem Solving, and creative leadership skills. Yet with opportunity comes risk. There has never been a more important time for creativity because we are in a state of perpetual change that has brought on crisis for many, and opportunity for those with creative foresight, skill and attitude. Creativity is in demand, because life in the 21st century demands it.

It is all too easy to say that change is ubiquitous in the 21st century. I have read countless books and journal articles that begin by stating that we live in times of rampant change, but what does this really mean? I’ll give you a few specific examples that helped me to truly grasp the concept of exponential change.
Product life cycles have become shorter and shorter. There was a day, many decades ago, when you could work literally on the same product for an entire career. Today manufactured products undergo fundamental redesign every 5 to 10 years, and the life cycle in the area of technology is much shorter with products being subjected to redesign every 6 to 12 months. That new computer, television or digital book reader you just bought is already old.
The days of permanent jobs has given way to the need to adapt quickly to changing job conditions and employment opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that today’s school age children will, on average, change jobs more than 11 times between the age of 18 and 42. To this I would add that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to anticipate precisely what entirely new jobs will be found 10 to 20 years in the future.

Each successive generation experiences a larger number of life-altering changes. Imagine if you were born 2,000 years ago. It would have been possible for you to live your life in a way that would have required no, to little, adjustment based on changes in society. That is certainly not true of the modern day generation. Just look around you to see how the adaption and advancement of computer technology, the ubiquitous availability of information through the internet, the rise of social networking, advances in medicine and medical practices, the use of nanotechnology, the wide use of in-home and hand held video game devices, the availability of digital music and books, and advances in modern telecommunications have fundamentally redefined the very nature of our lives.

So what exactly is the ‘perfect storm’ for creativity? Let me explain. In the face of the exponential increase in change described above, many educational experts have argued that our educational system must do more to promote creativity as a skill in young people. My bookshelf and digital folder are beginning to fill up with books, documents and reports that all make the same point. For individuals to be successful professionally, indeed for a society to prosper, in the 21st century, greater attention must be given to developing higher-order thinking skills. And chief among these skills is creativity. For example, the book 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times refers to a skill-set called “Learning and Innovation Skills” which includes: critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, and creativity and innovation. According the authors of the book Touch Choices or Tough Times “What it will take to hold on to our standard of living – high skills combined with creativity and a hunger for education.” These same authors suggest that “the best employers the world over will be looking for the most competent, most creative, and most innovative people on the face of the earth and will be willing to pay them top dollar for their services.” In the book The Global Achievement Gap the author lists as his seventh survival skill “Curiosity and Imagination.” As this author argued:

It’s not enough to just be trained in the techniques of how to ask questions – as lawyers and MBAs often are, for example. Employees must also know how to use analytical skills in such ways that are often more “out-of-the-box” than in the past, come up with creative solutions to problems, and be able to design products and services that stand out from the competition.
To the above examples I add one more. A recent global study undertaken by IBM concluded that creativity is now considered to be the number one leadership skill for the next five years. As this report indicates, “CEOs now realize that creativity trumps other leadership characteristics. Creative leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and experimentation. To connect with and inspire a new generation, they lead and interact in entirely new ways.” In our own book, Creative Leadership: Skills that Drive Change, we have argued that in times of chaos and change, creative problem solving must be considered a core leadership.
I could share many more examples of books and reports that come to the exact same conclusion – creative thinking is an indispensable 21st century professional skill. And we at the International Center for Studies in Creativity would go further and note that creativity and creative thinking are not only important professionally but have become essential life skills.

A perfect storm is a situation in which a rare combination of factors brings about a drastic or dire situation. What makes the present situation with respect to creativity so dire? For starters, the fact that the structure and assessment procedures used in schools do not promote creative thinking, and, one might argue, actively discourages it. While organizations’ survival in the 21st century economy requires imagination and divergent thinking, our educational system seems to be mainly focused on memorization, routine, and single-right answer thinking. As the authors of Tough Choices or Tough Times suggested:
Our schools, on the whole, are hostile to ideas. Too often, our tests ask students to come up with the one right answer, and the curriculum, pegged to the tests, penalizes the creative student rather than rewarding him or her for the unexpected but thoughtful – or even brilliant – response.

If our educational system is not producing creative thinkers surely modern-day organizations, those that most desire this skill, have the wherewithal to promote this important ability among its employees. Not so. And so we have another circumstance that helps to form the perfect storm. A recent report on workforce readiness found from their study that, like the other books and reports referred to above, creativity and innovation were considered to be among the most crucial workplace skills. However, when asked whether they were prepared to deliver training programs to new entrants to develop these important skills, over two-thirds of the respondents indicated that their organizations had no such programs in place.
And here we have the conditions for a perfect storm. Success in the 21st century depends on creative-thinking skills, yet both our educational systems and our organizations are not well equipped to promote this skill among students and employees, respectively.

So, what might be done to successfully navigate through this storm? Here is a range of ideas that might just help:

1. In general. The United States is fortunate to have some of the world’s leading creativity thinkers, scholars and programs. The field of creativity studies has accumulated a large body of knowledge in regard to programs, strategies and practices that have been proven effective at raising creative talent. More needs to be done to disseminate and implement the insights garnered through these various creativity sources.

