Monday, May 19, 2014

Training Creative Teams

By Geoff Zoeckler
Innovation Consultant
SEEK Company

CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”
        CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

I’d like to share a quick story of how a series of fateful events in 2013 led to personal transformation through global experiences, a shift in focus away from facilitation and into training, and the completion of my Creative Studies masters project on “Training Creative Teams”.

When I started as an Innovation Consultant at SEEK Company in Cincinnati, OH four years ago, I was the 25th employee. For a couple of years, the company stayed right around that number. A few people left. A few people joined. However, by the end of 2012, a new strategy plan was developed that would put a focus on office expansion and would require more employees. From that point, SEEK has opened offices in San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia. In just 18 months, SEEK grew from 25 employees to about 60. Such rapid growth and physical expansion quickly exposed gaps in our ability to internally explain what made SEEK unique, what programs we offered to our clients, and how to gain the skills necessary to execute within our brand.

SEEK’s leadership team was quick to see the issue, and in mid 2013, they began looking for someone to create an official training program. Around that same timing, I decided that I would begin working to complete my master’s degree in Creative Studies from Buffalo State University. Additionally, I was presented with an opportunity to partner with Design Impact in Cincinnati, OH and the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensborro, NC on a 6 month long training program in Mumbai, India called Global Citizen Leaders (GCL).

This perfect storm of events landed me in a new Training Manager position at SEEK for about 60 staff and co-leader of a Design Thinking training program for 50 faculty and 250 MBS students at the WE School and iFEEL University near Mumbai, India. I used this title wave of new experience and growth to propel me forward into my Master’s Project.

While this blog is not a great place to share all my key learnings (that’s what the Master’s Paper is for), I would like to share a little bit of what you will get from reading my full project using a series of videos, pictures, screenshots, and downloadable materials.

I will show you how to apply things I learned from experiences like these:

(Session 1 at the WE School)

(Session 2 at iFEEL)

and the creation of material like these:

(One page follow-up activities related to Creative Problem Solving, Empathy, Presentation Tips, Prototyping, and Visualization Techniques)

into a series of training principles,


team-based activities like Frenzy and Faceoff,


conference room practice activities like this,

AND the testing of online training like this.

Check out my Master's Project to dig in further. Specifically you will find a summary of resources, project outcomes, key findings, and next steps related to my four focus areas of:

1) Create Training Principles
2) Design Individual And Team Training Frameworks
3) Identify Or Create Physical Materials For Training
4) Prototype An Online Training Methodology

About Geoff Zoeckler

The social entrepreneur meets engineer, I am loving life focusing on the front-end innovation. I spend my days leveraging 10 creativity principles derived from psychology/ neuroscience to drive consumer empathy, personal brilliance, & landmark innovation with the SEEK Company.

Past adventures brought me through General Mills and Birds Eye Foods where I flexed my Chemical Engineer degree as a Senior Product Developer focusing on innovation pipelines. I get my kicks by solving problems and improving the culture of innovation within corporate walls. My unquenchable curiosity and zeal for life has led me to develop many personal and professional hobbies.

I'm currently pursuing a Masters in Creativity and Change Leadership (combination of in person and online work) up at Buffalo State.

I am also moonlighting as a Social Innovation Specialist with Design Impact co-leading an effort to coach, train, and facilitate leadership and creative problem solving approaches with 45 faculty and 250 masters students at the Wellinkar School of Management (WE School) in Mumbai and Lonavala India. Students will be using the skills taught to run industry and social innovation projects within their local communities. This project is in partnership with the world’s leading leadership and creativity training organization Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Got Conflict? Again?!? CPS it, and Consider it Done.

By Robert Frantz
International Center for Studies in Creativity

So, there it is -- that BandAid® stuck to your knee, or arm or hand from a few days ago. They weren't lying on the package when they advertised that it would stick on for days. Now, it's time to remove it. How are you going to do that? Slowly? No, of course not, you are going to rip it off as quickly as possible!

We have been taught since early childhood to get painful things over with as quickly as possible. In fact, people who intentionally extend painful experiences are diagnosable with a particular psychosis.

