The Creative Thinker's Toolkit

Course No. 5955
Professor Gerard Puccio, Ph.D.
The State University of New York, Buffalo
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Course No. 5955
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Course Overview

People are born creative geniuses, right? With a special gene that endows them with inventiveness the rest of us only wish we had?

According to the latest scientific research, that’s hardly the case at all. In turns out anyone can be creative. You just have to know how to think creatively.

In today’s hyperactive world—where bold new challenges can seem to bring about the same stale answers—creative thinking is more important than ever. And it’s about more than just writing a novel or composing a piece of music. Creative thinking involves taking a broader, more imaginative approach to analyzing and solving the everyday challenges we all face, whether in the office or at home.

By training yourself to become a more creative thinker, you can

  • develop and bring to fruition new answers to problems that once seemed daunting or unsolvable;
  • become more persuasive in how you present and sell your ideas;
  • avoid tired solutions in favor of novel ones with the potential for even greater success;
  • strengthen your ability to lead teams and organizations; and
  • reach new levels of satisfaction and fulfillment in your daily life.

Because creativity is a set of skills that anyone can improve, you can learn how to wield the same research-based tools and techniques that today’s creative people use in their own work. All you need is an open mind, a determination to succeed, and The Creative Thinker’s Toolkit. Award-winning Professor Gerard Puccio of Buffalo State–The State University of New York—an expert in creative thinking and a consultant to individual clients and large companies—has crafted 24 lectures that take you step-by-step through the creative-thinking process and that use real-world scenarios to show you this vital skill in action.

Whether you want to overcome writer’s block, look at your career with a fresh perspective, solve a complex business problem, introduce a new idea to the marketplace, or figure out the best way to resolve a tense argument, Professor Puccio’s course will give you everything you need so that when other people are dodging life’s challenges, you’re uncovering the potentially successful opportunities they’ll have missed.

Explore the Creative Problem-Solving Process

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Nobel Prize-winning writer, a Fortune 500 CEO, or a high school student; the stages of thought you move through to close the gap between what you have and what you want are the same. And the most reliable way to do so is with creative problem solving, the model that Professor Puccio uses as the backbone of The Creative Thinker’s Toolkit.

Creative problem solving is delightfully intuitive, building on the natural creative process in all of us instead of replacing it. It’s also the most widely researched deliberate creative process model in existence—and one of the most effective methods used in creativity training in organizations and universities around the world.

With this series, you’ll get a solid introduction to the four major stages of this process. Each stage, as you’ll learn, involves a different way of thinking and a different set of tools to facilitate greater creativity. And all of them can be adapted to fit the demands of your own particular challenge.

  • Clarify: Once you’ve determined your problem and your goal, you need to identify the challenges (both obvious and hidden) you’ll have to address and overcome to achieve the results you want.
  • Ideate: This stage is about generating ideas: good ones, bad ones, ugly ones. It’s also where tools like brainstorming, brainwriting, forced connections, and even borrowing from others can lead you to out-of-the-box solutions.
  • Develop: Now you need to focus on development, which involves taking your ideas, evaluating them, determining which ones are workable, and transforming them into solutions.
  • Implement: Last comes the most tactical part of the process, in which you move the solutions from your own head into reality, using a plan that includes specific, measurable steps.

Learn the Tools of the Creative Trade

According to Professor Puccio, creative problem solving is a toolbox. As such, his fascinating lectures are packed with tools you can pick up and carry with you any time you find yourself in a situation that demands a more creative approach. You’ll learn how each stage of the creative-thinking process comes with its own set of equipment designed to maximize your creativity and increase your ability to solve problems and achieve your desired goals.

  • Brainwriting: Traditional brainstorming sessions not fruitful enough? Try this silent method, in which participants write their ideas and swap papers with one another, using cross-fertilization to build on already written ideas or add entirely new ones.
  • Solution enactment: A kind of dress rehearsal often used by tech developers, this tool involves acting out a proposed solution to see how it could be improved. It can also help you more effectively communicate abstract ideas and processes.
  • Stakeholder analysis: To determine who can support (or hinder) the success of your plan of action, analyze the positions of those individuals who have a stake in your plan. Then, devise a set of specific actions aimed at gaining their support.
  • How-How diagram: Designed to help move your solution forward, this webbing tool forces you to be more concrete by repeatedly asking yourself, “How do I achieve this solution?” in order to shift your perspective into concrete action steps.