2. In society. Our government, both federal and state, would be wise to highlight the importance of creativity, form a vision that articulates a future in which America recaptures its innovative spirit, and puts into place policies, practices and laws that actively promote creativity and innovation. To further a national creativity and innovation agenda, establish a National Office for Creativity and Innovation.

3. In schools. Include creativity courses and curricula in both teacher preparation and educational leadership programs. Implement projects and other forms of assessment that measure student creativity. Moreover, reward schools that develop 21st century skills in their students.

4. In Higher Education. Create minors in creativity, such as our own here at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State, so that all undergraduate students might complement their major area of study and make themselves more marketable by developing creative-thinking skills. Adopt a ‘creativity across the curriculum’ program by embedding creativity and creative-problem solving based projects in courses from a variety of disciplines.

5. In families. Provide parenting courses that instruct adults on the most effective methods for promoting creative thinking in the household.
Of course the above ideas will take dedicated resources and time, but I would strongly urge that efforts to promote creativity and innovation must not be viewed as expenditures, but as an investment – an important investment in our collective future.

Casner-Lotto, J., RosenblumE., & Wright, M. (2009). The ill-prepared U.S. workforce: Exploring the challenges of employer-provided workforce readiness training. New York: The Conference Board.
IBM (2010). Capitalising on complexity: Insights from the global chief executive officer (CEO) study. Portsmouth: UK: IBM United Kingdom Limited.
National Center on Education and the Economy (2008). Tough choices or tough times: The report on the new commission on the skills of the American workforce. San Francisco: Wiley.
Puccio, G. J., Mance, M., & Murdock, M. C. (2011). Creative leadership: Skills that drive change. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
Trilling, B., Fadel, C. (2009). 21st Century skills: Learning for life in our times. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wagner, T. (2008). The global achievement gap: Why even the best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need – and what we can do about it. New York: New York. Basic Books.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Opportunities of Technology Driven Creative Collaborations

Written By: Dr. John Cabra

A few months ago my seven year old daughter learned of a trip I had scheduled to New York City. On the date of my departure she handed me two sheets of paper. On one sheet was a picture of an American Girl Doll eye wear product. It listed the price, varying styles, and a description of the product. The other sheet contained a map of Manhattan with tags of all the American Girl Doll stores located throughout Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. She wanted me to bring her back this particular souvenir. Surprised, I asked her if mom had helped her find this information. My daughter Anna said no. I then asked her if her brother had helped. With a puzzled look, somewhat with a hint of annoyance--more like sassy to be quite honest--she also said no to my second question. “Wow! That’s my girl,” I proudly danced in my head in reaction to my seven year old daughter’s ability to navigate the web. Yet immediately following my glee, I could not help but feel sobered by what she was able to do at such a young age. I pondered, “If she could do this at age seven, what will she be able to do when she reaches college age?”

Technology is growing at such an exponential rate that it’s dizzying just thinking about it. We all know this to be true. I am sobered because as an academic, I have 20 more years of teaching left in my professional life. I reasoned that if I do not change how I teach now, I will be pathetically and miserably disconnected from my students. I saw myself as a dinosaur, more like Barney the dinosaur lecturing to an audience that get their lectures from a podcast created by a more technologically disposed younger academic; this audience I foreshadowed would come to “class” expecting to be coached, advised, facilitated, not lectured with content-saturated PowerPoint slides embedded with cheesy clipart.

To be honest, I feel vulnerable. I am anxious at the thought of trouble shooting an uncooperative software program. I fear learning curves that are too steep to master. By any measure, I am not a technologically savvy academic. Yet many peers and students think I am. To be fair, I admit that I am technologically aware. I keep abreast of as much technology news as possible. And because I must, I plan on immersing myself in more technological ambiguity despite the pain it produces. That said, my post elaborates on the underlying trends that give rise to these opportunities of technologically driven creative collaboration and to the extent they will govern how creativity and innovation will emerge and manifest in areas of organizational life such as business, education, science and design in the next 20 years.

Because I am limited with what I can cover in one post, I included a prezi presentation I gave last month to the Consortium of Colleges and Universities Media Center’s annual conference. Please see the link to my presentation at the end of this post. This blog also contains excerpts taken directly from an article I co-authored with a colleague (Uribe & Cabra, in press).

Take a minute to think about a typical day in your life. You are unlikely to find a day when you had no interaction with some sort of digital technology. On this day, you may have worked on your laptop computer, purchased something online, taken a picture with your digital camera and then uploaded it to a social media site. You certainly called somebody using your smartphone, listened to music on your mp3 player, interacted with a digital vending kiosk, or played a videogame. In all likelihood you did all of these things and more on that same day using only the smartphone you carry. Although these technologies are in their infant stages with no more than a few decades of existence, their influence and pervasiveness in modern day life have been remarkable. As of 2008, the average U.S. American between the ages 18 to 55 have consumed between 500 to 570 minutes of digital information per day through means such as TV, mobile phones and computer technologies. This is the equivalent of 8 ½ hours of our daily lives (Council for Research Excellence, 2008). It is yet to be seen and difficult to imagine the extent to which we will continue to integrate these technologies in a seamless and frictionless way. The thought of what lies ahead is evocatively exciting and frightening as we ponder the integration of technologies such as intra-body nanotechnology, sub-dermal radio frequency identification tags -- just to name a few -- with our psychological, sociological and even physiological being. Here are three trends we see unfolding at a rapid pace.

