Campus Authors: R. Keith Sawyer

R. Keith Sawyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of education in Arts & Sciences

Group Creativity: Music, Theater, Collaboration

(Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc., 2003)

A jazz quartet. The cast of a stage play. A work team, a classroom discussion seminar, or a family planning a summer vacation.

In all of these groups, creativity and collaboration are essential. And perhaps the most creative collaborating groups are music and theater ensembles.

Keith Sawyer
Keith Sawyer

Group Creativity: Music, Theater, Collaboration draws on studies of performing ensembles to provide insights into all group creativity.

In collaborating groups, the group becomes more than the sum of its parts, as creativity emerges from a dynamic exchange between the participants. R. Keith Sawyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of education in Arts & Sciences, takes a novel approach, focusing on the symbolic interactional process of collaborative communication.

Group Creativity analyzes how each action functions in the ongoing flow of the performance, and how it relates to the context that emerges during the performance. The author explores participants’ close listening and sensitivity, the submerging of each ego in the group dynamic, and the ways that people work together to create something better than any single person could create alone.

Group Creativity is essential reading for anyone interested in collaboration and creativity.

— From

Sawyer, who has been studying group creativity in jazz and theater settings for more than 10 years, wrote this book because he began to realize that jazz and theater have lessons to teach all of us about everyday collaboration and creativity.

“For example, I give some very specific advice for how businesses can make more creative work-teams and how teachers can use student groups to enhance learning,” Sawyer said.

Although we all realize the importance of group creativity in our lives, scientists have only recently begun to closely study it.

“There are a couple of exciting recent books about creative collaboration, but those focus on pairs of people that work together over long periods of time, like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, or Picasso and Braque,” he said.

“This is the first book that uses creative performance to teach us about group creativity in general.”

Sawyer has written several other books on this subject, including Improvised Dialogues: Emergence and Creativity in Conversation; Creating Conversations: Improvisation in Everyday Discourse; Creativity in Performance; and Pretend Play as Improvisation: Conversation in the Preschool Classroom.

— Neil Schoenherr