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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, where he investigated how we measure human potential, perseverance, achievement, and creativity. In his 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. Kaufman is set to release his third book, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization (Penguin Random House) in April 2020. In it, he revives Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs and updates the theory with the latest research on attachment, connection, creativity, love, and purpose.


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

“I saw Scott speak in California, and his presentation was startlingly good. I enjoyed the content and cannot wait to read his next book. But his presentation itself was, in style, completely compelling. It cut through the noise, typical at conferences, and my jet lag...His opening was a prompt to presence, an invitation to a totally unique experience, an immediate return on my investment. And after his opening, he told jokes, shared stories, expressed vulnerability, showed his academic chops, taught, sought, wondered aloud, and then stopped. I believe, by that point, we were all as breathless as he was.”

Stephen J. Valentine, Director of Academic Leadership at Montclair Kimberly Academy
Testimonials

“Scott had a wonderful stage presence and sense of humor. His dedication to carrying on Maslow's work was so clear, as he shared his personal journey. It isn't often that you an see someone's passion so visibly. I am grateful that he chose Nueva's ILC to share his work.”

Nueva Innovative Learning Conference
Testimonials

“I'm writing to thank you for presenting at this year’s conference. I loved the way you fully immersed yourself in the conference experience. Your session was beloved by all.”

Nueva Innovative Learning Conference
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
Abraham Maslow is the 20th-century psychologist best-known for explaining human motivation through a hierarchy of needs. At a basic level, humans need food, water, warmth and rest, before moving onto more complex needs such as safety, love, and self-esteem. And it’s only when all of those needs are met that we can begin striving towards our full potential, the theory states. Somewhat paradoxically, Maslow also believed that self-actualization—achieving one’s full potential—is a necessary component to achieving transcendence, or the ability to look beyond ourselves and to the greater good of all humanity.

On a quest to discover Maslow’s unfinished theory, Scott Barry Kaufman revives the humanistic psychologist’s seminal work with contemporary findings, including his own research on how self-actualization affects our health, growth, creativity, purpose, and performance. And in a talk that’s beautifully articulated with Kaufman’s natural charisma and meticulous evidence, he presents a new hierarchy of needs for the 21st century—one that allows for individual potential, and the unification of our divided humanity. You don't have to choose either self-actualization or self-transcendence, says Kaufman. The combination of both is essential to living a full and meaningful existence.
 
In this exciting, eye-opening talk, audiences will learn the crucial distinction between deficiency motivation and growth motivation; the reason why self-actualization is more important than achievement; why self-actualization also requires transcendence; and the importance of balancing all of our needs equally.  

 

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.