Trend 1: The 3 W’s: Whatever -- Wherever -- Whenever
Moore’s Law, which predicts an exponential increase in a microprocessor’s power, while simultaneously decreasing its size, has made it possible for us to live in a ubiquitous and omnipresent reality, a now-reality (Tapscott, 2009). In the now-reality the constructs of need and satisfaction collapse in the blink of an eye. Whether it is through smartphones, netbooks or any other networked device, we carry the world in our pockets and therefore can access this world of information wherever we are and whenever we want. From a sociological perspective we now expect and demand that information, communication and transactions are instantaneous. As these forms of technology continue to improve, they will become more ubiquitous. As organizations become more internationalized, organizational members will be expected to interface with overseas partners. As such, we anticipate organizations will engage in live and remote creative collaborations whenever, wherever and on whatever.

Face-to-face collaborations often involve the use of flipchart paper and post-it notes, which are cumbersome and sluggish. We predict these platforms will fade. There are platforms now that can mind-map and visually tag data into more meaningful themes in a matter of minutes (Puccio & Cabra, 2009). Now let’s take this further. Imagine that these software programs can be executed to create endless iterations of digitized prototypes, models, or simulations. It now exists. A software program called the Data Visualizer, in concert with another program called Catai, can perform thousands of iterative checks in seconds to examine the interface possibilities among component widgets. The implication here suggests that reliance on non-digital technology (analog technology) so often used in creativity meetings, such as flipcharts, whiteboards, and post-its will no longer be practical.

Trend 2: The Hyper-Reality
The vision of a seamless digital landscape has been the inspiration and fascination of many movie directors, who have anticipated some of the most incredible immersive technologies decades in advance of their commercialization in real life. For example, in George Lucas’ 1977
Star Wars movie, R2-D2 relays a 3D holographic message from Princess Leia to young Luke Skywalker; that scene planted the seeds for Cisco’s telepresence technology into the collective
unconscious and into the R&D labs of major players in the computer and communication technology business. Today telepresence, when coupled with Musion’s holographic technology, is now available as a commercial product to organizations worldwide providing an enhanced and immersive remote collaboration experience. Telepresence, Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Tangible Digital Media (technologies that we have seen in many of Hollywood blockbusters) are all byproducts of the seamless and frictionless integration of what
we hold to be part of the natural world and that of the digital world. This gives rise to a Hyper-

Hyper-reality blends layers of digital information into our field of perception to heighten our experience of life. There are two kinds of technology that come to mind. One technology invites us to get immersed into digital realms such as Virtual Worlds. This technology recreates vivid and immersive realities for us to explore and are detached from our physical reality. Another technology brings the digital world into our physical reality such as Augmented Reality or Tangible Media devices. This new socio-technical landscape, which is made out of a rich blend between matter and bytes, offers significant opportunities to harness creativity and innovation.

Opportunities within Virtual Worlds
Virtual Worlds offer one of the most immersive platforms among remote synchronous collaboration technologies. Individuals feel like they are in close proximity to each other. In terms of specific activities and subprocesses within the creative process, we see two core areas where the use of virtual world venues and the manipulation of digital data will increase creative effectiveness. First, virtual platforms allow us to enhance ideation initiatives. Our ideas now can be expressed digitally and in 3D, which add a new layer to the traditional mechanisms of ideation comprising the use of scribbled post it’s and quick sketches. 3D models convey a more vivid picture of an idea than a 2D image. As such, it easier for team members to fully grasp a concept and then build on it thus further driving ideation. In addition, ideas can be expressed in a myriad of digital formats like video footage, pictures, and sounds for richer creative expression.

Opportunities within Augmented Reality
While virtual reality requires donned equipment that facilitates the creation of a simulation not
of the real world per se or in real time, Augmented Reality does not. Augmented reality (AR) is
a technology that permits live, direct or indirect examination of a tangible setting comprising the
real-world. Reality can be augmented with audio, and someday, with a sense of touch. For example, imagine a football trading card, which is a physical element. Then, the football player
emerges as a 3D object. It is also interactive as you can study the performance statistic of this
football player, page to the next informational bit, and so on. AR, in short, merges 3D objects into video (real and virtual) in real time.

Opportunities within Tangible Media
Tangible Media is a technology that makes information tangible. For example, blocks that look
like LEGOs can be joined, enlarged, colors changed through hand gestures. These blocks can be copied and the process used to construct some sort of prototypes can be replayed for analysis and further insight. These forms are not limited to blocks. Tangible landscapes or surfaces permit simulations of natural climate phenomena such as hurricanes. Typically TM is operated on a table top. Back, Matsumoto and Dunnigan (2009) designed a Tangible Media technology to simulate the use of Post-Its™ called Post-Bits. This media form provides groups with the ability to flex, move, sort, stack e-paper in the same way as seen in the real world. These Post- Bits were also designed to capture digital information. They explain how this form of tangible media can be used for stages of the creative process to tackle all kinds of challenges.

