CPSI: A great training ground for innovation

Back in the mid-90s, a client, Katherine Catlin of the Catlin & Cookman Group, and a friend, Kathy Leydon-Conway, both suggested I might enjoy attending the Creative Problem Solving Institute, the oldest and longest running conference dedicated to the teaching and practice of creative skills. They were both veterans of the conference and thought I’d be a perfect fit for it.

At the time, CPSI, (pronounced “sip-cee”) was being held in Buffalo, home of its sponsoring organization the Creative Education Foundation. Something has to be awfully good for a self-employed person like me to justify taking a week off from work and driving alone  from Boston to Buffalo. But based on my faith in the two women who were recommending CPSI, I took the leap of faith and went. It turned out to be one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. CPSI was such a great experience that I attended the following year and went back two more times after that.

This year, after moving around for several years, CPSI has returned to Buffalo with a theme of “CPSI 2010: The HOW to Create, Innovate and Lead Change Conference,” taking place June 21-25. If you’re interested in learning a process for making innovation happen in your business, you should go. If you want to learn how to make change happen in your organization, you should go. If you want to learn to make change happen in your own life, you should definitely go

Dozens of name brand companies such as 3M, American Airlines, AT&T, Dupont, FedEx, General Mills, Ernst & Young, Hershey’s, The Home Deposit, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft and even the U.S. Army send people to CPSI. This year’s keynote speaker is Walt Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter. But there are plenty of people from small companies too, and plenty of solopreneurs like me. There is a youth program, so you can bring the kids, too.

What did CPSI do for me?

The first year I did what every CPSI newbie does; I participated in the Springboard program, where participants learn the Creative Problem Solving Process, a proven and thoroughly researched six-step framework for creativity and innovation developed by Alex Osborn and Sidney Parnes. The process helps you explore challenges, generate ideas and prepare for action. In my second year at CPSI, I learned how to lead others through this process, and over the years I’ve used the process to help clients and even a group of friends come up with ideas for how to move forward.

One direct result of having learned this process was that I was able to establish a successful writing partnership with Mark Sebell of Creative Realities, a nationally known innovation consulting firm. This partnership led to my first book, which I co-authored with Mark, which in turn led to more books and more books. In effect, CPSI launched my book writing career, and I am forever grateful to the two people who said, “Hey, Jeanne, you’d love CPSI; you should go!”

That’s why I keep recommending CPSI, in the hope that someone will take my advice and it will bring them the kinds of opportunities that CPSI opened up for me.

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