"You don’t have to switch careers or move to Silicon Valley to change your mindset"
“When you hear the word ‘creativity’, what do you think of next?” This is the opening line of Creative Confidence, where the reader is challenged to reflect on the principles that make up the word “creativity”. Do you think of a painter? Writer? Dancer? Steve Jobs? Immediately, the process of elimination comes into play – placing creativity farther and farther away from our grasp. The assumption that what is seen as “unique”, “different”, “aesthetically pleasing”, or “artistic” are the building blocks to creativity. While that can be a component, that’s not the only way in which this word can stretch towards; and that’s exactly what Tom and David Kelley emphasize within this book.
Creativity is not something that is limited to someone who is in the arts, but is in fact a skill that can be developed and worked on. Tom and David’s mantra towards creativity is simple: it’s within us all. Whether you’re an accountant, sales rep, project manager, IT analyst – creativity is a gain that anyone is capable of inheriting.
Utilizing the framework that built Tom and David Kelley’s d.school at Stanford, we are given a crash course on how creativity can be gained, how we can become confident with utilizing this newfound skill and how to take action immediately.
The Big Idea
From Fear to Courage
"The surprising, compelling mathematics of innovation: if you want more success, you have to be prepared to shrug off more failure"
What makes you feel confident in a certain skill, activity or task? Is it the certainty that you understand every angle of what needs to be executed without failure? How did you gain that confidence in the first place? Experience?
Tom and David stress that creativity is possible within all of us, but the biggest component that holds us back from achieving this skill is simple: failure. Failure to provide an idea, action, or concept that will be successful. However, Tom and David take failure and multiply it to be one of the biggest factors that everyone should incorporate in order to fully gain creative confidence.
Instead of failure being viewed as negative, Tom and David shed light that failure is the stepping stones to enabling someone to get closer to their idea. Take the example of Thomas Edison’s creation of the light bulb. Everyone knows the one successful light bulb, that Edison created; the final product. But what about the lightbulbs before it? It took Edison, 1000 failed light bulbs to come up with the one perfect product. Tom and David noted that Edison’s mindset of a failed lightbulb was not seen as a negative impact towards his idea, but a positive step to get closer to his ideal concept. Instead of thinking of the “one lightbulb” as a success, all 1000 bulbs were successful creations.
In the workforce, the same idea can be applied. Instead of taking a failed idea or practice as a negative, use it as a benchmark to reflect on what needs to be modified to get you closer to that goal. Encouraging these moments to pause, reflect, observe what’s not working, and fine tune steers far away from the concept of a negative reaction – it just makes the idea stronger. Creative Confidence encourages people to make more mistakes and “fail” when putting ideas into action. When that action fails – pause, reflect, tweak and move forward.
Stop Planning and Start Acting
"It’s hard to be the ‘best’ right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements"
A common trap starts with what stirs inside and never leaves the walls of a person’s cranium. How do we take a problem and come up with a creative solution? With the functionality of inexperience and fear of failure, many individuals are not able to take action on their creative ideas and implement them in their working environment. With everything comes practice; Creative Confidence’s view of practice starts with immediate execution. Challenging us to not resist or perfect the idea that’s stirring inside our head, the book provides an “Action Catalyst” framework to give us a nudge and start acting.
- Get Help – Share the problem or idea that you have. Maybe this is a team effort or requires someone who has experience in that area to help out. Two heads can be better than one.
- Create Peer Pressure – Have someone be your personal accountability buddy. Everyone needs a nudge from someone else to keep you on top of your actions. David provides the example of using a personal trainer to motivate him to get to the gym and be active. Everyone needs help!
- Gather an Audience – Recruit people who can listen and talk through your ideas. Brainstorming is a fantastic form of sparking those creative juices.
- Do a Bad Job – Remove judgement and observe what was done. It provides the traction to get closer to that ideal solution.
- Lower the stakes – No one is perfect, so don’t expect to have the ultimate solution on the first go. Aim small, and gradually build until you’re satisfied.
Experiment with Side Projects
"Take the time to ask yourself each day, ‘When was I at my best?’"
Creative Confidence’s goal is to help increase a creative mindset within the workforce, however, Tom and David stress that sometimes ideas can be transferred based on additional side projects that are outside of work. Channelling similar methods of problem solving and self-reflection, the muscle memory can still be utilized and ultimately help bring new awareness back into the workforce that wasn’t possible.
For example, try taking up a new hobby such as painting, learning a new sport or finally taking on the challenge to build furniture by yourself that you’ve bought from IKEA. While these projects may have no relation to what you do at work, Tom and David believe that the broader you expand your activities, projects, hobbies, etc., the stronger your creative skillset becomes and impacts what you do at work.
How does this all relate back to creativity? Creative Confidence reminds us that creativity doesn’t stem from being a musician or the ability to paint a picture – it is the mindset that can be applied when coming up with ideas and solutions within the workforce. Something anyone – regardless of their artistic experience – can take action on immediately and not be afraid to mess up and get closure on your own “idea”.