Help Detained USA Citizen In Abu Dhabi

This is a departure for this blog. While there is a direct connection to creativity and innovation it is essentially a press release written by concerned leaders in the creativity and innovation international community. One of our own, Dr. Robert Alan Black, has been detained in Abu Dhabi. The details are below. My request is that if you are so moved, please contact the offices of your elected officials. USA citizens can find contact information here. 

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact:                     Rosemary Rein

Phone number:       239-910-3354



American Creativity Expert Detained In Abu Dhabi

Friday October 31, 2014 – Athens, Georgia. Dr. Robert Alan Black, an Athens resident, is being held in Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.  His family does not know if he’s been charged with a crime, or, if there’s been a date set for a hearing. Dr. Black currently does not have access to a phone.

Robert Alan Black, Phd, CSP

Robert Alan Black, Phd, CSP

After speaking at a creativity conference in Abu Dhabi — as a volunteer — he took a walk alone to view local sites. This was sometime the morning of October 21. Dr. Black had not checked out of his room at his hotel. Alan, as he is known to his friends and family, walked out with his camera in hand. It’s not known exactly what happened, but sources in Abu Dhabi say that he was detained by the authorities because he took pictures in a restricted area.

His detainment was not known until Dr. Black failed to show up at a speaking engagement in Malaysia. On October 27th his colleagues in the creativity and innovation community alerted his family of his absence and the search began. It was eventually discovered Dr. Black was being held by the authorities in Abu Dhabi. The United States Embassy in the U.A.E. has been alerted by Dr. Black’s family, and the Embassy has taken preliminary steps to advocate for Dr. Black.

Upon discovery of the situation on October 30th, members of the creativity community launched a web-based petition, asking the Department of State of the USA, American Citizen Services Unit, to use every tool of diplomacy to secure the release of Dr. Black.  See: As of 8:30 AM EST October 31, the petition had over 1,000 signatures.

Alan Black illustration

Alan Black illustration

Dr. Black is a well-known, much-loved, and highly respected figure in the creativity community. Known as “Wandering Alan” because of his extensive world travels, his gentle and humorous teaching style underscores his sensitivity and creative genius. He’s been a featured speaker at many universities and conferences around the globe and has been a professional consultant in creativity and innovation since the early 1980’s. His customers include multi-national companies like Kimberly-Clark, Johnson & Johnson, and Nestle. He’s been a professor at the University of Georgia, and also lectured at Drexel University. Indeed, Dr. Black has dedicated his life to bring the power of creativity to many around the globe. A citizen of the world, he’s worked with disadvantaged youth in South Africa, and volunteered his time at many conferences around the world. Including conferences in Italy, Canada, Holland, Turkey, the UK, Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia. At the time of his detainment, he was in Abu Dhabi donating his time teaching creative problem solving at the second annual Creative Thinkers Conference. The Creative Thinkers Conference was attended by government and public sector officials of the U.A.E. as well as educators and non-profit organizational leaders from many Arab Gulf countries.

Broken Crayons is a book he wrote and illustrated which has been translated into Turkish, Japanese, and Slovakian. He’s published cartoons, done illustrations, and written articles for numerous publications. A former architect, and an avid photographer, he’s taken pictures of landscapes, buildings, andbrokencrayonscover500_002 people around the world. He’s highly qualified, with a BS in Architecture, and three Masters degrees in Visual Communication, Interior Architecture, and Guidance/Counseling. His doctorate is in educational psychology where he was a student of Dr. Paul Torrance. Dr. Black is also a Certified Speaking Professional, the highest designation of speaking skill given by the National Speakers Association in the USA.

Dr. Black’s website shows the extent of his work and travels:

Alan is a widowed father of two who lives in Athens, Georgia. He spends the majority of his time traveling the globe volunteering — speaking, teaching, and consulting. He’s 70 years old, and a diabetic, with high blood pressure and cholesterol problems. His daughter, Jessica Beasley of Sawanee, GA and his son Scott Black of Boyton Beach, FL are both gravely concerned for his health and well-being.

His family, his colleagues, and his students around the world attest that:

  1. Alan has spent his life in the service of others.
  2. He has always demonstrated the highest respect and appreciation for the diverse cultures of the world, and the laws of nations.
  3. If there was any transgression we believe that it was unintentional.

It is hoped by his family and the creativity community that the US Embassy in the U.A.E. will make every possible effort to insure his health and safety, and will work to secure his release at the earliest possible date. If you wish to communicate to your US Government elected official about Dr. Black it is encouraged that you either call them directly, or write a letter. Email is the least effective way to get attention.

Four Criteria for Hiring an Innovation Speaker

Four Criteria for Hiring an Innovation Keynoter Let this post work as a guide for meeting planners. You don’t have to hire me as your innovation speaker, but if you hire one, you’ll be well served if you pay attention to these four criteria and my comments in bold. Innovation is a complex, wonky topic and it has some special requirements that go beyond the classic things meeting planners look for in a speaker. Let’s keep this simple and as neutral as possible — my shameless personal plug is at the very bottom. I’m even going to suggest my competition here. So here goes, in my view an Innovation Speaker should: 1. Have a background as a successful entrepreneur and/or

Read More..

