About Keith Sawyer

Sawyer crop 2012The Creativity Guru is Dr. R. Keith Sawyer, the Morgan Distinguished Professor in Educational Innovations at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He is one of the world’s leading scientific experts on creativity. His 2017 book GROUP GENIUS  shows us how to be more creative in collaborative group settings, how to change our organizations for the better, and how to tap into our own reserves of creativity. His 2013 book ZIG ZAG  identifies the 8 stages of the creative process, and contains over 100 techniques to enhance your personal creativity. He is the author or editor of 17 books, including the comprehensive textbook overview of creativity research, Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation.

After receiving his computer science degree from MIT in 1982, Sawyer began his career with a two-year stint designing videogames for Atari. From 1984 to 1990, he worked as a management consultant on innovative technologies; clients included Citicorp, AT&T, and U.S. West. He has been a jazz pianist for over 30 years, and spent several years playing piano with Chicago improv theater groups. His research has been featured on on CNN, Fox News, TIME Magazine, and other media. A popular speaker, he lectures to corporations, associations, and universities around the world on creativity and innovation.

80 thoughts on “About Keith Sawyer

  1. Hello Dr. Sawyer:

    Congratulations on starting such an important blog on Creativity and Innovation. We both share the same passion on the impact of creativity and innovation all around us.

    Thank you for posting a link to my blog on your blog as well.

    As a way of introducing your blog and some of the work you do to my readers, I was thinking that we can perhaps co-author an article that will be appealing to our combined readership. Please let me know if you would be interested in this.

    Sincere regards,
    Sanjay Dalla

    If you always think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you always got. The same old, same old ideas over and over again. The future belongs to those thinkers who embrace change, break new ground, forge new paths, and transform the way they think. Discover how to look at the same information as everyone else and see something different by using the creative thinking techniques and strategies that creative geniuses have used throughout history.
    Internationally acclaimed creativity expert Michael Michalko’s Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques have inspired business thinkers around the world to create the innovative ideas and creative strategies they need to achieve unimaginable success in today’s changing business environment of complexity and uncertainty. Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

    [Available at http://www.amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and most major bookstores. Visit http://www.creativethinking.net for more detailed information.]

  3. Dr. Sawyer,

    With your focus on creativity, you might like to see a copy of Jack’s Notebook by Gregg Fraley. It’s a business novel about Creative Problem Solving.

    A little about the book and author: Jack’s Notebook depicts the story of down-and-out 20-something, Jack Huber, as he embarks on a journey of self-realization and life change. Jack’s mentor and guide on his internal expedition is Manny Gibran, a creativity consultant and expert in a process known as Creative Problem Solving. After a brief yet informative tutorial in the practices of CPS, Jack finds himself quitting his dead-end part time jobs, following his lifelong dream of opening up his own photography business, and, as an added yet unexpected bonus, falling in love. Jack even manages to solve a mystery and save his damsel in distress along the way.

    About the author: Gregg Fraley works as an innovation consultant to Fortune 500 companies and does keynote speeches and workshops on creative thinking, innovation, problem solving, and new-product development. He is a partner in The Innovise Guys, an innovation and entertainment podcast. Fraley is a board member of the Creative Education Foundation (CEF), and he teaches creative problem solving at CEF’s annual Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI). He is also a professional member of the National Speakers Association (USA). Learn more at http://www.greggfraley.com/.

    Warm regards,


  4. It’s terribly short notice but you might be interested in a conference I am helping to organize called Overlap08 (theoverlap.org) on June 13-15 in West Cornwall, Connecticut.
    It’s a peer-to-peer conference about the overlap of design (or creativity) business and sustainable innovation.
    It’s two hours from New York – so breasonable-almost-if you lived in New York.
    Last year’s Overlap site is a little more robust: http://theoverlap.org/2007/
    If you are flexible enough send an email to info address on theoverlap.org site (08) and I’ll get it. Thanks for your site!

