Dr Amy Climer

Episode 37: Zig Zag – An Interview with Dr. Keith Sawyer

In this episode, Keith Sawyer talks about the Zig Zag model of creativity, one that he developed after years of research with creative teams. He explains how he developed the model, how to use it, and shares a few practical tips you can implement right away to help your team, or yourself, be more creative.

What You’ll Learn

  • The eight stages of the Zig Zag model to creativity
  • What business teams can learn from Jazz Improv groups
  • How juggling can help you be more creative

Dr. Keith Sawyer is one of the country’s leading scientific experts on creativity, collaboration, and learning. A professor of education at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, he studies creativity, learning, and collaboration. After receiving his computer science degree from MIT in 1982, he began his career with a two-year stint designing videogames for Atari. His titles included Food Fight, Neon, and Magician. From 1984 to 1990, he was a principal at Kenan Systems Corporation, where he worked as a management consultant on innovation technologies. His clients included Citicorp, AT&T, and U.S. West. In 1990, Dr. Sawyer began his doctoral studies in psychology, where he studied creativity with Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of best selling books such as Flow and Creativity). Since receiving his Ph.D. in 1994, he has dedicated his career to research on creativity, collaboration, and learning. He has been a jazz pianist for over 30 years, and spent several years playing piano with Chicago improv theater groups.

Dr. Sawyer has published fourteen books and over 80 scientific articles. His research has been featured on CNN, Fox News, TIME, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR and other media. A popular speaker, he lectures to corporations, associations, and universities around the world on creativity and innovation.

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

The Weekly Challenge

Engage in the third step of the Zig Zag “Look” and take yourself on a field trip to a new art museum or a new town. Pay attention to what is different. What do you notice? What inspiration do you find? You can find this idea and many others in Keith Sawyer’s deck of Zig Zag Cards.



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  • Amy Inspires Creativity Growth in Everyone
    January 5, 2022 by cjpowers7 from United States

    Amy Climer’s show helps all of us grow our creative muscles. She is authentic and cares about her listeners. Amy empowers us with tools that work in the office, training sessions, and our communities. The best part is her ability to make what feels out of reach, something that can be accomplished with simple steps forward.

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    May 26, 2019 by Dhensch from United States

    Amy Climer hit a home run with this podcast and continues to get hits with every episode. I was hooked with the first one and binge-listened to the four solo episodes about the Creative Problem Solving process. Her knowledge of the subject of creativity and innovation is incredibly deep. And, she makes it easy for others to learn and apply. I have listened to other "expert" podcasts and Amy's is different in that she holds nothing back. Episode after episode offer practical insights, tips and tools. She has a generosity of spirit that is contagious.

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