Trend 3: The Superorganism:
Technology has leveraged a human trait, and this is our tendency to embed ourselves in social structures. For that reason, networks have expanded exponentially to change the social landscape from a few geographically concentrated networks to a massively distributed global social fabric, the Superorganism. Today’s creative discoveries are byproducts of a distributed collective effort rather than that of the individual genius. With the aid of computer mediated social networks, individuals are constantly sharing ideas, perceptions and opinions. They comprise a very rich melting pot that fuels creativity and innovation in varied domains. As the visionary thinker Alvin Toffler predicted in his book the Third Wave (1980) we are transitioning to an age where boundaries that were once established in the industrial revolution between producers and consumers are fading away to gradually give rise to the socioeconomical archetype of the Prosumer. Thus a new social contract has been established in which it is not enough for people to be passive recipients of goods and services, but where there is a participatory dialogue, articulation and co-creation of value between different individuals and sectors of society (Brown & Katz, 2009).

Opportunities within Open sourcing
One of the clearest and earliest manifestations of this new socio-economical order is open source collaborative projects. Open source phenomena emerged from the software development discipline. Later, software development evolved and began including a process of remote collaborations. Potential users and developers were give access to program code and freedom to independently modify software. Examples of open source products and services are
Linux based operating systems (e.g. Ubuntu), Wikipedia online encyclopedia, and the Mozilla Firefox web browser. Open source collaboration has transformed and revolutionized collaborative creative work. Sourcing practices foster creativity because its participants come from different cultures, domains and backgrounds. They reflect many personalities, cognitive styles, and various approaches to creative problem-solving. When managed appropriately, diversity can serve as a rich resource for novel and valuable ideas. When managed effectively, diverse groups can neutralize toxic personalities that prime dysfunctional group dynamics. People who gravitate toward open or crowd sourcing initiatives are passionate and intrinsically motivated, as these endeavors typically do not offer remuneration or even public recognition.

In these more porous structures, organizational life will be deeply affected by openness and mass collaboration. Leadership will be less and less determined by power structure but by merits of ideas and contributions to the network; as soon as an individual’s idea usefulness or contribution declines, leadership will migrate to other network nodes on the rise (Hammel, 2009). This notion of leadership by merit is still quite new and only few organizations (e.g. Design firm IDEO) have adopted such loose and fluid leadership practices. The scope and extent to which individuals exercise creative leadership, which involves in part the role of building an environment that nurtures the emergence of novelty that is useful (Puccio, Murdock & Mance, 2007), will also shift. Fulfilling this role is already made difficult for leaders working in close and relatively small organizations; it will certainly prove even more challenging in a remote collaborative environment that is also expansively distributed and dauntingly massive.

The Superorganism is by far the most important and pervasive of the discussed trends. The massive sharing and presence in social network engines as seen in Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are examples of how we have decided to take our social entrenchment to a larger scale with the support of computer and communication technologies. As discussed above, this new socio-technical landscape opens vast collaborative creative possibilities that will be a core driver of technical and social innovation. Citizens of the 21st century are no longer bound by the scope of their geographic location and therefore they can now collaborate in creative endeavors locally and globally.

Open source creativity is expected to move outside the software industry into areas such as manufacturing, services, health and education. It also anticipated that organizational life will be deeply affected by this phenomenon. For example, leadership will not be determined by a power structure but by merits one’s contributions to the network; as soon as an idea loses its appeal, leadership will then migrate to other network areas in search of new and improved ideas. Crowd sourcing practices we expect will be commonplace and as a result, the once clear cut boundaries between producers and consumers, firms and customers will blur.

As exciting as these trends are, one sobering obstacle remains and reminds how easily we can get carried away with the next technological introduction. As Cerf and Schultz (2007) compassionately asserted, “Let me pause to point out the obvious. For about 2 billion people today, the Internet is NOT a reality; it is yet a distant dream or perhaps entirely unknown. Electricity is still unknown or unavailable or unreliable. Sanitation, housing, food, water and education are in limited supply. For those parts of our global society, the Internet and its benefits seem far beyond reach. We must not give up pursuit, however idealistic, of access for all. (p. 2)


Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York: Harper Business.

Cerf, V., & Schutz, C. (2002). Visions 2020: Transforming education and training through advanced technologies. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved March 8, 2007, from

Council for Research Excellence (2008, March 26). Ground breaking study of video viewing
finds younger boomers consume more video media than any other group [Press Release].
Retrieved from

Hammel, G. (2009, May 18). Empowering Natural Leaders in ‘Facebook Generation’ Ways.
Retrieved from

Puccio, G. J., & Cabra, J. F. (2009). Creative problem solving: Past, present and future. In T.
Rickards, H. A. Runco., and S. Moger (Eds.). The Routledge Companion to Creativity (pp. 327-
337). Oxford: Routledge.

