Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Approaching the Big Questions

A book review by: Mariano Tosso
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity

Big Questions

Big Questions In Creativity 2013 is a non-fiction, scholarly book which presents a selective collection of short research papers. These pieces approach original questions and provide fresh perspectives about different themes related to the fascinating field of creativity. The ten authors of the book are graduate students who recently wrote their respective essays while pursuing the course “Current Issues in Creativity.” This course is part of the M.Sc. program in Creative Studies from the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC), housed at SUNY Buffalo State. The publication of this book by the ICSC press represents a novel opportunity to showcase contemporary perspectives, and a high quality emerging approach from the publishing point of view. I see high potential for the future to continue adding more volumes, reflecting the expansion of the creativity field.

This book will have a high appeal for those with curious minds who are willing to discover new viewpoints (including beginners and experts in different disciplines that consider creativity an essential ingredient) and others who wish to benefit from applying creative insights in new domains.

Big Questions In Creativity 2013 examines numerous themes, and brings a broad diversity of perspectives. It is rewarding to discover plenty of coherent elaborations, hypotheses, facts, and explorative links addressing big, open challenges. In my experience, it is very likely that a reader gains new valuable insights, while often breaking old thoughts and myths. What I truly enjoyed about this book is that every chapter also permeates the personal character, writing style, and acumen behind each of the ten authors, while conveying substantial answers. Being packed with inspiring new connections and useful references, it also opens the ground for future work.

The main purpose of the book is raising and exploring critical and highly relevant questions within the theme-scope of four broad categories with creativity at center-stage: society and creativity, organizational creativity, individual creativity, and creativity and education. The title “big questions” reflects the enormous relevance beyond each question. It is written in a friendly reading, academic style, and has a conveniently condensed format: every single topic is a chapter no longer than twenty pages.

An overview

Overlapping the domains of Society and Creativity, Irina Mishina answers what is a “creative economy,” and how, in the new context of the creative age, the concept of creative economy has to be revised to become more integrative. She also displays some key features about creative business strategies and business model innovations, and identifies four dynamic pillars of the new creative economy: digital technologies, networks, collaboration, and entrepreneurship. Irina’s chapter is not only entertaining; it is a forward-thinking masterpiece.

Within the “organizational creativity” category, Sarah Thurber presents her perspective about how organizations can tap creativity and unlock innovation to tackle change. She points out how organizations may build sustainable innovation teams with the use of deliberate thinking processes. She explains how to leverage the use of creative preference assessment instruments such as the Foursight test to bring significant positive benefits to empower organizations. As a bonus, she also discloses an essential practical guide revealing the seven habits of highly effective thinking teams. A reference chapter for readers in need of breakthrough thinking in organizations!

Vicci Recckio selects another enjoyable theme within the category “organizational creativity”: what is behind the generational group defined as “the Millennials,” why they are becoming increasingly important, and how learning about this group will benefit creativity trainers and facilitators. You will learn what is different about them (i.e. their expectation to receive more frequent feedback), what could be expected from “Millenials” as creative leaders, and some tips about designing successful innovative products such as assessment tools to appeal to the needs of Millenial customers. Her view not only increased my awareness about the Millenials but also helped me to reconsider some strategies to bring about change as a future creative professional.

Within the theme-cluster of “individual creativity”, Catherine Tillman addresses “what activities, exercises, and habits enhance personal creativity”. She identifies eight simple and effective practices to enhance one’s natural creative abilities, utilizing the full palette of the physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual worlds. She gives pertinent details about these practices and complementary references. Her healthy tips were truly useful; it was very interesting to learn about “research that links cognitive ability to exercise,” and about happiness and mindfulness that helped to frame the “full picture.”

Within the category of “creativity and education,” Lee Anne White investigates the question “what is the role of creativity in talent development?”  She reviews how the concept of giftedness evolved and expanded, exploring further some models and ideas to unlock talent development. She integrates concepts like self-actualization and how gender differences play a significant role in defining achievement. I appreciate Lee Anne’s instructive contribution, and look forward to bringing to life her insights in the future.

The book goes on with chapters from five other insightful authors: Mary Kay Culpepper, Ginny Santos, Amy Frazier, Robert Frantz, and Ted Mallwitz.  As if the book was a varied menu of a meal, my advice to readers is to select the best possible “appetizer” to start with by looking at the table of contents, rather than reading it from beginning to end.

In summary, if you are looking for a book that addresses a palette of today’s big questions related to the multidisciplinary field of creativity, that pushes further the boundaries beyond previous approaches, and that fosters depth and reveals unique insights and perspectives, Big Questions In Creativity 2013 is a must. I look forward to see future annual volumes of this book published by the ICSC, showcasing fundamental work of graduate students pursuing the “Current Issues in Creativity” course. As the pool of talented graduate students in creativity enrolled in the ICSC program renews periodically, it is expected that sustainability and quality be guaranteed.  


Burnett, C., & Reali, P. (Eds.). (2013). Big questions in creativity 2013. Volume 1. Buffalo, NY: ICSC Press.

About Mariano Tosso

Mariano Tosso is a versatile professional with 15+ years of experience leading R&D Food and Petcare innovations at Mars Inc. in the USA, Argentina, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Germany. He earned an M.Sc. in Food Science and Technology from Cornell University and is pursuing the MS Program in Creativity and Change Leadership at the ICSC, currently in his second year. Mariano is a front-end innovation expert who loves to tackle complex challenges and realize possibilities. He is passionate about designing and conducting meaningful creative learning experiences as a trainer and coach. Mariano is also an experienced facilitator who helps organizations unlock opportunities to generate more value.

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