Using simple exercises, in-studio demonstrations, hypothetical scenarios, and the real-world experiences and successes of creative giants in business, science, and the arts, Professor Puccio teaches you how to wield these and other fascinating tools. He also shows you how to select the tools that work best for your unique situation, and invites you to take a step back and see how the lessons of creative thinking can help you become a better leader and live a more creative life.

Learn from an Inspirational Master of Creative Thinking

As you explore the creative-thinking process in great detail, you’ll gain more than just a framework with which to tackle tomorrow’s professional and personal challenges. You’ll also discover a little more about yourself.

The Creative Thinker’s Toolkit comes complete with access to FourSight, a short self-evaluation measure developed by Professor Puccio that can help determine what kind of creative thinker you are. Are you an ideator who thrives on playing with possibilities? Or are you more of a developer; someone who can quickly spot ways to enhance and improve an idea?

Whatever kind of creative thinker you are, you’ll find yourself in the hands of a master educator who has devoted his entire career to researching and instructing others about creative thinking as the road to success. Professor Puccio’s outstanding work as a scholar has won him The State University of New York’s Research and Scholarship Award and the Buffalo State President’s Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creativity. He’s also delivered training programs and keynote speeches on creativity to major corporations, universities, and school districts.

But what you’ll likely find most enjoyable about learning with Professor Puccio is his inspiration and encouragement. Throughout these lectures, he proves that with a little hard work, anyone can become a more creative thinker.

“If you wish to see change, you have to model the way for others to see,” he says. “I encourage you to embrace your creativity, model it for others, and be a creative force in your work. And all that you do.”