Puccio, G. J., Murdock, M., & Mance, M. (2007). Creative leadership: Skills that drive change.
Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Tapscott, D. (2009). Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world. New
York: McGraw-Hill.

Toffler, A. (1980). The third wave. New York: Morrow.

Uribe-Larach, D., & Cabra, J. F. (in press). The opportunities and challenges of technology driven collaborations. In Mesquita, A. (Ed.), Technology for creativity and innovation: Tools, techniques and applications. Hershey, PA: IGI Publishing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creative Leadership: Welcome to the 21st Century!

Along with Gerard Puccio and Marie Mance, I published an article recently in an attempt to formalize the concept of Creative Leadership (it will appear in the Winter, 2010 edition of Academic Exchange Quarterly). In addition, I was able to present on the subject recently at the International Leadership Association’s Annual Conference held in Boston, which brings the freshest ideas about leadership into dialogue. I’m happy to report that the concept was very well received! The sticking point for some seems to be their outdated, stunted or unclear ideas about what creativity is – which, I suppose is nothing new.

If you are interested in the idea of creative leadership, check out the summary of the concept below, and feel free to let us know what you think! We are still looking for that illusive “magic bullet” that makes the concept and practice immediately relatable to the “average Joe or Joann”.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Osborn's Personal Papers

by Mike Fox and Jo Yudess

22 Boxes of Papers

Alex Osborn’s personal papers are available at the University at Buffalo’s Special Collection Library. Recently, We I went to UB’s Special Collections library (North Campus) to look at Osborn’s personal papers. Lots of boxes of his work – 22 in all.

Mike’s Observations
I started with Box 11 Creative Education Movement, circa 1963. Most of the work I read covered drafts of his speech to the 9th Annual Creative Problem Solving Institute in the summer of 1963. He refined, re-typed, refined again until he got what he wanted. His handwriting: a bit scrawley, but readable. The best part was the precision in his thinking.

Top Experience

There were letters to and from such notables as Guilford, Torrance and Taylor. These letters showed the respect each had for the other. There is nothing quite like a bunch of high-powered people trying to figure out a new challenge.

This isn’t a book, all polished and refined. This isn’t a story told to us in a college course. This is Alex Osborn’s own handwriting. The feeling of being connected is visceral.

If you plan to investigate this collection, prepare to spend some time. It’s sizeable. Each file box has multiple file folders. I managed to get through two file folders in the box. After two hours or so, I ran out of brain glucose, so I had to quite. Who says that research isn’t fun?

When You Go …

The Osborn collection is on the premises. You don’t have to make arrangements ahead of time. The special collections research room has rules. All note taking is by pencil or computer. No pens allowed. You can one or two boxes at a time – maybe three if you’re lucky. They will not bring all 22 boxes to you at one time. Copying services are available, but expect a delay. Copying is done later, then mailed out. Expect a fee per page.

Jo ‘s Observations

I examined materials in Box 12, Patentable Ideas, circa 1949-1951, thinking they would be Osborn’s inventions, but discovered that was not the case. After publication of Your Creative Power in 1948, Osborn was inundated with requests from readers to help them get their ideas produced. It became such a volume of letters that he used a form letter to reply. He acknowledged the difficulty in sending products to a company and sympathized with the writers. Part of the letter explained that he would return their items, but could not comment or review them without a waiver of indemnity. Some of the ideas, names for products, for example, might be things his advertising firm had already conceived.

He was concerned that there was no formal process for people to use for this purpose. He and a friend from England, P. Clavell Blount, wrote to each other frequently trying to get a clearing house for ideas or a National Association of Suggestion Systems underway in either country. After two years of this effort, he began organizing the letters and his thoughts to use as background for chapters 32 and 33 in Wake Up Your Mind (1952). He asked friends, family and co-workers to write to many large organizations to ask their requirements for submission of ideas as part of the data collected.

A Few Notable Quotes

In Osborn’s scrawly handwriting was “Got a good idea? Then you need idea upon idea to make good on your good idea.” In a letter to Osborn in 1950, Fred W. Leu wrote, “Industry kills ideas by discarding men at the very age when they begin to develop them.” One irate writer complained that his invention of radioactive golf balls, which could be found in any rough with a Geiger counter, was rejected by the company he sent it to because the golf balls were too dangerous to carry around.
As Mike and I only examined two of many boxes, there are probably many other interesting pieces of information to be found. A search of this material might make an interesting thesis or project. It is housed at UB because he was a graduate and on the board of directors at the University of Buffalo when it was still a private institution.

From the University at Buffalo’s Special Collection Library Website

Here is the data on Osborn and his collection. I have transferred it from the UB’s Special Collections website. I put it here so you don’t have to find it on your own!