Rural Broadband Necessary for Rural Innovation

Tuesday– September 23, 2014 It’s nice to see that people are recognizing that innovation isn’t always in Silicon Valley. Writing you today from the countryside in Three Oaks, Michigan, aka “Michiana” — where my poky web access is satellite based. Steve Case’s article earlier this week in the Washington Post  – Why innovation and start-ups are thriving in ‘flyover’ country –  is spot on. Case, you may recall, was co-founder of AOL. He correctly identifies the reasons why Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati, and other smaller cities are becoming vibrant centers of start-ups. He’s asking for investments of time and money to be made in order to further the trend. I agree, and… He didn’t go far enough with his article — he missed one

Read More..

Quick & Dirty Innovation

Many companies started 2014 with the good intention of “getting after innovation” this year. Was that your organization? How’s that going? Are you jumping for joy or singing the blues? Some companies have worked hard and consistently at innovation all this year. They started the year running and got things done. Look at the slew of announcements Apple just made (to be fair the watch took years). Other companies made a good start but got caught up in the red tape of too much process. So, it’s September now. For those of you who’ve been busy keeping up with business operations and haven’t had time to do formal innovation this year, all is not lost. Consider: Quick & Dirty Innovation (QDI) “Wake up

Read More..

Five Ways to Gain Story Fluency

Story Fluency and Innovation Every time I blink these days I see another article on story. It’s something of a too popular buzzfad, but for good reason. Clearly, story is important in many aspects of marketing, communication, and innovation. The current literature tends to focus on understanding story, and, aligning a story with a brand, or an organization. There is also the related trend of story telling, ala The Moth. I’ve been involved this last year with a similar regional group, Indigan Storyteller here in Michiana, and its been a transformative experience. I’ve written a business novel (Jack’s Notebook) and I can tell you this, I’m still learning to create and tell stories. Story is a saw we can all sharpen. What doesn’t

Read More..

Innovation Facilitation — Death is Easy, Magic Takes Training

Three Essentials for Magical Innovation Facilitation An essential ingredient to successful innovation projects is good facilitation. Who could argue with that? Innovation combines individual and group activities. Good group collaboration is not a given. Even individual activities need coordination with the group effort. You really need an inspiring, confident, well-trained facilitator to enable innovation. I’m talking about running and managing strategy meetings, ideation sessions, virtual sessions (using IMS), concept writing sessions, and other group work. A good facilitator makes a world of difference in the results of these group meetings and activities. And yet, in the long list of things that can go wrong in innovation initiatives, it’s often the one that is overlooked or taken for granted. The problem

Read More..

Changing Innovation Culture by Doing — Three Reasons It Doesn’t Happen

Innovation culture doesn’t change with assessment or analysis. You can learn a great deal about who you are and what your culture is like with the various assessment tools, but knowing isn’t changing. I’m a huge fan of KEYS, FourSight, and other assessment tools but they are not the answer. Training can help, but training alone will not do the job either. What changes innovation culture then? Doing. You change culture by Doing.  When employees are empowered to solve problems and those solutions are put into play, it’s motivating. It changes hearts and minds. And it changes them faster than anything else. Min Basadur says it’s the only way a culture will change. I agree with Min. Min’s been around

Read More..

Big Imagination is Blind Spot Remover

Coming back from a trip to Toronto (visiting with the amazing Min Basadur) I spotted an interesting billboard at O’Hare airport. IBM suggests they can help “Remove the Blind Spots from Your Business” — by using Big Data and analytics. The visual of a man at a kind of virtual desktop that has visibility to ships, trucks, retail, and factories indicates that if you can just know more about what’s going on out there you’ll have nothing to worry about. If only that were so. I’m not bad rapping IBM here, I’m sure they can indeed provide lots of interesting insight using Big Data and analytics. Many companies would be well served to do a better job with this. Using

Read More..

Six Ideas for Creative Action

What kind of action can you take, today, to advance your dream? What action can you take today to make real your invention, your new business idea, or art project? This is a post about taking creative action. All the great ideas in the world, all the wonderful concepts, all the ground-breaking thoughts we have are useless unless we get into real world action. It’s an easy concept to forget for people who love ideas, concepts, and imaginative thinking. Somehow — we are such great rationalisers — the good vibes generated when we have those lovely thoughts feel like action. But sadly they are not. Every day that slips by without real world forward progress on our creative ideas is

Read More..

Harvard’s Kodak Moment?

Have you ever been in the position where you thought, “gee, if only I was better educated, or just smarter, this complex decision in front of me would be easy.” In the innovation world the agonizing decision of whether to embrace a new trend and leave behind your old business model is always brutally dificult. Organizations have been torn to shreds in the conflict about what to do. Some have made those big choices and survived, like IBM, or, made bad choices and bit the dust, like Kodak. Part of the psychology of leadership is the doubt, the fear, that you’re not quite smart enough to make a good decision. One of the reasons people flock to Harvard to get

Read More..