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Creative Person—Practice and Passion
    What, exactly, is creativity? Take a closer look at what makes a creative person in this introductory lecture that explores ancient ideas about creativity (including the muses of the ancient Greeks); debunks common myths about the sources of creativity; and examines how play, passion, practice, and purpose can enhance your own creative thinking. x
  • 2
    Lateral Thinking Is a Survival Skill
    First, investigate the evolutionary history of creativity in human beings and the fascinating paradox of conformity and creativity—both essential to the survival and development of our species. Then, learn about how modern education approaches creativity in our youth, and several lateral thinking skills to promote more playful ideation. x
  • 3
    Creative Styles—Adaptors and Innovators
    Using examples of real-life creative icons, investigate two major “styles” of creativity exemplified by Norman Rockwell and Pablo Picasso. The first: adaptors, who are precise, reliable, and detail oriented. The second: innovators, who approach problems from novel angles. Where do you fall on the adaptor-innovator style spectrum? Why is it so important to be flexible? x
  • 4
    Combining Opposites—Diverge, Then Converge
    Focus now on the nature of creative thinking itself, with a look at divergent thinking (which involves intuition and associative thought) and convergent thinking (which selects and develops the most promising ideas). Along the way, you’ll learn skills for balancing these surprisingly complementary ways of thinking in your own life. x
  • 5
    Principles for Unleashing Your Imagination
    There are times when we all want (or need) to be creative on demand. And with the right approach, it’s possible. Here, use Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway as a lens through which to explore four key principles of creativity training: defer judgment, go for quantity, make connections, and seek novelty. x
  • 6
    Principles for Converging on the Best Ideas
    What mindset and attitude do you need to decide which of your ideas to pursue? Professor Puccio reveals the four key principles you need for success: practicing affirmative judgment, keeping novelty alive, checking your objectives to make sure they meet the needs of reality, and—of course—staying focused. x
  • 7
    Stages of the Creative Process—and You
    Learn explicitly about creative problem solving, a research-based process that can help close the gap between what you have and what you want. There are four stages: clarify (identifying the challenge), ideate (generating tentative solutions), develop (turning good ideas into great solutions), and implement (moving your solutions from your head to reality). x
  • 8
    Clarifying the Challenge
    This lecture focuses on the clarification step of creative problem solving, in which you identify your goal, gather data, and formulate your challenge. Professor Puccio shows you how to use a variety of helpful tools, including finding out the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of a problematic situation and developing a powerful challenge statement. x
  • 9
    Clarify Even More—Webbing and Storyboarding
    Continue learning about clarification with a closer look at some more advanced tools to add to your toolkit. One is webbing, which leverages two probing questions to broaden your perspective and think in abstract terms. The other is storyboarding, a tool designed to tell your story in a visual sequence. x
  • 10
    Classic Brainstorming and Brainwriting
    Learn how to brainstorm the right way. Explore the three roles in a classic brainstorming session (the facilitator, client, and resource group members) and try your hand at brainwriting, a variation on brainstorming that involves silent cross-ideation—all while peering over the shoulders of an actual brainstorming session in action. x
  • 11
    Tools for Enhanced Brainstorming
    Get three more advanced tools to help you generate bold, creative ideas. The first is reverse brainstorming, a variation that helps shake things up. The second is forced relationships, which facilitate associative thought and recharge thinking. The third is visually identifying relationships, which uses images and pictures to stimulate ideas. x
  • 12
    Borrowing and Modifying Ideas
    True creators don’t work in isolation. Instead, they often borrow from or modify the ideas of their predecessors. Here, learn how to incorporate solutions from other people (as well as nature) into your specific challenge with the power of tools in Synectics, which rely on the use of direct and personal analogies. x
  • 13
    Systematic Tools to Generate New Ideas
    Attribute listing, which makes small variations to an idea. Morphological matrix, which combines two attributes to create new outcomes. SCAMPER, a mnemonic for idea-spurring questions (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Rearrange). Put these fascinating idea-generation tools to work in a series of fun, real-world exercises. x
  • 14
    Developing Ideas—Toward Great Solutions
    How can you best transform a broad idea into a workable solution that resolves your challenge? Find out ways to make development even more efficient. The main focus in this lecture: the POINT tool, an acronym for a smart, flexible evaluative process that can be used in a variety of ways. x
  • 15
    Prototypes—How Designers Test Ideas
    Continue to spur your creative development—this time from the perspective of a designer. You’ll learn the principles of the design-thinking process (including reframing, ideating, and user understanding); explore the benefits of foresight scenarios, prototyping, and solution enactments; and discover how best to leverage the power of design thinking’s user-centered approach. x
  • 16
    Evaluating Creative Solutions and Making Decisions
    Creative work involves many difficult decisions. Improve the way you make creative development decisions with the use of several advanced tools that make this natural process more formal and systematic: the seven-step evaluation matrix, solution mapping, targeting, and more. x
  • 17
    Giving Ideas Legs—Implementation Planning
    What’s so creative about implementing your idea? Find out here, as Professor Puccio shares strategies and techniques for moving your solution forward, including using a How-How Diagram to drill down your plan into specific action steps and creating a performance dashboard to visually “monitor” your plan as you’re implementing it. x
  • 18
    Persuasion and the Selling of New Ideas
    Assistors and Resistors—a tool that uses contextual thinking to put yourself into the future so that you can examine the forces that will influence the creation and execution of your breakthrough idea. Learn how to leverage forces that propel you toward success, along with other persuasive ways (including the application of stakeholder analysis) to help get your proposed solutions and changes accepted. x
  • 19
    Tools for Bringing It All Together
    Now that you’ve learned the steps of the creative-thinking process, learn how to arrange everything in your toolkit using metacognition and several “metaprocess” skills. You’ll see these tools in action in a variety of scenarios, and you’ll also get the inside scoop on how to dodge common metacognition mistakes. x
  • 20
    Lifting the Emotional Lid on Creativity
    To maximize the power of creative thinking, you need the right emotional mindset. Professor Puccio offers you tips for doing so by investigating emotional intelligence, revealing the dangers of emotional hijacking, and stressing the importance of reflecting and redirecting to help stave off your fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. x
  • 21
    The Environment—Physical and Psychological
    Are you in the right environment to maximize your creativity? What do we mean by creating the right physical and psychological climate? How can sound, light, and time of day affect your creative thought process? What 10 specific psychological dimensions are predictors of high levels of creativity? x
  • 22
    Creative Leadership—Regardless of Title
    Today’s complex world demands more creative leaders. First, explore how evolving theories of leadership have started to embrace the importance of creativity. Then, look at why leadership itself is so crucial to the creative process. Finally, discover how creative problem solving is widely viewed as a core competency of any effective leader. x
  • 23
    Overcoming Blocks and Barriers
    There are many internal and external barriers out there that can inhibit us from effective creative thinking. But you don’t have to let these physical and perceptual blocks and habits deter you. Instead, learn how to beat them back with research-backed strategies that involve deferring judgment, defocusing, and distancing. x
  • 24
    Living a Creative Life
    Finish the course with a capstone look at how one can live creatively as well as think creatively. Some of the inspirational principles of a creative life that you’ll look at include reclaiming your creativity, going big or going home, creating multiple options for yourself, and suspending disbelief in order to live and practice a more creative approach to every aspect of your life. x

