Monday, December 29, 2014

The Book of Life: Guided Exercises in Designing Your Big, Bold, Beautiful Life

By: Murray Altman-Kaough
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity
Buffalo State College

The Book of Life: Guided exercises in designing your big, bold, beautiful life is a compact CPS curriculum in narrative form.  I created the Book of Life as my Creative Studies Master’s project, and as a curriculum for use in my coaching and training.  Designed to lead participants in conceptualizing their lives in a storybook format, the curriculum provides CPS training and invites students to reimagine their creative lives.  Self-discovery is accomplished in a relaxed and playful way, in both written and illustrated form, as creators are guided in exploring collage, doodling, mandala coloring, poetry and storytelling as they work through the Book of Life.  As a visual artist I firmly believe in the power of the arts in stimulating the imagination and in accessing intuitive knowledge beyond the reach of the rational mind.  Not only are hands’ on projects effective in accessing wisdom beyond the rational mind, they are simply fun! 

The purpose of the Book of Life is first, to help participants conceive of themselves as authors and full owners of their life narratives.  Second, to support learners in their own possibility thinking beyond culturally defined limits.  Shared conceptions about what is possible - or even suitable - at various life stages may inhibit the development of radical life goals, especially for people at or beyond midlife. And third, the Book of Life is intended to provide a basic foundation in creativity skills training.   Participants are supported in constructing new timelines capable of inspiring divergent thinking and ultimately, in more fully developing their creative potential.  In thinking of their lives as a story composed of individual chapters, students are freed to select new themes or change story lines that don’t support them in living the most vibrant and productive lives possible.

While the content is definitely applicable to all age groups, I developed the project primarily for use with historically underserved populations such as women and adults mid-life and older.  I had observed during my time in the Creative Studies program that, while a prodigious amount of creativity research investigates and supports creativity in children and young adults, very little specifically targets training and skill development in mature adults.  Despite relatively recent improvements in the recognition of women as full equals in creative potential, a gap unfortunately remains between men and women in terms of ‘Big C’ creative output across disciplines.  Exceptions still prove the rule.  For example: first woman Supreme Court justice, first woman astronaut, first woman racecar driver, first U.S. woman poet laureate, woman president of the U.S. - oh wait, never mind.

Here in the West we tend to view the arc of the human lifespan as unidirectional; flowering early and dwindling fast, and ending in an utterly predictable and ignoble end.  Were you to examine the common timeline of the average human, you would find that the vast majority of positive milestone events are clustered in the first thirty or so years.  For example, learning to drive, heading off to college, entering the work force, marriage, home ownership and childrearing are generally accepted as positive events and necessary markers toward attaining adulthood. 

But what comes after that?  What are our assumptions beyond midlife?  The mile markers grow fewer and far less positive - we typically don’t anticipate much beyond retirement, old age and the attendant declines in health and productivity.  Not unlike humanity’s former shared belief in a flat earth, we seem to think of the human lifecycle in static terms.  Youth is effectively regarded as a time of high divergence, while maturity converges rapidly on an increasingly narrow perspective.  Even the words we use to describe maturity are underwhelming and undermining, and rebranding is clearly needed.   If our assumptions about creative output beyond midlife aren’t a textbook example of premature closure, I don’t know what is!

While our lifespans have continued to increase, for the most part, we haven’t revised our expectations of productivity and creativity across the decades of life.  We’re clearly living longer, but have not adjusted our expectations accordingly.  We expect older people to dwindle and diminish in creative capacity and output, and so they do. This strikes me as a preventable human tragedy. 

And so the Book of Life concept evolved as a curriculum for use in small group training sessions in CPS concepts.  But even more importantly, it is also intended to motivate and inspire students in questioning their own assumptions about their creative potential, and in encouraging them in radical goal setting beyond the first third of life.  We now know that creativity is highly correlated with learning and curiosity.  We also know that environments can stimulate or inhibit creativity.  The Book of Life is intended to help participants avoid premature closure, question assumptions and experiment artistically in imaging fuller and more creative lives.

