Now that the Second Edition of the Breakthrough Creativity Profile Participant and Facilitator Guides have been published, it’s time to talk about applying the Eight Creative Talents to the challenges that leaders face. Continue reading

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Ten Levers for Organizational Success

If you try to stay current with reading business and management publications, you might be like me – a bit confused.  What does it really take to build a great, sustainable organization?  Too many writers and consultants promote different, sometimes conflicting, answers to the challenges leaders face.  Is it all about finding the right strategy?  The right leadership?  Knowing how to execute? Be an innovative/operationally excellent/customer focused organization?  Or the latest “solution” in the news: metrics and accountability?

As a researcher and proponent of the power of creativity and innovation and the importance of leadership, I am guilty as well.  After all Continue reading

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Equal Opportunity Creativity!


When my book Breakthrough Creativity was published in 2001, I received many (mostly positive) reviews. One review in particular, however, made me stop and ponder whether my message about creativity was clear. This reviewer, writing in 2003, asked “are some types [talents] more creative than others?” Continue reading

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North Bank Bridge and the Creativity Phenomenon

From the creativity and knowledge of individuals, using an incredibly creative and collaborative process come spaces for creativity to further take root.

Just recently an extraordinary footbridge was opened that links two historic neighborhoods and two lovely parks.  The North Bank Bridge is a remarkable engineering feat that opened up access to public spaces and reconnected parts of cities that had previously been divided by elevated roads.  And the parks provide a needed respite from the hub-bub of the cities that surround them (Boston and Cambridge)

Over the past several weeks since the bridge opened, I have walked the bridge and the parks several times.  Each time deepens my appreciation for what I’ll call the creativity phenomenon:  the set of activities ranging from input, through processes, to output, that describes what individuals address when they exercise their creativity. Continue reading

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Creativity Lessons from a 30-year old TV

I spent the last several weeks trying to deal with what seemed to be thorny technology issues – at least to me since I am somewhat of a luddite (technology is not my first love nor do I seem to be very adept at dealing with it!).  These challenges have been frustrating and time draining and lots of other bad things….

After over a month of conversations with folks at Comcast, Best Buy, and Toshiba and many website searches, the problems have finally been resolved.   However, in the process, I have learned (or is it relearned?) several important lessons on creativity so I guess it wasn’t a totally wasted month! Continue reading

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It happened again – right in the middle of my yoga class last Saturday. Our yoga instructor was trying to make us feel good about the balancing posture we were trying to assume by explaining that each side of the body has a different level of flexibility and stability. And then he said, “It’s just like the two sides of your brain.  One’s creative and one’s analytical!”  I almost fell out of my tree pose! Continue reading

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You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks, capping several busy months of an intense writing project with 94-year-old David T. Barry (not to be confused with the comedian who is 30 years younger!)

Dave’s book You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play has finally been published. In a series of stories and what he calls “cases,” Dave gives powerful messages about life as well as intriguing historical insights across almost a century of time. The stories about his life provide anecdotal glimpses into the history of the U.S. from Dave’s birth in 1917 through to today: growing up during the Depression, serving in World War II, working in business, venturing into entrepreneurship, and settling the family into the suburbs that were just beginning to sprout up all over the United States.

And his cases are full of words of advice on how to live a full, prosperous and meaningful life from  caring for and inspiring others, to managing life’s ups and downs, to staying curious and adventurous, whether it’s hitchhiking across the US in 1938 or finding a second love in your 80’s.

Our work together has greatly strengthened my appreciation for Dave, his family, his generation, and the span of history in which he lived and worked, from World War I to the present. This work has also deepened my understanding of the importance of relationships, both personal and professional, of family, of fun, and of finding the joy in life’s journey. I’ve even learned techniques for greater creativity. But I don’t want to spoil the stories for you, and I urge you to read the book which is currently available at or at .

I do want to tell you about how we came up with the title, “You can’t win if you don’t play.”  Dave first heard that adage when he arrived on board the USS Flaherty in early 1945, and it has stayed a fundamental principle in his life ever since. Of course, he did manage to add his own twist.

When Dave says, “You can’t win, if you don’t play,” financial gain is not the only thing that drives him although he certainly managed to live a comfortable life. He built a successful business and is well known in a variety of industries. He has published and has seen much of the world. Against many standards, he has “won.”

But, what Dave sees as “winning” involves making and keeping friends and strong relationships and being in a position to give, inspire, and challenge himself and others to reach as high as possible. And “playing,” for Dave, consists of laughing, having fun, finding joy in life, and causing others to smile with harmless pranks, clever repartee, or just a Dave Barry smile. It also includes playing with new ideas, taking risks, enjoying new adventures, experimenting, and learning from mistakes.

And those creative experiments led to entrepreneurial success. Dave started a business in 1961 that in 2012 is still going strong and still adding value to small businesses. His unusual insights about the market and demographic trends contributed to the growth of his business. His ability to synthesize ideas across many disciplines also helped. His capacity to find adjacencies to extend what worked before is a valuable lesson in entrepreneurship.

My experience working with Dave to assemble these stories has had quite an impact on me. I have learned a great deal from Dave—about running a consulting business, about life, and perhaps even about how to age. And it’s deepened my appreciation for Dave’s generation, what Tom Brokaw calls “the Greatest Generation.” It also heightened my understanding of how many lessons about life and leadership we can learn from men and women who don’t get lots of media attention!

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The Brain, Stress and Creativity

One area of particular interest in my brain research is around stress: where it comes from, its impact on creativity in leaders, and most importantly, how to manage it!

From what I have learned so far, the amygdala, a tiny, almond-shaped part of the brain is a major culprit. Its regulatory functions have much to do with our emotions.  It’s been called the investigator into the ambiguous. “If something is different or seems amiss, the amygdala fires to find out what’s happened.” When the amygdala is activated, either by fear, ambiguous situations, or potential danger, it can hijack our judgment and creative functioning. Continue reading

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Personality Styles and Collaboration

We’ve been hearing a lot about collaboration lately.  As I read the articles, I am starting to wonder if personality preferences/cognitive styles might play a role in explaining different approaches to collaboration.  Whether you use the MBTI, the Creative Talents, the Five Factor Model, or some other assessment of cognitive preferences, do you see patterns in the way individuals approach collaboration? Continue reading

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Creative Leader – Role Model

I am a proud member of a glorious mainline, progressive church in Boston.  Old South Church ( is one of Boston’s oldest churches.  It was started in 1669 by separatist and dissenting Pilgrims, Puritan reformers, and Bay Colony merchant adventurers.  Its second home served as the site where Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty plotted the real Boston Tea Party in 1773.  It was the home church of Benjamin Franklin and Mother Goose, among others.  In 1875 the congregation moved to its present site on Boylston Street, where the Boston Marathon finishes, in a grand Italian Gothic building that is truly a sanctuary in the city.

One of the key reasons why I love my church is its Senior Minister and CEO, who is both a terrific preacher and a truly great leader. She provides an incredible lesson in creative leadership, in her recent handling of what could have been a major disaster for Old South. Continue reading

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