Keynote Sessions

Keith Sawyer, Professor of Psychology and Education, Washington University, St. Louis


Photo of Keith Sawyer.Keith Sawyer, professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of the country’s leading scientific experts on creativity and learning. Dr. Sawyer has a rich and varied background, ranging from designing video games for Atari to mastering the art of jazz piano. Drawing on these unique experiences in his research, Sawyer urges a shift away from “linear creativity,” holding that innovation emerges from creative collaborations throughout an organization. He has written ten books on creativity and innovation, his most recent books being Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration and Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation. He is frequently interviewed by the media and has presented to both academic and business audiences. Sawyer has received grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to advance his work.


His interests are in a specific aspect of collaboration: the discourse and interaction patterns that occur within a group. Sawyer said, “By using research methodologies of discourse analysis and conversation analysis, originating in linguistics and sociology, I study the creativity of collaborating groups and the symbolic communication among participants.” His research dispels common myths about creativity. There will be a special opportunity for conversation with our plenary speaker, Keith Sawyer, at the Fireside Chat.


While on sabbatical this academic year, Sawyer is an Osher Fellow at the San Francisco Exploratorium, a legendary science center in the former Palace of Fine Arts in downtown San Francisco. As the Exploratorium plans for a major relocation to a former warehouse on Fisherman's Wharf, Sawyer will be collaborating with them on exhibit design, architecture, and organizational culture. He will also be a Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge, in the Faculty of Education offices, studying how creativity is taught in the public schools in the U.K., where it is a part of the National Curriculum. From January through May 2010, Sawyer will be a Visiting Professor at the Savannah College of Art & Design, working on a major strategic plan that emphasizes collaborative creativity across departments and schools.


Keith Sawyer’s

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Blog: Creativity and Innovation