Read the entire Master’s project paper in the ICSC Digital Commons

Murray Altman-Kaough (Max) is a success coach and motivational trainer with twenty years' experience in higher education.  She earned a Master of Science from the International Creative Studies program in 2014.  She leads transformational adventure excursions to deserts of the western U.S., in which she combines her passion for inspiring others with her love of the arts and the wonders of the outdoors. Murray is an accomplished painter, budding author and energetic motivational speaker and creative collaborator.  She believes that we are called to follow our hearts in living creatively, and that in pursuing our passions we can best help heal the world.  Her mission is helping inspire others to be powerful creators, living to their utmost and  engaging in deeply meaningful work.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Knowledge Leadership in Innovation and Creativity Conference

By: Rumman Ahmad
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity
Buffalo State College

“If you're working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

This quote by Steve Jobs rings very true for my Masters Project. A few weeks into my studies at the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC), I had this dream of organising a conference in my country, with the objective of introducing the subject of creativity to a corporate audience. It would have international speakers, preferably professors or graduates of my program, and consist of presentations and workshops on the subject. Prima facie it doesn’t seem like much of a vision, except that my country is Pakistan. Not exactly the most favoured destination for international speakers! Yet the vision pulled me and I lived with it all through my graduate program, silently devising plans to make my dream a reality.

Two years later in November 2014, it happened. Seven graduates (two joined in by video) from ICSC came down to Karachi and delivered a conference that has been hailed as a pioneering effort, and compared to a TED event in terms of look and feel. 180 people, mostly top managers and CEO’s from over 50 Pakistani corporates attended a six hour plenary session followed next day by ten workshops. And a few weeks later three companies have contacted me, asking for proposals for interventions to build creativity into their organisations.

Along the way I ran the gauntlet of the affective skills required for being creative - tolerating ambiguity, accepting complexity, and embracing novelty. From my original list of presenters three dropped out early, and from the substitutes one dropped out within days of confirming, one at the last minute, and one could not get a visa. Every day was a new day with new challenges to overcome.

After over four months of planning and sales calls, with just three days to go, only ninety people had registered to attend. But the vision stayed firm. I was willing to present a world class conference to an audience of one, if that was what it took to convert him into a believer of creativity. Surprisingly, ninety more turned up in the final three days.

The story of my conference, Knowledge Leadership in Innovation and Creativity (KLIC), is also the story of a journey in creative leadership, of discovering a potential for change, for pushing boundaries and achieving excellence, and for growing and learning. KLIC was two years of my graduate education condensed into four months of intensive experiential learning. The foremost thing I learnt from organising this conference was that the creative process really works. Starting with clarifying an objective, to brainstorming a name, to developing an action plan, and finally to implementing it - everything that I did used the tools and processes of creative thinking. And the results vindicated their worth admirably. A smoothly organised conference with little or no stress, for which I must also credit a wonderful team of people who rallied around my vision.

Which is not to say that it was perfect. The were some key learnings, one of which was that due to requirements of visas and clearances the speaker list must be finalised a lot earlier preferably with backup candidates. Hence, a list for KLIC 2015 has been prepared and they are being approached starting now. The other key learning was about content. The most common comment that came from the audience was about the lack of local content at KLIC - in the shape of examples, success stories and experiences. With the track record already created by KLIC 2014 it should not be very difficult to incorporate this type of content in future editions. I would also create and communicate a catchy theme for the conference that reflects its objective. There were other learnings too such as those from technology failures and technical glitches and positive ones about how one can swim against the current and yet succeed.

But in the end, KLIC was about making a difference. And it has - to all the people around me, and to some of those who attended. And I hope that gradually - with a few more editions of the conference under our belt - to the people of Pakistan.

As Mother Teresa said, "If I look at the mass, I will never act, if I look at the one, I will.” I have experienced the change creativity can make to the individual, and KLIC is my vehicle to effect change in my country.

Welcome to vision 2.0!

Conference website: 

View the full Master's Project Paper here.

