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Brainstorming – It’s a Buffalo Thing

The Creative Education Foundation, CEF, focuses on teaching individuals to cultivate a mindset of deliberate creativity. Each year CEF hosts the Creative Problem Solving Institute (also known as CPSI, pronounced Sip-See), a week-long interactive training, in Buffalo.

Beth Slazak, the Manager of Education and Events at the Creative Education Foundation, is very personally invested in Buffalo and the people here. Back in the day, Buffalo was a bustling and prosperous industrial hub. Growing up in Buffalo in the 70s, Slazak saw how much Buffalo had to offer. The economy started to decline as the industries started closing, causing the population to decrease as people moved away to find jobs. Within the past five to ten years this has started to change with people coming back to the city. Slazak said Buffalo is primed to explode with its sheer potential. Utilizing the creative problem solving process could help accelerate the growth of Buffalo.

Creative problem solving is more important than ever for the workforce, specifically looking for individuals with this skill set. Employees who can analyze problems, identify problem severity, and assess the impact of a variety of problems are invaluable as employees also typically display qualities of level-headedness, resilience, both logical and creative thinking, and teamwork skills. Growing these skills would help keep individuals here in Buffalo to fill the growing workforce needs. While everyone is born with a level of creativity, most need to refine them. Like the muscles in your body, you need to work your brain to cultivate and grow these skills.

Creativity is a mindset and a skillset. The brain needs to have a creativity workout on a regular basis. Individuals can to develop their toolset by using creative problem solving. When challenges and complaints are phrased as questions, this sets up the ability to brainstorm for possible solutions.

When brainstorming, Slazak stresses the importance of striving for the third third. The first third of ideas are things that you have done, and the second third of ideas are things that other people have thought of or done. The third third, also known as the desperation point, are the ideas that are the new ideas. To be able to get to this desperation point individuals need to increase their flexibility and to push their fluency in creativity.

Improv games are a great way to push your flexibility. Look at license plates and try to make up a sentence using the letters on the license plate as the beginning letters of the words in your sentence. Brainstorming is another way to work on creativity fluency. Find an item near you and list as many things as possible that it can be used for, regardless of how ridiculous. Do activities like these on a daily basis and that creativity muscle will get a good workout. When children utilize activities like this regularly, creative thinking starts to become second nature.

In Buffalo, CEF has the week-long Creative Problem Solving Institute. At this institute, participants have the ability to participate in experienced based training programs. There are workshops for both adults and youth ages 8 to 17. Youth participate in YouthWise where they can learn the foundational creative problem skills and also get meta about their thinking. First time adults participate in Springboard to Creative Problem Solving. This foundational workshop helps individuals learn how to actively tap into the creative center in the brain while also setting up an environment where creativity can thrive. Additionally CPSI offers deep dive session, lasting three days, and shorter sessions, lasting 90 minutes. Soon, Slazak is hoping to start a Thinking Thursdays lecture series where individuals can learn more about creative thinking in different aspects of their life.

Slazak believes that one person really can change the world. Helping people utilize their creativity in a meaningful and deliberate way would help ensure that individuals changing the world are doing it in the absolute best way.

* An advertising executive in Buffalo by the name of Alex Faickney Osborn made “creative thinking” and “brainstorming” household words. In 1954, Osborn set up the Creative Education Foundation. – Source: Wikipedia 

Written by Katti Theriault

Katti Theriault

Katti Theriault, originally from Massachusetts, moved to Buffalo in the summer of 2018 to be a teacher in the Buffalo Public School system through the AmeriCorps program Teach For America. Katti has worked in the field of education since 2013. She has a wide range of experience including working with preschoolers as a JumpStart Corps Member, a preschool teacher at HeadStart, a museum teacher at the Tsongas Industrial History Center, paraprofessional, and most recently as a special education teacher. Katti currently has a Master’s Degree in education and is continuing her education in the field. Acting as an ambassador for equal educational opportunities for all, Katti wants to advocate for the youth of Buffalo by highlighting the educational programs and everything Buffalo has to offer its youth.

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