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Tina Seelig: The 6 Characteristics of Truly Creative People

About this talk

Determined not to just write just another book on creativity, Stanford professor Tina Seelig painstakingly researched what makes good ideas spring forward. The result is her “innovation engine,” a special mix of six characteristics like attitude, resources and environment.

But the special concoction of forces that makes our ideas come to life is nothing with out the willingness to fail. “Most call it failure, but we scientists just call it data,” she says. The most creative organizations and people embrace experimentation to get the needed data to determine they’re on to something. 

“Workers are puzzle builders, they get stuck when missing a piece,” she says. Truly creative people “are quilt makers — they can fit anything together.”

Tina Seelig, Author & Professor

Tina Seelig is the executive director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and the director of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) at Stanford University’s School of Engineering. She teaches courses on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the department of Management Science and Engineering, and within the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. She received the 2009 Gordon Prize from the National Academy of Engineering, recognizing her as a national leader in engineering education.

Seelig earned her PhD in 1985 from Stanford University School of Medicine, where she studied Neuroscience. She has been a management consultant, multimedia producer, and an entrepreneur. Seelig has also written 16 popular science books and educational games. Her newest books are Wish I Knew When I Was 20 (HarperCollins 2009) and inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity (HarperCollins 2012).

Comments (8)
  • David McBurney

    Thanks Tina, there’s so much work in tackling such an unquantifiable subject. I really like the way you wove the threads together and delivered it all so clearly.

  • Christopher Sullivan

    feels that creativity is created from nothing. Knowledge is not nothing.

    • Irene Velveteen

      That’s right, knowledge IS something. But I think this has been misinterpreted.

      Nothing = nothing.

      A person with no knowledge is less likely to generate a creative solution than someone who has a vast knowledge. This is the point she was making.

  • Daniel

    Not a very creative video, in fact. Not bad really, but she’s just pointing some factors that are related to creativity.

  • SAP Training

    Tina Seelig effort is not so interesting

    The topic is over written.

    Still she manages to put her point across.

  • Varun

    I can only hear the audio and I am not able to see the video. I can only see a plain Black screen can anybody tell me why?

  • Benni

    Very inspiring! A little addendum though: Those rapid prototypes are called pretotypes. The name was given by Alberto Savoia (more info here:

  • Gordon Barlow

    Great line: “Often the answer is baked into the question you ask, so, if you don’t question the questions you’re asking you’re not going to come up with really innovative solutions.”

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