Rumman Ahmad is an MBA from Karachi and manages a luxury product import and distribution business in Pakistan. He moonlights as a student of creativity at ICSC, Buffalo, New York, focussing on organisational creativity and innovation and helping top management find their creative strengths. One day he will write an airport novel!
He is also living proof that creativity and creative thinking can change lives. In a span of two years he has worked with corporate clients and helped them (at least some of them) change the way they think and lead. Along the way he changed his own life and, on the cusp of turning 50, has managed a late-in-life addition to his career and skills.
Using Rumman for a training, facilitation or problem solving session can change the way you look at issues and problems, make you a better leader, a better follower, and a better person. Guaranteed! Go to his website

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Creativity & Spirituality

By: Rebecca DiLiberto
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity
Buffalo State College

Although current research recognizes the existence of multiple types of intelligence (Gardner, 1993/2006), traditionally, cognitive intelligence has been the most valued in western culture. The values embodied by western culture and recent advancements in technology, offering access to information only a keystroke away, may be reasons both the value and capacity of cognitive intelligence continues to reign supreme. There is an imbalance of the types of intelligences in our culture. The quantifiable, concrete and fact driven types of intelligence remain primary while less tangible types of intelligence, such as Spiritual Intelligence (SI), have gone neglected. This mentality, compounded by our pursuit of individual rights and our quest to be the best, has narrowed our perspective on what it means to live a creative life and left us yearning for a sense of purpose. It is no wonder that despite easier and faster access to information, our culture increasingly yearns for a deeper sense of meaning and connection to the world. This cultural intensification of yearning for meaning suggests there is a lack of spirituality. “Spirituality is becoming an important part of life, not only for educators, psychologists, philosophers and scientists, but for countless individuals who want to search for meaning in their lives” (Sisk & Torrance, 2001, p. xi). People in all walks of life appear not only to desire and appreciate a higher level of spirituality, but are eager to learn about how to develop their creativity, enhance their sense of purpose, and connection to the world.           

Sisk and Torrance’s book entitled Spiritual Intelligence: Developing Higher Consciousness, drew upon a variety of topics extending from the foundations of psychology and science to Eastern Mysticism and paths of SI. Sisk and Torrance (2001) identified SI as:

A deep self-awareness in which one becomes more and more aware of the dimensions of self, not simply as a body, but as a mind-body and spirit. When we employ our spiritual intelligence, we reach the extraordinary place in which our mind no longer produces data of the type wanted or needed and the need for intuition becomes accelerated. (p. 8)

Sisk and Torrance highlighted four areas that resonate with the authentic meaning and concept of SI; Inner Knowing, Deep Intuition, Oneness with Nature and the Universe, and Problem Solving. Below is a brief explanation of the four focal areas and approaches that can be investigated further to cultivate SI and creative growth within each.