Did you know that for most people conflict is neuro-physiologically processed by the human brain similarly to pain processing? Conflict, just like physical pain, causes an "away-reflex," so we try to resolve conflict in a single step to "get it over with" as quickly as possible, usually in just a single intervention. When that doesn't work -- when conflict returns or continues anyway -- our emotional response is amplified, typically including frustration, anger, and withdrawal.

My master's project, enticingly entitled Toolset for Visual Creative Conflict Management, (OK, I'll need a good marketing name before going mainstream with this) aimed to provide a toolset that transitions a user's handling of conflict from pain-reflex to rational thinking. Central to the project was a charting tool that allowed the user to plot the initial positions of the partisans (collaborate, sue, fight, ignore, run away, etc.), and then to see a number of degrees of separation between their initial positions.
By quantifying the separation between their starting positions, the user can see that a single intervention is not likely going to work, leading the user to be able to plan a multi-step resolution. And, by using a Thinking Skills Model Creative Problem Solving (TSM-CPS) Tool Card, the user can find new "sparkly" ideas to move beyond steps when stuck, while avoiding re-trying things that won't work (again).

But wait, there's more if you order in the next 60 seconds! We'll throw in a set of Tool Cards, each of which helps the user gain insight into the situation, the partisans' motivations, and how to overcome biases and prejudices. For example, got a user who has strong biases? Use the DÄ…browski Theory of Positive Disintegration Tool Card to find a way to reframe the issues at hand. Or, having trouble coming up with a plan that all parties will agree to? Try the Maslow's Hierarchy Tool Card to understand if each partisan is more interested in a short term, mid-term, or long term plan. Having trouble getting the parties to move beyond the status quo? Consider using a personality type Tool Card such as a Keirsey Temperament, Enneatype, or MBTI analysis to see what may be holding each party in place. Think you have everyone in agreement just to discover there is someone else who has influence in the conflict? Use the Web of Parties Tool Card to fully explore the full range of first, second and third parties in the conflict, especially to identify the spoilers, and to find possible helpful outsiders to recruit to the effort.

What if your conflict is intractable? You know, the kind of conflict that goes on and on and on because the partisans absolutely refuse to change or accommodate each other? The new Toolset works even on intractable conflicts because CPS is best when used on really difficult problems which defy normal solution processes.

In fact, if you keep going over and over the same conflict solution ideas but nothing looks promising (e.g., problem fixation), and if everyone involved knows too much to be of any real help (e.g., excessive domain knowledge), CPS provides a way to break out of the paralysis analysis loop and to bring in fresh outside ideas.

Many creativity all-stars have written about using creativity to solve conflicts, including Howard Gardner, Dean Simonton, and Howard Gruber. Even Aristotle contributed to theories of persuasion, which comes in handy for getting people to agree to stuff. Ideas yielded by CPS often are new and ownership-free, so the conflicting parties may attach mutual ownership to the solution, and you'll get a natural level of support and desire to make the solutions work among all the parties. Mutually-acceptable conflict solutions need much less enforcement effort, such as police, courts, referees, etc., because all parties are willingly engaged to support and sustain them.

Using CPS, conflict resolution facilitators stay out of the actual argument and let the partisans generate their own new ideas. Even a novice or incidental conflict manager can confidently facilitate ideation and implementation among the parties in conflict without needing to be an expert in the issues and, more importantly, without having to take sides in the conflict! And, by being a third-sider who is uninvolved in the conflict, a CPS-empowered conflict manager gains the advantage of being perceived as neutral among the parties, a key element towards persuasiveness.

Persistent, everyday low-level conflict can be reduced using CPS. By handling smaller, everyday (little-c) conflicts early and consistently, perhaps some of the larger (Big-C) conflicts will never happen. To find out more about my project, please feel free to contact and you can access the paper here:

About the author: 

Robert Frantz is an electronic design engineer, patented inventor, registered patent agent, and a recent graduate of the program in creativity studies at Buffalo State (SUNY). His focus is on innovation, persuasion, and conflict transformation using creativity. He can be reached at and

photo attribution: Chris Morin, "hurt teddy," December 8, 2009, from, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license at

Monday, May 12, 2014

What's Stopping You?

