Creative Confidence

David Kelly and Tom Kelly
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A great book for anyone looking to develop their creative thinking.

Successful innovation programmes balances three factors - viability, feasibility and desirability.

Flip: From Design Thinking To Creative Confidence

Innovating routinely with design thinking - where businesses have complex problems, design thinking may be able to help you move forward using tools such as empathy maps and rapid prototyping

Nurturing creativity - Professors at Stanfords encourage students to dig deeper to understand situations better, observing people’s behaviours in order to identify latent needs and opportunities

A growth state of mind - the first step towards achieving creative confidence is to let go of the belief that you are not creative. You have to believe that learning and growth are possible.

Design thinking is about always acting with intention. Most people tend to go with the default option while design thinkers make everything a conscious and original choice.

Dare: From Fear to Courage

Guided mastery - a method for curing phobias (Albert Bandura, psychology professor/researcher at Stanford University). The basic premise of the method is to take small, incremental steps. It draws on the the power of firsthand experience to remove false beliefs. It incorporates psychology tools like vicarious learning, social persuasion, and graduated tasks.

The failure paradox - early failure is crucial to success in innovation. The faster you find weaknesses during an innovation cycle, the faster you can improve what needs fixing

Fear of failure holds us back from learning all sorts of new skills, from taking on risks, and from tackling new challenges.

Learning from failure is essential to creativity, you have to figure out what went wrong and what to do better next time.

Viewing experiences through the lens of failure forces you to come to terms with the mistakes you have made along the way,

Traditional schooling systems are destroying creativity. “We’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. “Education is the system that’s supposed to develop our natural abilities and enable us to make our way in the world. Instead, it is stifling the individual talents and abilities of too many students and killing their motivation to learn.” (Sir Ken Robinson, education expert).

Let go of comparison - If you are concerned about conforming or about how you measure up to others’ successes, you won’t perform the risk taking and trailblazing inherent in creative endeavours.”

“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Spark: Cultivate a Creative Spark

Innovation is fuelled by a restless intellectual curiosity, deep optimism, the ability to accept repeated failure as the price of ultimate success, a relentless work ethic, and a mindset that encourages not just ideas, but action

Steps to move from a blank page to insight:

  1. Choose creativity - decide you want to make it happen
  2. Think like a traveller - try turning fresh eyes on your surroundings “Rediscovering the familiar is a powerful example of how looking at something closely can affect what you see.”
  3. Engage relaxed attention - Flashes of insight often come when your mind is relaxed and not focused on completing a specific task “Research on the network of the brain similarly found that our minds make unlikely connections between ideas, memories, and experiences when we are at rest and not focused on a specific task or project.”
  4. Empathise with your end user - make an effort to better understand the needs/contexts of people you are creating solutions for. Empathy in the context of creativity - “the ability to see an experience through another person’s eyes, to recognise why people do what they do.”. “Empathy means challenging your preconceived ideas and setting aside your sense of what you think is true in order to learn what actually is true.”
  5. Do observations in the field - through the lens of an anthropologist, you may discover new opportunities. “Informed intuition is useful only if it is based on information that’s accurate and up to date.” “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” - Mark Twain
  6. Ask questions starting with why -  “why?” questions can brush past surface details and get to the heart of the matter."
  7. Reframe challenges - approaching challenges with a different frame of view can help you get to the essence of the problem
  8. Build a creative support network - “Like many elements of creative confidence, building on the ideas of others requires humility. You have to first acknowledge—at least to yourself—that you don’t have all the answers.”

Leap: From Planning To Action

To embrace that level of experimentation, don’t get stuck in the planning stage. Innovation is all about quickly turning ideas into action. That necessity for getting things moving has its basis—at least metaphorically—in the fundamentals of science

The first step toward being creative is often simply to go beyond being a passive observer and to translate thoughts into deeds. With a little creative confidence, we can spark positive action in the world

Stop planning and start acting - In order to bypass the barrier in your way, you have to be focussed on taking action, getting things done now. “Do or do not. There is no try.” - Yoda

Anne Lammot, Bird by Bird - “Her ten-year-old brother had been assigned a school report about birds and hadn’t started on it until the night before it was due. “We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilised by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ ”

Boundary conditions can spur more creativity, not less.