Alexander Faickney Osborn, 1888-1966

Alex Osborn’s personal papers are available at the University at Buffalo’s Special Collection Library, 420 Capen Hall (North campus).
Ph: (716) 645-2918
There are 22 boxes of his papers in the archives.
Title: Alexander F. Osborn Papers, 1948-1966
Abstract: The papers of Alexander F. Osborn, founder of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn, and the Creative Education Foundation consist primarily of his professional activities

Information for Users
Preferred Citation: [Description and dates], Box/folder number, MS016, Alexander F. Osborn Papers, 1948-1966, University Archives, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Terms of Access and Use: Alexander F. Osborn Papers, 1948-1966, are open for research.
Copyright: Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

The Alexander F. Osborn Papers were donated to the University Archives by Alexander Osborn and the Creative Education Foundation in January 1967.

Scope and Content Note
Original manuscripts and work files, circa 1948-1963, of Osborn's books, Your Creative Power (1948), Wake up Your Mind (1952), Applied Imagination (1953, revised 1957 and 1963); files on the Creative Education Foundation, including annual reports, 1954-1962, publications, including guides, directives, reprinted articles and speeches, circa 1958-1963. Teaching Tools of the Creative Education Foundation include instructor's manuals and student workbooks, 1959-1963. Creative Education Foundation include instructor's manuals and student workbooks, 1963-1964, consists primarily of requests for literature and information.

Series I. Your Creative Power, circa 1948
Container List
Series I. Your Creative Power
Box 1 Your Creative Power, circa 1948; includes work files, chapter 1-25
Box 1 Your Creative Power, circa 1948; includes work files, chapter 26-39
Box 2 Your Creative Power, circa 1948; includes work files, chapter 40-41

Series II. Wake Up Your Mind, circa 1952
Box 4 Wake Up Your Mind, circa 1952; includes work files, chapter 1-7
Box 5 Wake Up Your Mind, circa 1952; includes work files, chapter 8-18
Box 6 Wake Up Your Mind, circa 1952; includes work files, chapter 19-26
Box 7 Wake Up Your Mind, circa 1952; includes original manuscript

Series III. Applied Imagination, circa 1957
Box 7 Applied Imagination, 1958; includes revision
Box 8 Applied Imagination, 1958; includes work files, chapter 1-32
Box 9 Applied Imagination, 1958; includes work files, chapter 22-24, and original manuscript
Box 10 Applied Imagination, 1963; includes revision 1963

Series IV. Creative Education Foundation circa 1949-1964
Box 11 Creative Education Movement, circa 1963
Box 12 Patentable Ideas, correspondence, circa 1949-1951
Box 12 Patentable Ideas, correspondence, circa 1949-1951
Box 12 Non--Patentable Ideas, correspondence, circa 1949-1951
Box 13 Creative Education Foundation: Reports and Publications,
circa 1953-1964

Series V. Creative Education Foundation Correspondence circa 1963-1964
Arranged alphabetically
Box 14 Correspondence, D-E (A-C missing)
Box 15 Correspondence, F-G
Box 16 Correspondence, H
Box 17 Correspondence, J-K
Box 18 Correspondence, L (M-R missing)
Box 19 Correspondence, S-T
Box 20 Correspondence, U-Z

Series Vi. Books by Alex Osborn, undated
Box 21 Translation of Alex Osborn’s Books, undated
Box 22 How to Think Up, undated
Box 22 Your Creative Power, undated
Box 22 Wake Up Your Mind, undated
Box 22 Applied Imagination, undated
Box 22 The Creative Education Movement, undated
Box 22 Source Book for Creative Thinking, undated

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Critique Questions

Critique Questions- by Mike Fox

This Is For You If …
… You a designer or maybe you teach design. (Architect? Landscaper Architect? Interior Designer? Graphic Designer?)

… You are a parent wanting to give your child an effective evaluation for that “wonderful invention” they are making out of that box of junk you have in the basement.

… You are a teacher helping a student with a project.

When an individual is ready for a critique of a project, process or a product, use affirmative judgment to evaluate the idea or the work. In this case Critique Questions is a handy evaluation tool.

A Little History
Three decades ago I was an occasional guest lecturer at the Landscape Architecture School at the University of Minnesota. At that time I was landscape architect planning large-scale parks. The school used several of my yet-to-be-developed parks as a “training ground”. On these visits to the design studios, I noticed that the instructors were using one-on-one critiquing techniques that seemed to be less than effective. The critiques (or “desk crits” as they were called) were taken by the students as attacks on their personhood. The critiques did little to change the students’ behavior – as in improving their design skills.

In response to this, I created Critique Questions as an affirmative judgment tool just for this situation. I fashioned it along the lines of the classic PPCo (developed by Roger Firestien, Diane Foucar-Szocki, and Bill Sheppard in the early 1980’s). Over the decades I have found Critique Questions useful when evaluating a project during any stage of development. It helps the evaluator understand what the individual is excited about, where he plans to go with the next stages of development, what other options he is considering, and those things that may evolve differently or be eliminated entirely.

How to Use the Tool
Ask the questions in order. Listen to the responses before giving information. Fashion your concerns into classic problem statement format. In the broad sense, the outcome should provoke the individual’s thinking. Separate the person from the behavior: change the behavior. The person is probably OK.

I have presented the tool below as a form. Take it with you.

