009: Barry Kudrowitz - On Creativity and Innovation


Barry Kudrowitz - speaker and professor of product design -  studies humor, creativity, and idea generation. It all started with a pooping ketchup bottle; and that little invention led Barry to study improvisors and their ability to generate creative ideas. Whether he’s lecturing his students or keynoting for a large corporation, Barry designs the experience in the same way that improvisors design their scenes - with creativity and innovation.

My husband saw Barry speak at a conference, and zipped home to tell me to get this guy on the show.  So I did!

You can listen in iTunes

HERE, or you can listen in Stitcher HERE.  Thanks!

On Creativity and Innovation:

Connection of "good ideas" with "lots of ideas" -

One of the key elements of improv is the ability to come up with lots of ideas. They are trained in quick associations, deferring judgment, building on ideas... The novel ideas come about after the first 10.  Improvisers are good at doing the first 10 ideas in their head. The more ideas you have, the better the chances that you have good ones.

Does your approach change between keynote speaking and classroom lectures?

Nope - approach is similar because these ideas apply to everyone, regardless of age, major, career, etc.  (Lucky for his students! Barry's "lectures" aren't exactly... lectures.)  Whatever the opportunity, it's a performance.

(This is where we talked about the Automated Pooping Ketchup, which you can see here:)


This is actually what started Barry's speaking career.  Goes to show you... you just never know what will launch you into the world!

Citations and Slides:

Barry puts citations on most of his slides. [I'm not sure I would necessarily suggest this, but for Barry's audience - who are often engineers and scientists - they like to see the citations.]  Especially when the ideas he's talking about can be very abstract, it helps his audience buy into his topic more.

Creativity and the Brain:

 I reference this idea from the TED Radio Hour's podcast on Creativity, and Barry says that though he's not a cognitive scientist he references it a lot.

Like - the Posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus - making non-obvious connections between seemingly unrelated things, which is the connection between humor and creativity.  The "AHA" moment, like when you get the punchline to a joke.

Lots of ideas are good - but at some point the logic part has to come into play so you can analyze those ideas and decide which ones to pursue. So, you shift from "everything's a great idea" to "which one is actually really good?"



David Wallace, MIT instructor

Inspired Barry's vision of what University classes, or a "lecture" could be. Education can be playful, it can be designed. It's as much a performance as a theater production.

I found this little clip of a conference at MIT with David Wallace up on stage... looks like fun:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG6BJwCPhOI]


Dennis Cass Book Launch 2.0 - on Self-Promotion


Barry Kudrowitz is an assistant professor and director of product design at the University of Minnesota. He received his PhD from the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), studying humor, creativity, and idea generation. Kudrowitz co-designed a Nerf toy, an elevator simulator that is in operation at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., and a ketchup-dispensing robot that was featured on the Martha Stewart Show. More information can be found at www.wonderbarry.com

Or you can find him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kudrowitz