Experiment to learn - The best kinds of failures are quick, cheap, and early, leaving you plenty of time and resources to learn from the experiment and iterate your ideas.

Prototyping a shared experience - Good prototypes tell a story, and if you can get the audience to become part of that story, the prototype can be even more persuasive.

Seek: From Duty To Passion

“Tension between the heart and the dollar illustrates a big theme in our lives”

Amy Wrzesniewski, professor of organisational behaviour at Yale - “people have one of three distinct attitudes toward the work they do: they think of it as either a job, a career, or a calling.”

How do you know what you were born to do? - what puts you in to a “flow” state, when time seems to slip away and you are completely immersed in an activity for its own sake. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, positive psychologist)

Team: Creatively Confident Groups

Creative culture is essential to routine innovation.

Phases that corporations go through to strengthen their ability to innovate (Mauro Porcini, chief design officer at PepsiCo)

  • Phase 1 - pure denial “executives and employees say, “We’re not creative.
  • Phase 2 - “hidden rejection” lip service is paid to creative endeavour, but executives lack commitment. “Behaviour change is hard, and lack of follow-through can occur for many reasons. Sometimes, it’s because people aren’t actually convinced that the new method will work, or they feel resistant to change. Perhaps they don’t understand it well enough to implement the idea.
  • Phase 3 - “leap of faith.” Executive recognises the value in consumer-driven design thinking and puts resources / support behind making a project happen.
  • Phase 4 - “quest for confidence” the organisation buys into innovation.
  • Phase 5 - “holistic awareness and integration” innovation and constant iteration and designing with the customer experience in mind become part of a company’s DNA.
“People at every level need to understand how to influence culture and cultivate change.”

Office environments need to facilitate and nurture creativity. “An office environment can be numbing or it can be energising. … An open space facilitates communication and transparency”

Use language to shape your culture - “When you influence the dialogue around new ideas, you will influence broader patterns of behaviour. Negative or defeatist attitudes spawn negative or defeatist words. The opposite is also true.”

“How might we …?” Is a great alternative to negative speech patterns

  • How - suggests improvement is always possible
  • Might - temporarily lowers the bar a little
  • We - establishes ownership/challenge

Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, all leaders lie somewhere between:

  • Diminishers - exercise tight control in a way that under utilises their teams creative talents
  • Multipliers - who set challenging goals and then help employees achieve the kind of extraordinary results

Next: Embrace Creative Confidence

“Societal pressures and corporate norms nudge us toward ideas and behaviours that are “appropriate” or expected.”

Just take it “bird by bird.” Pretty soon, you’ll start to feel more creative confidence.

Strategies to start increasing creativity:

  • Search for the big easy - tough tasks tend to deter creativity
  • Experiment with new experiences
  • Explore innovative communities (e.g. OpenIDEO)
  • Start designing life - do field research on yourself, looking for unmet needs in your own daily routine

Practical Applications

Empathy map - four quadrants, colour code post-its (green, yellow, pink)

Observations about what people DO in the lower-left quadrant

Observations of what people SAY in the upper-left quadrant

Fill the right side with Post-its, inferring what people THINK in the upper-right quadrant and what they FEEL in the lower-right quadrant.

"Take a step back and look at the map as a whole. Try to draw some insights or conclusions from what you have just written down, shared, and talked about."

Fifteen-seconds of brilliance

Every time you have an idea or observe something intriguing take note of it. Use any means to capture thoughts (e.g. small notebook, iPhone notes app etc.).

Customer journey map

Develop more empathy with—and gain new insights about—your customers is to look beyond the narrow definition of your offering and consider the customer’s total experience.

  • Choose a process or journey that you want to map
  • Write down the steps. Make sure to include even small steps that may seem trivial. The goal is to get you to consider the nuances of the experience that you may normally overlook.
  • Organise the steps into a map.
  • Look for insights. What patterns emerge? Anything surprising or strange? Question why certain steps occur, the order they occur in, and so forth. Ask yourself how you might innovate each step.
  • Show the map to people familiar with the journey and ask them what you’ve overlooked or gotten out of sequence.

Image credits: Creative Confidence by David Kelly and Tom Kelly