Critique Questions

Below are four questions (to be asked in order) to help the student learn from the experience. These four questions open a dialog to affirmatively and safely discuss advantages and limitations of an individual’s performance. Used as a standard format for evaluation of a project, Critique Questions help to build trust and openness, as they serve to separate one’s behavior from one’s being. The assumption is that the leader wants to change the individual’s behavior for the sake of growth and improvement. The responses to the questions will give insight into the individual’s thinking and skill set.

Ask the following questions in order.

1. What do you like about what you did?
Affirmation of the current situation

2. What would you like to see more of?
Gaining understanding future directions

3. If you could do this over again, what might you do differently? Opening the door to other possibilities: more of…less of…different

4. What help do you need from me?
Ask this last question ONLY if you really mean it. If you don’t have the time or inclination, don’t bring this one up.

If you see an area that clearly needs attention and feel impelled to bring it to the individual’s attention, state the concern in the form of a problem statement, beginning with the invitational stem “In what ways might...?” or “How might ...?” These invitational stems open up the realm of possibilities. Do not offer the answer. Discovery and dialog are in order.

“About the only time it may be necessary to provide direct feedback is when some else is standing on your foot and doesn’t really know it.”
— From: Negative Criticism and What You Can Do About It by Sidney B. Simon

Developed by JM Fox, International Center for Studies in Creativity, 1988/revised 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Connecting the Dots by Dr. Jo Yudess

Since I started on the journey of creativity “back in the old days,” I’ve been thinking about novel and useful for more than thirty years. At the time I graduated from the Master’s program, the degree was an MS in Creative Studies and ____ (whatever your other work or passion was.) My degree was in Creative Studies and Personnel Administration. People often wondered how the two connected. I could hammer them for hours about the need for new ideas, good interpersonal skills, a facilitative approach, tolerance for error and ambiguity, etc.; but it was when I could help them solve problems in the workplace they began to take notice.

My next foray into education recently resulted in an Ed. D. in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher College in Rochester and a dissertation entitled, “Strategies, efficacies and synergies of teaching creativity and leadership together: A grounded theory.” Again I was questioned about the connections, but for me, and I expect others who study these areas, it was more like a blinding flash of the obvious. In the beginning I was warned that creativity was not a serious subject and that I would have to treat it as something that had not been proven. I explained that I “drank the Kool-Aid” over thirty years ago and I could still taste it. When the dissertation was done, with connections to masses of excellent references on creativity, they took it very seriously.

As I think about our programs and the studies I’ve done, it occurs to me that those connections are almost a definition of what we think about creativity. Everything connects. We even teach “forced connctions” between seemingly unrelated items as a way of stimulating new and different ideas. Students from many fields find that studying creativity helps them relate to their job or major subject better. Some students want to use the degree to get a job in creativity the way you might use a degree in engineering to get an engineering position. I’ve had jobs in secondary education, higher education, consulting, editing, not-for-profit, human services, retail, manufacturing mangement, production, and human resources. They were all jobs in creativity. It’s about thinking. It’s about connecting. What do you do with what you have? How do you inspire others to do the necessary work? How do you facilitate problem solving so that everyone involved feels energized, committed, and proprietary about the solutions? How do you work with people, places, materials, circumstances, time frames, issues, and processes for a successful product or outcome? It’s all in the connections.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Keynote: The Potential for Creative Learning and Teaching

Dr. Susan Keller-Mathers recently had the pleasure of both attending the Canadian Society for Teaching and Learning in High Education (STLHE) conference "Creative Teaching and Learning: Exploring. Shaping. Knowing" in Toronto and presenting the closing keynote “Potential for Creative Learning and Teaching” (video of keynote).

It was wonderful to reconnect with our long time Canadian colleague and ICSC alumni Gretchen Bingham as well as having the opportunity to engage with a community of scholars who teach in all disciplines across the academy. She had many rich conversations regarding what Alex Osborn considered central to the growth of the field of creativity “bring a more creative trend to education” and attended many very good sessions where she was engaged and challenged to continue to think about the ways we engage in the higher education classroom (see opening keynote video for example)

As a result, she also had the opportunity to submit an article for publication in the Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching (CELT) titled “Building Passion and Potential for Creative Learning in Higher Education”. Here’s the abstract:
“Building passion and potential for creative learning in higher education involves deliberately seeking to understand, appreciate and teach for creativity. The recognition of the urgent need for creativity and problem solving skills, the understanding that you must embrace creative learning for yourself first and that creativity cannot be left to chance is central. Developments in the field of creativity, both with regard to defining aspects of creativity and providing frameworks for integrating creative learning into higher education practices are discussed”

The Collected Essays will be published in time for the next year’s conference hosted by the University of Saskatchewan. Prior CELT collected essays can be downloaded at:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

3rd edition of Exploring the Nature of Creativity

3rd edition of Exploring the Nature of Creativity

Mike and Ronni Fox have just completed the 3rd edition of Exploring the Nature of Creativity published by Kendall-Hunt. It is on the bookshelves now.

We wrote this book to give the newcomer to creativity a view of the creative person, the creative process, the creative outcome (product) and the creative press. In 1999 we could find no text that covered all four P’s. Most of what we found spoke to the creative person, or the processes, or the press, but nothing looked at the whole schema – so we wrote one. We used the working title “First You take a P” and later decided that didn’t sound scholarly enough. (The first edition was published in 2000. The second edition came out in 2004.)