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  • 208-page course synopsis
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Your professor

Gerard Puccio

About Your Professor

Gerard Puccio, Ph.D.
The State University of New York, Buffalo
Dr. Gerard Puccio is a professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo for Studies in Creativity, a unique academic department that offers the world’s first and leading Master of Science in Creativity. Professor Puccio holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from The University of Manchester in England. Professor Puccio’s research interests include the identification of creative thinking...
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The Creative Thinker's Toolkit is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 42.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from i call BS I absolutely love The Great Courses. However, I almost got angry trying to watch this. Got as far as the 7th lecture, where the penny finally dropped. Clicked pause after 11 mins of captainobviousesque BS. It's like he's trying to construct a seemingly legit course out of nothing. Yes, I understand what is the name for the course - creative problem solving. Yet there seems to be nothing concrete that he actually he can or wants to teach the listener. Nothing, like, actual, stuff. He lays out all kinds of phases and terms that are completely meaningless. Like, a consultant from hell who forgets he has an hour long presentation and, at a moment's notice, tries to come up with an hour's worth of shooting the breeze and complicating normal, simple mental processes to look like huge odysseys with myriad phases and phony labels. Maybe I'm too harsh here, maybe there was nuggets of something resembling insight buried somewhere, the fourth lecture had something.... but yea this 7th episode really killed me.
Date published: 2020-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The audible version was fantastic. Why, because I could create images in my mind to elicit further creativity! Plus, I was moving around my home while listening, which also stimulated my creative process. Perhaps the negative reviews didn’t listen to the one key suggestions to creativity, “suspend all judgement” AND, who cares if it’s not accepted by others. I loved the content and his voice. I’ll listen to it another time. Thank you Professor Gerard Puccio! MaryAnn
Date published: 2019-06-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Unnecessarily complex, boring in parts, confusing The professor shows how relatively straightforward matters can become bogged down through over-diversification and over-analysis. I have always found that creative thinking and problem solving require that one bring point down to their basic levels. SIMPLIFICATION is essential. In this course, the professor creates a mini-system with offshoots for almost everything, developing sub-sectors with every tangent he takes. I turned off very quickly. It is NOT necessary to make a mountain out of a hill when analysing problems, but essential to reduce every thing to basics. If ~ to use one of his examples ~ the problem is how to avoid delivering ordered products LATE, then the answer has to be how to deliver ordered items ON TIME ! Not how to create a divergent array of procedures to obfuscate matters. I do not recommend this course. I believe it confuses matters. And, yes, I have run my own companies and have direct experience in creative thinking over decades.
Date published: 2019-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really is a great toolkit! I am currently only on lecture four, but must say I enjoy the professor and his mannerisms, his gestures and expressions, and especially his pacing and the tone of his voice. The content is inspiring and exciting, with examples and exercises that greatly stimulate my thinking. I have to admit it has helped me feel ok about myself.
Date published: 2019-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good “How to” Course This, as the title implies, is a “how to” course on creativity and it is done well. However, that approach is like a double-edged sword that cut both ways – you’ve got to do all the exercises in order to get any benefit from the course. As Dr. Puccio himself says, “Learning without application achieves the same end as ignorance.” The course is largely a series of tools (hence the term “toolkit” in the title) to enhance a person’s or a team’s creativity. Dr. Puccio breaks down the process of creativity and methodically analyzes each phase of the process, providing tools that can enhance that phase. He also discusses integration of the phases and he even discusses when it is not worth employing the creative solution process. He provides an exercise at the end of most lectures; ignoring those exercises pretty much negates the value of the lectures. Dr. Puccio is a good lecturer although not among the most captivating lecturers in the Great Courses stable. One area that is a step above most other TGC courses is how he uses the course guidebook. He has put resources in the guidebook that he cannot teach in the lecture and he indicates how to benefit from those resources. I used the audio version of this course. I think that the video version would not have been significantly better.