  • Inner Knowing. “Inner knowing is to know the essence of consciousness and to realize that this inner essence is the essence of all creation” (Sisk & Torrance, 2001, p. 11). Inner Knowing builds our innate capacities of consciousness that are prevalent in creative thinking skills, imagination, intuition, incubation, and dreaming. A parallel between developing Inner Knowing and techniques to enhance deliberate intuition can be found with the intention of unlocking different levels of consciousness. Another important skill to SI, intuition, and Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is the presence of mindfulness. Using mindfulness in CPS allows for a greater self-awareness of physical, emotional, and mental intuition, present in the affective skills, and unites them with the cognitive skills.
  • Deep Intuition. SI assists in overlooking the egotistical self to employ our deep intuition in developing solutions for the greater good (Sisk & Torrance, 2001). Our rational mind can hinder the ability to access higher states of consciousness that transcend true awakening and connections to the Universal mind. To nurture Deep Intuition it is essential to remove the clutter from all levels of consciousness. The benefits of meditation have been significant and are commonly associated with creative and spiritual growth. There are a variety of methods and “in every technique of meditation, the process takes you out of the conditioned mind and opens up access to the nonconditioned mind” (Chopra & Simon, 2004, p. 79). Learning to silence the mind allows for Deep Intuition to connect to an unlimited source of creative power that is guided by the universal greater good.
  • Oneness with Nature and the Universe. SI harmonizes with nature and the world around us to find a purpose in life that is intrinsically motivating (Sisk & Torrance, 2001). To approach life in a creative way, one must seek experiences of spiritual growth. A key component for finding opportunities for growth is inspiration. Inspiration successfully blends SI and creativity with the intention of fostering fulfillment through intrinsic motivation. Applications of self-awareness are just as important as the connectedness with the world around you. Harmonizing your internal journey with your external life will aid in promoting positive change while leading yourself and others in achieving their personal best.
  • Problem Solving. SI guides our life’s purpose and meaning throughout the entire problem solving process (Sisk & Torrance, 2001). Creative spiritual leaders such as, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa, understood creativity was an essential part in finding solutions to problems of meaning and value. Creative spiritual leaders exemplify certain essential qualities and skills. In the course of my research, there was one defining quality that stood above the rest; love with intention. Torrance (1995) said, “one of the most powerful wellsprings of creative energy, outstanding accomplishment, and self fulfillment seems to be falling in love with something – your dream, your image of the future” (p. 131). Love nurtures creativity within oneself and others. Our intention allows love and creativity to flourish and extend our meaning and purpose towards a greater good. What’s more, love with intention is a prevalent factor in SI, creativity, and leadership, as well as a quality that will prepare individuals to contribute to world of creativity.
SI is a multisensory ability to maintain one's sense of purpose or inner and outer peace across different contexts and situations (Sisk & Torrance, 2001; Wigglesworth, 2012). The interdependence between SI and creativity share common characteristics. Inner Knowing, Deep Intuition, Oneness with Nature and the Universe, and Problem Solving are representative of SI and concepts that are advantageous to creativity. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that developing one's creativity is quite relevant to developing SI.

Read the entire Master’s project paper in the ICSC Digital Commons

Chopra, D., & Simon, D. (2004). The seven spiritual laws of yoga: A practical guide to healing body, mind, and spirit. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences: New horizons (Rev. ed.). Basic Books.
Sisk, D., & Torrance, E. P. (2001). Spiritual intelligence: Developing higher consciousness. Buffalo, New York: Creative Education Press.
Torrance, E. P. (1995). Why fly?. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Wigglesworth, C. (2012). SQ 21: The twenty-one skills of spiritual intelligence. New York, NY: SelectBooks

Rebecca DiLiberto holds a Bachelors of Art degree in Art, specializing in design, with a Minor in Computer Applications from SUNY Cortland. She currently is pursuing a Master of Science in Creativity from the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at Buffalo State. While exploring her creative potential she has become intrigued on how to promote positive change while leading others in achieving their personal best. Rebecca’s vision is to blend her career experience and passion for creativity to nurture, develop, and support creative behavior, innovation, and leadership.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

TIMizing Springboard: Teaching Creativity to Adults Creatively Using the Torrance Incubation Model

By: Kristen Peterson
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity
Buffalo State College

This Master’s project describes the ways in which the Torrance Incubation Model (TIM) was used to enhance the Springboard into Creative Problem Solving (CPS) course. Springboard is the introductory course that has been taught at the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) for over sixty years.  The finished project includes development of a turnkey Springboard program that includes instructional design, course materials, and a communication campaign that overlays the Torrance Incubation Model (TIM) on how the Springboard program was taught and delivered at the CPSI 2014 Conference.

TIM was used to enhance the experiential nature of the Springboard course. The Heightening the Anticipation stage was to help participants come ready, prepared and motivated to learn. The Deepening Expectations stage was to deliver a more deliberate participatory immersion into the exploration of CPS. The Extending the Learning stage was to motivate participants to keep on learning both during and after the Springboard program (Keller-Mathers & Murdock, 2002).

Current teaching at CPSI is based on and has evolved from the teaching philosophies of our founders and historical pioneers Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes. Osborn founded theCreative Education Foundation (CEF) in 1954 and launched the CreativeProblem Solving Institute (CPSI). Parnes joined him the next year and became a guiding force for both CEF and CPSI. Parnes was named director of the CPSI in 1956. With Ruth Noller, he also established what is now called the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State paving the way for its Master’s Degree Program in Creative Studies and this Master’s project. After Osborn died in 1966, Parnes published the Creative Behavior Guidebook (Parnes, 1967a) and the Creative Behavior Workbook (Parnes, 1967b). These works encapsulated the many years of learning by Osborn, Parnes, and their many associates.

