Creativity – current work

A website base for documenting and representing my current work in the areas of creativity and problem solving:

Courses I teach

Course Description Most recent
Systems and Change “Systems thinking”: theories and practices of system change.

Origins of stability and inertia in systems; complexity and self-organizing behavior. Unsuccessful change efforts, limitations of conventional problem-solving methods such as control and optimization.

The significance of “participation”; leadership and facilitation in the adaptive change process.
Interdisciplinary Problem Solving An introduction to TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. Topics include psychological inertia, functional modeling, cause effect chains,technical and physical contradictions, ideality, substance field modeling, and trends of technological evolution.

Development of this course was made possible in part by a grant from the Institute for Advanced Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratories (IAS).
Practical Creativity Factors impacting creativity (discipline, time pressure, constraints), conceptions of creativity (play, inspiration, complex adaptive systems), and applications of creativity (problem solving, negotiation, art). 2016
Failure, Change, and Integrity Philosophical and practical approaches to personal and organizational failure.

An examination of the implications of uncertainty, loss, and change as they relate to goal setting and self-evaluation.
Creativity and Innovation A seminar integrating the "soft skills" of effective communication and teamwork with critical thinking, problem-solving, and design. 2007
Junior Design Laboratory A laboratory course for chemical engineers integrating the "soft skills" in effective communication and teamwork with critical thinking, problem-solving, and design. 2004
Creativity and Innovation in Engineering Design Elementary TRIZ (theTheory of Inventive Problem Solving) and a model of practical creativity. 2002
Critical Approaches to Engineering Practice Negotiation, leadership, and business principles examined in the context of engineering culture. 2001

Workshops and presentations

Title Description Most recent
Thoughtful Creativity: TRIZ-Based Problem Solving Tools for defining questions, communicating complex problems across disciplinary boundaries, and finding and applying others' successful solutions 2017
Improvising, a Life How an understanding of improvising, even a tentative or provisional understanding, contributes to an individual's personal, practical philosophy and experience of meaning in life 2014
Thinking, Modeling, Solving Investing time we don't think we can afford, exerting effort we don't think is necessary, and postponing doing what we think is the right thing to order to achieve our goal faster, with fewer missteps, and to a higher standard. 2013
What To Do When 'It' Isn't Working The limits of pushing harder, giving and receiving feedback, the Pareto Principle (80/20), and the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) 2010
Problem Solving with TRIZ Introduction to the TRIZ methodology: when creativity is warranted and when not, how to outperform brainstorming, moving past psychological limitations of individual and team-based problem solving 2007
Answer-resistant Problems Lecture-presentation illustrating a common structure of problems in the disciplines of negotiation, leadership, and design and deriving a model of practical creativity 2005
Practical Leadership Recognizing work avoidance in groups and mobilizing people to address problems 2003
Practical Leadership; Practical Creativity Half-day workshop covering "Practical Leadership" materials and incorporating segments on problem-solving (informed by TRIZ methods) and giving effective feedback 2003


Field or Discipline Relevant aspects, influences
Complexity theory Creativity and effective reasoning do not find a foothold when ideas and models are too stable or, on the other hand, chaotic. The boundary region between near-equilibrium systems and chaotic behavior is particularly fruitful, however. This region is the focus of complexity theory. See: Taylor's The Moment of Complexity.
Negotiation Avoidance of one-dimensional, 'compromise' solutions. Interests as a class comprising multiple, possible positions. See: Fisher and Ury's Getting to Yes.
Leadership Distinction between technical problems (exercises) and adaptive problems (problems). Error of applying expertise in situations where innovation or adaptation is required. Characteristics of work avoidance. See: Heifetz' Leadership Without Easy Answers.
Design TRIZ methodology, generating breakthrough solutions (both/and) instead of tradeoffs (either/or). See: Savransky's Engineering of Creativity. Rapid prototyping or "rapid failure". See: Peters' Circle of Innovation.
Facilitation Process expertise instead of, or in addition to, content expertise. Essential listening skills. Avoiding false consensus.
Conducting Distinction between imposing direction and facilitating. Negative effects of ego and insecurity. Need for both technique and aesthetics.
Feminism Inclusive nature of solutions. Challenge of transforming traditions, instead of merely extending them. Rejection of positivism for constructivism.
Education Epistemological modes of college students. Motion beyond presumed expertise to an expectation that knowledge is "true" only in a context. See: Baxter-Magolda's Knowing and Reasoning in College: Gender-related Patterns in Students' Intellectual Development.
Pedagogy College students' intolerance of ambiguity. When confronted with a challenge,many students either 1) presume to know exactly how to solve a problem (exercise), or 2) lack any sense of how to proceed.