  5. Dear Mr. Sawyer,
    As Capital Magazine, we are preparing a story about ‘how to create successful innovations ideas’.
    I though my subject would be interesting for you.
    Concerning our subject, I would like to ask you some questions.
    If you please answer them, we will be glad to quote.
    Our deadline is 18th of July.
    -How to create successful innovations ideas? What are the secrets of the creative thinking?
    -How can a employee find the best ideas of innovation for his company? Where he should pay attention for finding the good innovation ideas in a company?
    Thank you very much for your interest
    Looking forward to your answers
    Best Regards
    Elcin Cirik
    Capital Magazine
    0090 212 410 33 15

  6. Dear Mr. Sawyer,

    Last week,I got a big question! Why did my CEO give your book (Group Genius) for us. The question drive me for searching your informations about your books. Maybe if you check on a number of selling from Thailand, you will found that the big company bought a numerous of books. I am the one who work at this place, and received the book form my boss. (www.scg.co.th.)

    By the way, I’m glade to read your book!

    Sincerely yours,


  7. I am delighted to hear that your company is reading my new book. It is filled with advice and information that can make any organization more innovative, and it’s based on the latest research on group creativity.

    Many Asian countries are keenly interested in this topic; GROUP GENIUS has been translated into Chinese (both modern and traditional), Korean, and Japanese.

  8. Dear Dr. Sawyer,

    This is my first time to found your very useful blog. Because I will join trainning “Creativity and Innovation: Unleash Your Potential for Greater Success ” on 20Oct’08 support by my company. So try to find some information about this topic then I found your blog. I intend to read it (eventhough my English is not well (^__^) ). I would like to light up my creative thinking as much as I can… I am just staff in worldwide company but I love to learn. I intend to find your book GROUP GENIUS …soon.

    warmest regards,
    Kanokrat (Noy)

  9. Thank you so much for this posting. I wish you great success with your training (which has the same name as my blog!) GROUP GENIUS has been translated into several languages and is available worldwide in English. Let me know what you think!

  10. Keith,
    Last year, The Economist ran a 6-month innovation project: Project Red Stripe. We’re about to publish a book about it. Called Inside Project Red Stripe, it’s published conventionally (www.triarchypress.com) and, over the next few months, online (projectredstripe.blogspot.com). It’s an account of the six-month project and we think it’s a good guide to innovation and teamwork in business and the media. Each chapter identifies dilemmas that are likely to face any innovation team or project.

    I hope you’ll find time to have a look and that you’ll find it interesting.

    Kind regards,

    Andrew Carey

  11. Thank you for this information. I visited Triarchy Press’s web site and the book looks fascinating: the publisher writes that the book “suggests new ways of approaching thorny problems and provides a wry insight into the workings of homo creativus.” I look forward to reading it!

  12. Hi Keith

    I love your blog, it falls squarely into my interest and business area. I will definitely be looking for your book on my next visit to the bookshop.


    David Raath, Cape Town SA

  13. Dear Keith
    I wish I had discovered your blog earlier on.
    I definitely see stuff that I can refer to in your articles, and I will have a look at your latest book.
    I might drop a few comments here and there at my convenience and add a link in my blogroll to your blog.
    Yann Gourvennec
    Marketing & Innovation

      1. Hi Dr. Keith! My name is Michaellandi, I’m from Singapore and I’m currently pursuing my final year of Bachelor Degree in Design Communication in LASALLE College of The Arts, Singapore. First of all, thank you for publications, I’m reading your Group Genius at the moment, and it is really interesting and insightful as well! Let me introduce a bit of myself. I’m a visual learner, it has been the longest time that I found I learnt the best through visual, hence I’m pursuing Design Communication, and I always want to be a really great visual communicator. Along the way of “chasing my dreams”, I found one crucial thing that I can’t be separated from, even now when I’m studying or later when I’m ready to work for the industry, it is: COLLABORATION. Yes, my school always encourages us to work inter-disciplinarily and to be open to see problems from multiple perspective. Even more, collaboration is one of the 4 institution’s values. So it has been engraved in the culture of the institution. However, I realized that the practices is not well conducted, as I heard from my classmates or from the word of mouth that sometimes our group project is a burden, there is one case where one student never do work on time and the rest are impacted and the group just lost its motivation to keep going. Thus, as I understand that today’s world is complex and collaboration is inevitable for designer, I wanted to make collaborative projects better and way more effective and I will start from my school. Furthermore, then I found you book that discuss 10 conditions for group flow, once I came across this section, I knew that “hey, this is what I’ve been looking for”. I love how you compared the 10 conditions with pick-up basketball, which makes it easy to digest and what makes me wanted to explore about this even more is that I’ve been experienced all the 10 conditions in my group projects. However, I want to know about this even more, I thought that there’s something more that I have to dig up. Thus, by this message I want to sincerely ask whether you are willing to share some thoughts and insights about your 10 conditions for group flow? Thanks a lot! Hope to hear from you soon! Really appreciate your time to read this!

