Kembel takes the next step with creativity and innovation


George Kembel

Beverly Hazen | Staff Writer

Perhaps some of you heard George Kembel’s lecture at Chautauqua in 2009 about design thinking inspiring latent creativity. Chances are some others are among the more than 370,000 who viewed his lecture at Kembel will deliver “Nurturing Creative Potential: Developing our Full Capacity to Innovate” at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

Kembel graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and later earned a master’s degree in design. He worked in several companies and worked alone as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist before he joined forces in his alma mater to form a unique school.

Kembel, co-founder and current executive director of Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, or the, at Stanford, has taught subjects ranging from human values and innovation in design to creativity and visual thinking.

According to his website, Kembel “focuses the on innovators, not innovations. He prioritizes learning over expertise, experimentation over planning, and collaboration over individual excellence.”

After being at Chautauqua very briefly for his lecture experience in 2009, Kembel is doing things differently this time.

“I love it at Chautauqua,” he said. “I’m bringing my whole family for the whole week.”

He and his wife have been married 10 years and have three little boys.

“In some sense, (this lecture) is a continuation of what we started with last time,” he said.

Last time, Kembel dealt with the idea of awakening the dormant creativity that is in all of us by rekindling and practicing.

“OK,” Kembel said. “If we believe that this is in us, now what?”

He said it is relatively easy to rekindle and develop this potential over time, but it is harder than we think to take the next step.

“We usually have a ‘summer camp’ experience,” he said. ”And then we go back to our regular lives, and it is easy to get discouraged and go back in the world.”

He said we need to “rise to the occasion … and always stay on the path to innovate  as people, as teams, as organizations.”

Kembel stressed that creativity can be innovative in any field if people are exposed to a design thinking process and apply creativity and are mindful of it.

“Usually we think of creativity only in the arts,” Kembel said. “It can be in arts or business or financial services or health care. … There is a dormant capacity to innovate in all of us, and we can awaken it.”

According to a biography, Kembel has led the conceptualization, design and development of new products and technologies for more than 10 years in both research and industry environments, specializing in the design process, idea generation, concept development and rapid prototyping. He has won national and industry awards for entrepreneurship and excellence in design.

He also has built and led successful interdisciplinary teams from four-person projects to 120-person organizations and has co-founded and built two design-centered corporations: Engaje, a design consulting and product development company, and DoDots, a venture capital funded software technology startup. As a former entrepreneur, he also helped lead new investments for a $2.5 billion venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.