By Bethany Dunfee Pierce
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity

Each of us has a creative potential we were created to fulfill. Do you know what yours is? Do you know how to get there? Have you found your path? Are you on your journey toward greater personal and inspired fulfillment now?

One of my greatest quests in life is to help people explore, discover and reach their own creative potential. It does not matter what subject or category this creative potential is labeled under whether it be a painter, sculptor, athlete, actor, musician, engineer, chef, communicator, dancer, mathematician, economist, educator, politician, scientist, or scholar of human nature. Each of us has the capacity to shine in some area or another. Yet, sometimes there are things in our worlds that cause us pause and make us unable to release the light that is inside us. Sometimes those hindrances can grow to cause that pause to become an outright, all-encompassing halt. Sometimes those things are external, sometimes internal. Whichever, they are very real and oftentimes limit us from experiencing the incredible joy, happiness and abundance that is possible in a life lived in realization of actualizing our purpose.

My Master’s project looks at some of those blocks on a very personal level. In order to support others I found I needed to first put myself back on track to fulfilling my own creative potential. To do this, after many years of being an art teacher I embarked on the journey of becoming a practicing artist by doing this project, specifically focusing on using painting and drawing for emotional healing. By further developing my painting and drawing skills and specific affective skills related to creativity such as mindfulness and being aware of emotions, I was able to explore how the creative process of art making combined with Creative Problem Solving can bring about emotional healing. The empowering nature of exploring and using the creative process also brings about a confidence that further enables us to risk living the life we are meant to live. I was able to experience this confidence, apply it to my own life and to share the process with others.

My outcomes for this project are varied. I discovered that my personal creative process often begins with writing. Organizing my thoughts and emotions on the page, finding words to label them and categorize them are processes that I associate with operational functions of the left hemisphere of the brain. Traditionally the right side of the brain is associated with more creative endeavors, so using more analytical functions in my creative process was an unanticipated discovery. To honor this, I used a journal/sketchbook to monitor my progress and created an online blog to share my progress with others. Additional outcomes of this project include a small series of acrylic paintings, which chronicle my use of a simple mantra to get over a significant creative block.

Some of my key learnings reinforce what has been taught through the literature and current trends on creativity. For instance, I mindfully became aware how even the idea that someone might be judging my work could stop the flow of creativity completely within me. Removing judgment, both one’s own and other people, can allow the fledgling sparks of ideas to catch hold and ignite a greater fire of creative currents. In my project I describe how I was able to do this.

I studied the work of Shaun McNiff (1998 and 2004), Dr. Brene Brown (2010) and others and directly applied and experienced the transformative power art making has on the human psyche. Through strong, constant mindful practice and mindful behavior I was able to honor and acknowledge the emotions I was feeling around events that happened in my daily life throughout the course of approximately five months. Creating artwork in response to those emotions enabled those emotions to be released from me whereupon true honest healing could and did take place. Some of these experiences and the artwork that resulted are described in my paper.

Using Creative Problem Solving during my creative process of art making I discovered parallels among the stages of CPS and the art making process. I realized that many of the artworks I created were made out of employing many of the affective skills of the CPS process. In turn, my CPS process skills were developed more clearly and comprehensively. Still, greater discoveries, which may warrant more study, include the fact that the varied purposes of making art can be tapped to achieve greater clarity to solve open ended problems harkening toward recognizing, visualizing and reflecting upon immediately experienced emotional states.

This project chronicles a very personal journey. But it is from the experience of that journey that perhaps others can gain inspiration or guidance or even just reassurance that it is possible to risk walking the path of creative fulfillment. I invite you to dream, to seek, to explore, to creatively solve whatever barrier or problem is in your way of living that life you imagine. Your path awaits. Start…. Now.

To view works for this project on Bethany's blog please visit:

To read Bethany's full Master’s Project you can download it from Digital Commons at:

Bethany's website:


Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, Minn: Hazelden.
McNiff, S. (1998). Trust the process: An artist's guide to letting go. Boston: Shambhala.
McNiff, S. (2004). Art heals: How creativity cures the soul. Boston: Shambhala.