Ronni was involved in this effort from the start. Here is the back story….
Shortly after we were married, I asked Ronni if she ever had insomnia. She said, “Yes, once in a while.” So I asked her what she did for it. Ronni said, “I just read a chapter out of one of your books!” She did follow that up with a comment about my work being information dense.
To counteract my information–dense writing style (Ronni’s words, not mine), we decided, from the start, to write Exploring together. She is a real writer – published – and paid! We decided to make it a teach-by-parable book. That notion has worked out nicely. The first edition was well crafted, except for 147 typos and incomplete sentences. Where is an editor when you need one? The second edition was supposed to fix that sort of thing. And it did – except for the new ones!

The third edition is genuinely different. E. Paul Torrance is in there now – thanks to Alan Black who was kind enough to point out the omission! A blinding flash of the obvious if ever there was one. The evolution of the CPS model shows early Osborn through the new Thinking Skills Model. The press chapter is clearer with little duplication of concepts. The focus is on simplicity. After all, it is an introductory text.

The royalties from the book are donated directly to the International Center for Studies in Creativity. The illustrations, cover design, and page layout were donated by folks involved in creativity. The illustrations were created by Alan Cowert. He does graphic facilitations, among other things. Allen lives in Alabama and works nationally. If you like his work, he can be reached at . The cover design was created by Jessica Hulbert. Jessica minored in creativity and is now a media specialist for a law firm in Getzville, NY. The page layout came from Nick Strascina. He minored in creativity and majored in graphic design. I haven’t heard from him lately, but I think he has his own graphic design business.

For about $60, Exploring the Nature of Creativity is a really good introductory book. I know. I wrote it – and Ronni fixed it!

Friday, June 4, 2010

(Re)defining Authentic Leadership

One of my current passions is Authentic Leadership. Really, I should say that my passion involves REDEFINING what it means to lead authentically. One powerful outcome of creative thinking that is emerging for me, and which is related to this topic, lies the fact that getting in touch with our creative potential, becoming empowered to solve problems, and having the skills to empower others in this way, creates more authentic leaders since it requires an increase in our level of self-awareness. Current definitions of authentic leadership "stop short", and simply do not require a level of self-knowledge that allows truly authentic leadership to emerge. This inauthenticity translates directly to practice since it seeps out via our relationships, including our leadership relationships, making them shallower and even potentially toxic. As Palmer* (1998) stated "When I do not know myself, I cannot know who my students are" (p. 2). Substitute "leaders" for "students" and you see where I am going; it is this sense of mutual knowing to which new ideas about authentic leadership are tied.

The abstract of my recent paper, submitted to the Leadership Quarterly, is below, and I would be happy to share the document with anyone interested:


Authentic Leadership Redefined: How Reflection, Mentoring and Leadership Development Impact Authenticity and Make a Difference in a Diverse and Connected World ~ Dr. Jeffrey Zacko-Smith

ABSTRACT: Drawing on previous research about Authentic Leadership from a variety of sources, a case is made for expanding the definition of what it means to lead authentically, creating a paradigm that is more compatible with the highly diverse and connected world we now lead within. Matching our views of Authentic Leadership to more current understandings of authenticity affects practice by increasing a leader’s level of self-knowledge, which directly plays out in leadership relationships. Increasing authenticity can be accomplished through deep personal reflection, mentorship and by updating leadership development programs, all of which are shown as supportive of authenticity and explicitly discussed.

* Palmer, P. J. (1998). The Courage To Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Creativity and Leadership - CPSI Presentation

As the newest member of the faculty, one thing that attracted me to the Center and Buffalo State was what I saw as the "natural fit" between creativity and leadership; I believe that everyone is a leader (leadership is primarily learned), which matches the belief that everyone is creative put forward by Creative Studies. Both leadership and creativity are innate to each person, and it's simply a matter of finding out where each individual's "best expression" lies; recognizing our creative and leadership strengths and weaknesses.

In my upcoming CPSI Presentation (6/22 - part of "New Thinking/New Thinkers") I'll be discussing some important links between the two fields, ties that bind them together implicitly and explicitly. For example, leadership is often about influence and building vision, skills that can be dramatically enhanced through creative thinking theory and practice, by developing skills in facilitation, and through creative problem solving.

~ Jeffrey Zacko-Smith


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Presentation at the Creative Problem Solving Institute

Can you be deliberately intuitive? Before answering, remember that years ago a similar question was debated as to the possibility of being deliberately creative! As we deepen our understanding of creative thinking and intuition, a new question emerges: How might we bring a more holistic approach to CPS?

ICSC faculty member Cyndi Burnett and ICSC graduate Janice Francisco will explore these questions at this year's Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) from June 21st-June 25th at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Buffalo, NY. CPSI is the oldest and longest running conference dedicated to the teaching of creative thinking skills. Cyndi and Janice will be leading a 90 minute, 3 hour, and day and a half post conference session over the course of the week. We hope to see you there!