Date published: 2019-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nuts and Bolts lectures If you are an expert on Creative Thinking, this may be boring for you. Every lecture is filled with the nomenclature (glossary) for talking about creative thinking. Every lecture is filled with specific techniques to explore ways to think about projects creatively.
Date published: 2018-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I initially just bought this as audible book. However after listening to just a few lectures immediately went home and picked up the video. There's just too much great information here! I've listened and watched a few times and am still learning.
Date published: 2018-06-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pleasant delivery, important topic Professor Puccio is a fine presenter and pleasant to watch and listen to, and the "Creative Thinker's Toolkit" course material is interesting enough that I did watch all 24 lectures. But I haven't yet been able to bring myself to totally agree with his definition of what creativity is. I suspect he'd say that's because I'm biased due to being convinced by incorrect commonly held beliefs about creativity, and to being persuaded by perpetuated stereotypes of what creative people are like. He does cite research (much that he was involved in) and memorable examples and exercises in an effort to debunk some of the stereotypes he identifies. In lecture 20 he does mention feelings, discuss emotional intelligence, and distinguish between different processes controlled by the limbic versus rational systems of the brain (which reminded me of a 2011 book by Daniel Kahneman titled "Thinking Fast and Slow"). In the last lecture he discusses the importance of pursuing projects one loves. But I still consider intuition, experiment, accident, and inspiration to be powerful motivators in artistically creative endeavors, which may often involve disregarding both audience reaction and potential profitability: in lecture 24 Professor Puccio finally acknowledges the value of disregarding both of these factors, contrary to his multiple suggestions emphasizing their importance in lectures 1 through 23. The origins of creativity may ultimately be mysterious, and sometimes, regardless of the greatness of the effort or the superior quality of the product, the difference between success and failure could be whether the right person takes an interest at the right time. Professor Puccio recognizes the importance of nuances, degrees, and flexibility. He doesn't just describe a category and assign a label to it: he communicates that "preference" and "ability" are not the same thing -- and neither are "better" and "different" -- and that diversity contributes to productivity and effectiveness, which is important to understand in order to enhance collaboration and reduce the likelihood of discussions deteriorating into arguments. A better title for the course might have been "Creative Decision Making". The course definitely focuses on problem solving by describing different methods that can be used to clarify problems, come up with new ideas, develop those ideas, and ultimately implement them. Many of the examples seem based on a corporate structure, with people working in teams in a hierarchical business environment and dealing with marketing and leadership issues within organizations. However, Professor Puccio does emphasize, and offer examples of, how the methods he describes can be successful when employed in situations of a more private nature in one's personal and domestic life, which I've found helpful and useful. Some of the techniques presented, such as brainstorming, seem intuitive to me, but Professor Puccio's description is thorough and he does a good job of showing its use as part of a problem solving process. Also, by providing tools to evaluate where one's own strengths and weaknesses lie, the course is an opportunity to appreciate that someone who, for instance, may have strong tendencies or natural ability or talent for clarifying and developing can still make a valuable contribution while they work to improve their ideation and implementation skills. This course is valuable for everyone because it presents ways for people to understand the problem solving process and to structure their time and thinking to have more productive outcomes. The course didn't include a few methods I sometimes use as aids to come up with additional creative solutions to problems. Sometimes I use more of a binary thinking mode to make sure I'm putting the necessary effort into considering all foreseeable consequences. Also, I typically figure if I haven't imagined at least three responses to a situation then I probably haven't thought about it enough; so, once I feel certain about which action I need to take, I often pretend that for some reason my chosen option is impossible, then I spend time wondering about what else I'd do instead: by momentarily disregarding the solution I may be committed to, I encourage myself to explore more freely other courses of action that may be less obvious. I find both these methods are helpful to avoid acting impulsively, prematurely, angrily, in haste, due to stress or fear, or out of frustration. The guidebook was comprehensive.
Date published: 2018-04-14
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