Harvey Seifter Art Science Learning

085: Harvey Seifter: The Art of Science Learning: Fostering Breakthroughs in Team Creativity, Collaboration and Innovation at Scale

How does arts-based learning rapidly transform culture and performance in teams and organizations? What is the relationship between creative thinking, collaboration and innovation? What research evidence exists to support incorporating arts-based learning in teams? How can these processes be scaled up in organizations?

Tune in to this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone podcast where host Dr. Krister Lowe interviews special guest Harvey Seifter to explore these and other compelling topics.  Harvey Seifter is Founder and Director of Art of Science Learning ( and Principal Investigator of its two National Science Foundation grants and is one of the world’s leading authorities on organizational creativity and arts‐based learning.

Themes explored in the podcast include:

  • Harvey’s journey from classically trained musician to author to Founder of the Art of Science Learning
  • Harvey’s experience at the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and his 2001 book Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaborative Management from the World’s Only Conductorless Orchestra
  • Convening the field of arts-based learning in business
  • Metaphorming (a symbolic modeling process developed by Harvey’s colleague Dr.Todd Siler)
  • 2012 $2.8 million grant from National Science Foundation exploring arts-based learning, innovation and business
  • The development of an arts-based innovation process and curriculum
  • The creation of 3 innovation incubators: San Diego, Chicago, Worcester
  • Teaching innovation through doing it: research on 29 cross-disciplinary teams; 22 teams after 1 year went to market (products, processes, services)
  • The core skills of innovation as well as phases
  • Approaches to infusing arts-based approaches: music, improv, movement, conducting, drawing, sketching
  • Wicked problems as failures of imagination
  • Experimental research: randomized and controlled study of arts-based learning and innovation in teams:
  • 2 phases of innovation: 1) what is the problem and 2) how do we solve it: each with a converge and diverge component
  • The linkage between divergent thinking, convergent thinking, business results and culture change
  • Using research and data to bring arts from the fringes into the center of business processes
  • A story of applying arts-based learning to foster creativity with 22 startups within a Fortune 500 organization
  • The future of innovation, arts-based learning and wicked problems

This is an episode that truly all teams, team leaders, and team coaches cannot afford to miss!

Listen Now:



Part 1 – Getting to know the Team Coach

  • Founder and Director of Art of Science Learning
  • Founded Seifter Associates in 1995 – brining arts-based approaches to innovation, leadership development, teamwork and cross-cultural communication
  • 25 year career as a classically trained musician – Executive Director at Orpheus Chamber Orchestra & Magic Theatre of San Francisco
  • Wrote 2001 book – Leadership Ensemble: Lessons and Collaborative Management from the World’s Only Conductorless Orchestra 
  • Honored with several awards – Thought Leader Award by Peter F. Drucker Foundation, Name one of the 20 transformational leaders by James MacGregor Burns Leadership Institute & Fetzer Institute
  • Involved in the arts early on in life, as a musician and in theater
  • Became really interested in the learning and leadership that occurs during Orpheus Chamber, the only orchestra in the world that rehearses, performs without a conductor
  • Richard Hackman worked closely with the Orpheus and applied teams research to the orchestra
  • Connected the arts, to work, to collaboration, to leadership, etc. from what he learned from Orpheus and created the field of creativity in science
  • Founded Creativity Connection – using arts-based learning to help business surface creativity
  • Lead a symposium at National Science Foundation that connected creativity and science to art and realized that there is a powerful need to use art and science purposefully
  • In 2008, Harvey founded Art of Science Learning, designed to explore arts-based learning as a way to spark 21st century workforce innovation
  • Brought researchers and practitioners from different fields together at conferences and used arts-based learning as the tool and subject of the conversation
  • Applied the design of his experiential conferences to explore wicked problems for a year. Was awarded a grant from National Science Foundation (2012).

Part 2 – Approach to Team Coaching

  • Formed an innovation process using interdisciplinary learning and built the world’s first comprehensive, arts-based innovation curriculum, using the arts to teach innovation in realms that on the surface have nothing to do with the arts
  • Formed 3 incubators as test sites, partnered with institutions with informal learning
    • 1 year long, 12 modules
    • Formed a learning community with volunteers creating 29 yearms, each team had “innovation mentors”
    • Participants used his curriculum to better understand an issue identified within the community
    • 22/29 teams developed and went to market
  • Works with Metaphorming –a symbolic modeling process developed by Harvey’s colleague Dr.Todd Siler. People collaborate and work with models of their ideas, connecting them to the natural world using symbolic languages and bringing ideas them to the surface.
  • Measures the impact of arts-based learning along 3 dimensions 1) creative thinking 2) team innovation 3) collaborative behavior
  • Attributes the richness of his approach to the cross-disciplinary nature
  • Defines wicked problems are “failures of the imagination” – the place where imagination tends to fail is in between the disciplines and arts are tools to work in between disciplines.
  • Conducted controlled experimental research. Recruited cohorts for 5 weeks to work on innovation projects with deliverables. Created an experimental group with arts-based learning and control groups without arts-based learning, tracking impact variables week by week (including 11 collaboration indexes).
    • The deliverables were analyzed by judges unaware of the conditions.
    • Found that the arts-based learning condition demonstrated significantly higher creative thinking, collaboration, and innovation. Noticed significant differences in performance between groups during week 3-4. Also noticed differences in high school subjects compared to adults.
  • Created 2 hour workshops called “Thinking With Hands” and tracks boosts in problem solving ability, innovation, discipline thinking.. using 4 prototypes.
  • Invited a jazz quartet into a financial institution. Team members learned to conduct and formed ensemble teams. They fostered their creativity but found that they weren’t able to harvest divergent thinking. Harvey worked with the team to increase creativity and business results.
  • Uses a creative thinking skills test for teams, collecting data at team level.
  • Finds that the arts are a way to help tackle seemingly intractable problems

Part 3 – Closing / Parting Advice / Words of Wisdom


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