      2. Thank you for your kind comments! I don’t have anything to add to my book GROUP GENIUS, except that you might also want to read what I say about group flow in my 2003 book GROUP CREATIVITY. In this earlier book, I called it “collective flow”

  14. Hi Keith,
    I just saw your blog and found out very interesting posts. I’m looking forward to read it in future and I will link it in my blogroll because I’m writing about similar topics in my blog.

    Tomislav Buljubasic, Osijek, Croatia

  15. Hi Keith

    Any reason why you don’t have a twitter? I would much rather get tweets about your new stuff and blogs than eg Florida’s.

    I have just used the following quote from you:

    “…many creative collaborations are almost invisible – and it’s these largely unseen and undocumented collaborations that hold the key to group genius.”

    as a reason why twitter and equivalent sharing technologies are great for supporting innovation…

    PS glad to help if you want help with it, although I doubt it’s needed

  16. Dear Dr. Sawyer, I found your blog very interesting. You migt be interested in reading our online magazine at http://www.InnovationManagement.se, sharing knowledge and inspiration within the field of innovation management. How to work with your creative processes is for ex one important part of innovation management. Welcome to visit us and we are always interested in voices from our readers on interesting topics to cover.

    Kind regads
    Karin Wall, editor in chief

  17. On Innovation in Business (Peter Drucker)

    Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.
    Peter Drucker

    Comments ?

  18. Dr. Sawyer, I see you are blogging away! It’s been a few years, I trust all is going well.

    I’ve recently started a blog pertaining to design, and my latest post is on creativity. While I was writing it, I thought about the Explaining Creativity site I created for you, and the research that you do. It turned out to be quite relevant to my post. So, you’ve just made a guest appearance in my blog, and I’ve linked back here to yours.

    I just wanted to let you know! In case you read it, I would love to hear your feedback.

    Take care!

    The link to the post is:

  19. Dr. Sawyer,
    I just found your blog. We are working with teams in the business world and have a language and methodology for creating predictably high-performing teams. Creativity comes in many forms, as you know. We measure three distinct types of ‘on-demand’ creative thinking. We know how to build teams that foster this type of thinking. Here is a link that discusses our reaction to Dr. Woolley’s research: http://methodteaming.com/143. We believe that one component of creativity is having a team of diverse Intellects (including the one with on-demand creative thinking capability) working together productively. We have defined the natural talents of this type of person – this person’s Intellect. We know that when this person (a Networker) is engaged productively in a team, team productivity and morale jump dramatically.
    Clearly, I need to read your book to understand your thoughts. Have you read the Orange Revolution? We believe they provide great insight, but are lacking a systematic way to get the right people involved in the teams. That is something we have figured out how to do.

