Historical Innovator Project


Group Presentations: Great Creative Thinkers and Innovators

Groups will prepare a brief but compelling oral presentation with supplements to the class about a person or team of people from the list below, or you may propose your own subject(s).

The presentation can take any form you choose, but should be five-eight minutes in length. All members of the group should participate. After the presentation, you will turn in a binder that includes a research bibliography in MLA style, any directly applicable research, and an outline of the presentation. If you do a Powerpoint (which I think is a good idea) you should include printouts of the slides.

Your group should pick THREE historical figures and rate them in order of your interest. You will email me your three choices and I will pick one for you to do. You may or may not get your first choice—I don’t want duplicate presentations.

I am very open to you working on people or groups who are not on the list, as long as their work is substantial and there is enough research out there for you to be successful. These are suggestions, only.

Groups meet in class to discuss possible historic innovators to explore. From there you should have a further meeting outside of class where you discuss initial research and sources. Develop a theme or “hook” for your presentation.

There will be occasional class time available for this project, but it is mostly to be done outside of class. Other projects will be going on while this project is being worked on, so you really need to plan and schedule your time.

John Cage/Merce Cunninham

Thomas Edison

Igor Stravinsky and Serge Diaghilev

Steve Jobs and Apple Computer

Dorothea Lange

Charlie Parker

Bell Labs

Frank Gehry

The Beatles

Richard Feynman

Pablo Picasso

The Supremes

David Kelly and IDEO

George Washington Carver

Leonardo da Vinci

Stevie Wonder

John Lassiter and Ed Catmull of Pixar

The Wright Brothers

Russell Simmons

Elon Musk

Jony Ive

Nicola Tesla


Marie Curie

Topics for exploration will include:

In what ways was this person or team unconventional in their approach to solving problems?

Did this person or team have a particular method or system for generating ideas and implementing innovations?

In what way were they in synch with or did they dissent from their cultural zeitgeist?

What challenges was this person or team faced with? How did they overcome those challenges?

Did this person or team fail in their attempts? What did they learn and how did they get past failure?

What drove this person or team to creative discovery and innovation?

How have their ideas or innovations sustained value and necessity as time has changed?

Who were the great influences on these people or teams? Whom did they then influence?

How can understanding this person or team influence your own thinking and processes?

Were new tools or processes necessary to be developed before the creative problem could be solved?