In parallel, one of their colleagues, E. Paul Torrance, a prolific creativity researcher and author, conceived what has become known as the Torrance Incubation Model (TIM) (Torrance, 1979). Torrance’s Model served as a guideline to develop instructional materials and learning activities for teachers that would facilitate creative thinking before, during, and after a lesson (Torrance, 1979).  

The introductory course at CPSI—Springboard—as it was named in 1979, evolved over time. From the 1980’s until 2005, there was no established instructional design. Rather, leaders assigned to teach the course were matched up into teaching teams when they arrived at CPSI. These leaders then spent the next few days developing their course design. The participant experience during these years varied depending on the knowledge, skill and dynamics of the leader teams. Since 2005, efforts have been made to ensure greater consistency in the creativity content taught and how the learning experience is delivered. This project will take it to the next level.

My personal motivation and passion for this project stemmed from my experience as a Springboard participant in June 2000. My aunt, a long-time CPSI leader, persuaded me to attend. Quite bluntly, my Springboard experience was a train wreck. I was in a class being taught by four first-time leaders as part of an experimental program called SpringLab. I can still vividly recall our first CPS process run-through using the challenge “How might I enter my fat dachshund in the dog Olympics.” Somehow despite this disappointing course, I connected to the broader CPSI experience, and my desire to learn more was kindled. I continued to take courses at CPSI at both the winter and summer conferences and upon completing the required courses was invited to be a Springboard leader in 2004. Though I’d completed all of the required courses, I really didn’t begin to know how to teach CPS to others. Fortunately, I was teamed with two exceptional, experienced leaders who trained me on the job.

Never forgetting my own train wreck experience, I’ve made it my personal mission to ensure greater quality in how and what we teach. However, what was still missing from my Springboard teaching experience was the ability to make the learning stick. 

In May 2013, an envelope arrived at my home with an assortment of brightly colored 5 x 7 sheets of paper with timelines. This was part of a Heighten Anticipation activity for the upcoming course in 560 Foundations of Creative Learning, a graduate course at the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC). This was the start of my introduction to E. Paul Torrance and the Torrance Incubation Model of teaching creativity. Like many graduate students before me, I quickly fell in love with Torrance and TIM. This course was a transformational experience for me in how to teach creatively. I immediately started to think about ways to apply this new learning to how we teach at CPSI.

Application of the Torrance Incubation Model overlay was a solid first-year effort, and it created a foundation for further enhancement in how we teach creativity more creatively in the Springboard program and across all CPSI programs.  

In his Creative Manifesto, Torrance (1983) advised on the importance of falling in love with something. Perhaps the greatest joy of this project has been the opportunity to immerse myself and fall in love with the writings and teachings of Parnes and Torrance.  

To extend your learning, read the entire Master’s project paper in Digital Commons at

Keller-Mathers, S. & Murdock, M. C. (2002, Fall). Teaching the content of creativity using the Torrance Incubation Model: Eyes wide open to the possibilities of learning. National Association of Gifted Children’s Celebrate Creativity, 12(2), 7-9.
Parnes, S. (1967a). Creative behavior guidebook. New York, NY: Scribner.
Parnes, S. (1967b). Creative behavior workbook. New York, NY: Scribner.
Torrance, E. P. (1979). An instructional model for enhancing incubation. Journal of Creative Behavior, 13 (1), 23-35.
Torrance, E.P. (1983). The importance of falling in love with “something”. Creative Child and Adult Quarterly. 8(2), 72-78.  

Kristen Peterson is a creativity and innovation facilitator, trainer, coach and catalyst. She is a founding partner of kpCatalyst, on the Board of Directors of Facilitators Without Borders, a founder of Mindcamp, the Director of the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) and is currently studying toward a Master of Science in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State College. She can be reached at and