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Scott Barry Kaufman

To reach our full potential, we need to rethink passion, motivation, achievement, and imagination.

Professor of Psychology at Columbia University | Author of Wired to Create

Scott Barry Kaufman | Professor of Psychology at Columbia University | Author of Wired to Create
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Greatness is completely, utterly, made says Scott Barry Kaufman. Formerly misdiagnosed with a learning disability, Kaufman is now a renowned cognitive psychologist and professor at Columbia. His experience caused him to question the traditional metrics of success, and eventually develop a new approach to creativity, self-actualization, wellness, and intelligence. Dubbed “a force of nature” by New York Times bestselling author Angela Duckworth, Kaufman shows us the science behind cultivating creativity and a meaningful life.

 

“Scott Kaufman is [...] the leading empirical creativity researcher of his generation.”

— Martin Seligman, Founder of Positive Psychology

Teaching both “The Science of Living Well,” and “Creativity and the Good Life” at Columbia University, Scott Barry Kaufman ranks as one of the top 20 psychologists under 40 by The Best Schools. Before joining the Columbia faculty, Kaufman was Scientific Director of the Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. There, he investigated how we measure human potential, perseverance, achievement, and creativity. In his most recent book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, Kaufman explores the habits and attributes of deeply creative people, suggesting that it is a quality we can all cultivate in ourselves. His previous book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, makes a radical argument for a more holistic, individual way to assess cognitive strengths—eschewing traditional metrics and increasing our appreciation for diverse minds.


These hard-earned achievements emerged from Kaufman’s own struggles to be seen. Diagnosed with Central Auditory Processing Disorder, he spent the early years of his life assumed to have a learning disability. After a teacher recognized him as misdiagnosed, he began his incredible journey of self-actualization. In a few years, he went from special-ed to straight As—eventually earning a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Yale and an M.Phil in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge.

 

Today, Kaufman is a whirlwind of creative output. While Angela Duckworth was working on her book Grit, she asked him to teach her popular U Penn course Introduction to Positive Psychology. His ongoing series, The Psychology Podcast with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, was named by Business Insider as a podcast that “will change how you think about human behavior,” and has been downloaded over 7 million times. He’s the editor of numerous books and his writing is regularly featured in places like The Atlantic, Scientific American (where his column “Beautiful Minds” is consistently their most popular online article), Psychology Today, and Harvard Business Review. Kaufman has shared his ideas all over the world, including for major groups at LEGO, Vogue, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and the Creativity World Forum.

 

Testimonials

“Scott is an amazing person, he was a joy to have around! His presentation was outstanding, and he participated in everything we invited him along for.”

G.A.T.E.
Testimonials

“Scott’s talk for FAN stands apart from others in three ways: He quickly establishes intimacy with the audience via a deft weave of personal narrative, research, and on-the-fly insight; he emanates a sensitive, deep optimism, and delivers his theories and observations with compassion and humor; and he has an open, curious ‘beginner’s mind,’ which is balanced with astute, nuanced observations. Scott’s wholehearted engagement with his work is a pleasure to witness.”

Family Action Network
Testimonials

“Scott Barry Kaufman is an inspiring speaker with an impressive ability to go with the flow of a highly engaged audience. His personal story and sense of humour ground his in-depth knowledge and research to make for an enlightening yet approachable talk. Highly recommended for parents, educators and anyone who cares about the future of our kids!”

Fraser Valley Regional Library
Testimonials

“Scott’s visit went very well. He is a delightful guest and an engaging and very bright speaker. Loved his sense of humor, his spontaneity, his ability to ‘play’ in a room full of academics, and his ease of being. He was so generous with his time and took our playful banter with great humor and ease. Really, I can’t say enough about how fortunate we are to have had Scott visit and present.”

Collin College

Speech Topics

Happiness & Wellness
The Science of Working Well Balancing Wellness and Productivity

At work, we often feel a need to prioritize either productivity or wellbeing. But as Scott Barry Kaufman knows, these two priorities aren’t an “either or” scenario—in fact, they actually need each other. Drawn from Scott Barry Kaufman’s popular Columbia course on the Science of Living Well, this talk provides a theoretical and practical approach to well-being and self-actualization in a workplace setting.  Productivity, effective teamwork, strong leadership, and innovation are essential to the work we do. But when we prioritize basic human needs—like health, security, growth, mindfulness, self-esteem, connection, and more—our productivity, leadership, and teamwork improve in leaps and bounds. As Kaufman shows audiences, there are ways that we can cultivate a sense of well-being at work in ways that are growth-fostering and bring out the best in everyone: drawn from his groundbreaking new research on the science of self-actualization, he’ll leave you with a new, actionable framework for enhancing productivity and wellbeing, all at once. 

 
Psychology
Maslow 2.0 The Hierarchy of Needs, Redefined
In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Abraham Maslow introduced the idea that human beings had a hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. In this talk, Scott Barry Kaufman picks up where Maslow left off, expanding upon the unfinished theory and integrating new scientific findings, including Kaufman’s own research on creativity, love, personality, and well-being. Through his unique work on the subject, Kaufman reinvigorates the profound insights of humanistic psychology with the latest scientific findings from a wide range of fields, introducing them to a generation that consistently feels unsatisfied in their work, creative pursuits, and educational path. We can be high achievers, and yet still yearn for self-realization. The philosopher Erich Fromm said that there is “an art of being.” But as Kaufman persuasively shows, there is also a science of being, and this talk will help set you and your audience on the path to a life of optimal health, growth, wholeness, and real fulfilment.

 

 
Creativity
You’re Wired to Create How to Develop Your Own Creative Talents

Creative people—artists, innovators, inventors—do things differently. But we’re often stumped to explain where creativity comes from. Are these people just ‘born different,’ blessed with an elusive gift? Or is there a way to make sense of inspiration? If we look closely at the world’s most creative people, can we pick up a set of habits and techniques to enrich our own imaginations? Scott Barry Kaufman offers a groundbreaking answer: that yes, we can understand creativity—and, with the right help, we can channel and improve it. In this illuminating keynote, Kaufman untangles the lives and habits of a diverse cast of thinkers—Picasso, Proust, Edison, Lennon, and many more—to reveal the top ten attributes of so-called “messy minds.” He demonstrates how play, openness, and diverse thinking can kickstart innovation in your work, practice, and personal life. He explains the important role of daydreaming and intuition for the creative process. And he’ll show you how to tap into your own adversity to imagine yourself out of setbacks. You can unlock your creativity—and, with Kaufman, realize just how creative you’ve always been.

Psychology
Cultivating Perseverance A New Theory of Personal Intelligence

Passion and perseverance for long-term personal goals lies at the core of Scott Barry Kaufman’s new theory of Personal Intelligence. According to this theory, if we want to increase self-actualization in students, we need to take into account the child’s dreams, passions, and goals, and harness their greatest strengths in the service of realizing who they truly want to become. Kaufman’s research has particular implications for children who have learning difficulties, including dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and emotional and behavioral disorders, as well as other vulnerable populations, such as ethnic and racial minority students.

 

Presenting cutting-edge research, Kaufman shows how perseverance and resilience is a natural outcome of harnessing the unique strengths in children, as well as building on their unique learning challenges. As a result, we can see high levels of creativity and performance that we never could have predicted.