  20. Hi Keith, I am doing some work on designing the next Out of the Box performing arts festival of early childhood, a major festival in Australia for years 3-8. Someone suggested that you’ve done work on creativity and pre-schoolers – is that the case? If so, can you refer me to any of this work? Kind regards, Simon Woods, Producer, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

  21. Dear doctor Sawyer,

    I would like to ask you some advise, if I may.
    I am finishing my study this year and become a teacher in fine arts and design. At the moment I am in my last training period, giving design classes to students, intermeditate vocational education. I have to do an iquiry about creativity and the question how a teacher can improve the creative and autonomic thinking for students (round the age of 18). I noticed they still choose the conventional way many times and I want to learn how to stimulate them to think a little further, especially because they are future-designers. They must learn how to make a difference. My question is: What literature would you recommend? Are there any translated versions in Dutch? It would be a lot easier for me, because I am short in my time… I hope you can help me. I’d be grateful.

    Thank you very much in advance,

    Kind regards, Jiska van Espelo

  22. Hi Keith,
    I feel like I’ve been a “lone” creator by default for some time now and would like to set up a consultation with you, if your time and interest permits. I would prefer not to put the details on your blog, but can say generally that I’ve been practicing a model of mental health treatment that also combines a physical component, for the past 8 years. I was contacted by a publisher this past Fall to write a self-help book on the topic which will be coming out in September. Someone suggested setting up a business process (or method?) patent, but I really know nothing about that and given the Supreme Court ruling am not sure if that would even be possible. Look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your consideration,

  23. Hi Keith,
    We met during the AIN conference in Chicago 2008 and did a book swap (your Group Genius against our Creativity today) I just reread the part on the importance of diversity in teams in order to enhance creativity. That is how I bumped into your site.

    End of this year I will publish a book on creativity, innovation and improvisation. Will send you a copy!

    Hope all is well!

    best regards from the Netherlands,

    Joost Kadijk

  24. Dear Dr. Sawyer,

    I am interested in knowing what you have to say about teaching creativity and innovation to children. Is it possible to teach someone that? I have not read your book yet as I only just came upon its existence so, I do not know if this topic is dealt with in it. I have been trying to teach it for years but find many cultural inhibitors (I live in Europe). I would like to find out as much as possible about dealing with creativity & innovation at a young age. Do you have suggestions as to where to go? What to read?



    1. This is a complex topic and there are no firm conclusions. I have written one chapter in a book, that is a fairly comprehensive overview of such efforts; the book will be published November 2011 and is called Explaining Creativity (Second edition) so you should be able to get a copy very soon.

  25. Dear Keith

    I am part of the GRACE European project http://grace-project.blogspot.com/ funded by the European Union, aiming at developing a methodology supporting multi-stakeholders generation of innovation. I have promoted your blog in our project blog. We believe we are doing an interesting research project and are happy to provide more details.

    Best regards,
    Claudio Delrio

    1. I have heard of GRACE but only a little, and I would enjoy learning more. You can find my email easily with an Internet search (or on my web site). Thank you for making contact!
      Also, I will be a keynote speaker at the World Creativity Forum in Hasselt, Belgium on November 16.

  26. Keith,

    I would be very interested in reading your opinions about the recently published book, “Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas” by Kevin Coyne, the former worldwide head of McKinsey’s strategy consulting practice. It is available from Amazon on the following web page:


    1. It sounds fascinating! There are too many books on creativity and innovation for me to keep up with them all (though I buy so many I can’t even keep them all in my office). I will try to find a copy.

  27. For all creative minds and futuremakers, who are willing to change something:

    4th IncrediblEurope Summit – the most eclectic gathering of future-makers in Europe: June 14-15, 2012 in Vienna/Austria. The IE Summit gathers some of the most influential innovative, creative and entrepreneurial future-makers, willing to make a difference today for the Europe of tomorrow. 250+ speakers (meaning all participants) playing an active role on both days will interact with carefully selected futuremakers, encounter start-ups meeting money, lay emphasis on experience and business exchange, and enjoy the time for networking at the European “Muttankstelle”. This year’s topic is “Co-create the future!” which refers to on one hand the responsibility of each of us to actively create our future and on the other the force of united bottom-up action.
    For more information and registration please visit

  28. Hi Dr. R. Keith,

    My name is Anuj Agarwal. I’m Founder of Feedspot.

    I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog The Creativity Guru has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 30 Invention Blogs on the web.


    I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 30 Invention Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

    Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.


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