You Can Build Your Creative Confidence – My Eight Takeaways from the book by the Kelley Brothers (IDEO)

Confidence.  Noun:
a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.


Take a look at the people around you.  Are they confident?  Or, do they seem to lack confidence?

Now, think about some specifics.  Are they confident that they can give a good presentation?  Are they confident that they can contribute something worthwhile in a team meeting?

How about this?  Are they confident that they can be a valuable player on a team seeking innovations in a creative way?

Creative ConfidenceIn the book, Creative Confidence:  Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelley (brothers; the IDEO guys), they have a simple message.  We all have creative potential within us – all of us!  It just needs to be freed up, let loose, “unleashed.”  We will come up with more breakthrough innovations – innovations that matter – when we do more innovating.  And, the more innovating we do, the more we build our creative confidence.   We literally can become more confident in our ability to innovate, and in the power and promise of our innovations.

I presented my synopsis of this book yesterday at the February First Friday Book Synopsis.  Really good book!, and more important, a really, really important concept.

What they really say is this:

There are problems to solve.
We need to get better at identifying the problem; reframing the problem.  And then, we need to find those creative, breakthrough innovations to solve these problems
And, the more we “practice” innovating,” the better we will be at finding these breakthrough innovative solutions.
And, sadly, most companies and organizations are good at being innovation killers rather than at being innovation creators.

Here are a few thoughts from the book (quotes/excerpts directly from the book):

We forget that back in kindergarten, we were all creative.
In the business world, creativity manifests itself as innovation.  (R.M.:  So, in other words, creativity and innovation are closely related – kind of “first cousins”).
Today, in every department—from customer service to finance— people have opportunities to experiment with new solutions.
We have been stunned at how quickly people’s imagination, curiosity, and courage are renewed with just a small amount of practice and encouragement.
That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.
No matter how high you rise in your career, no matter how much expertise you gain, you still need to keep your knowledge and your insights refreshed.
Seeking a younger “reverse mentor” can be a great way for an experienced executive with years on the job to continue to grow, flourish, and stay abreast of new cultural trends in an area of mutual interest.
To overcome inertia, good ideas are not enough. Careful planning is not enough. The organizations, communities, and nations that thrive are the ones that initiate action, that launch rapid innovation cycles, that learn by doing as soon as they can. They are sprinting forward, while others are still waiting at the starting line.
It’s hard to be “best” right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements.

And here are my takeaways from the book

1) Make this “shift” in your thinking… Decide that everything you do can be done better if done in a different, more creative way — with intentional innovation.

2) Do some “practice” innovating – design your life (differently) for the next month. Literally, design your life for 30 days. (Treat the next month of your life as a design project).

3)  Become very aware of the ways you, and your organization, stop innovators and their innovations in their tracks. And 
then, stop doing that!

4)  Beware of the “talking phase” (a cousin to the “knowing-doing gap”).

5)  Literally – think like a traveler, a tourist, a foreigner in a strange land. Pay better, closer attention. (On a trip, we become our own version of Sherlock Holmes…)

6)  Develop more empathy!

7)  Increase your “idea” flow. Take a class in something “new.” Read well outside your radar. Meet people “outside your 
circle” of people, and interests…

8)  And remember, innovation frequently comes from “groups; collaborations; interactions…” So, get to collaborating, 
much more often!!!

One of the real aha insights from the book was this.  It basically boils down to:  I went to college in a pretty “fixed” era.  We learned.  But I’m not sure we learned to keep learning.  And, this much is certain – we were not given class assignments to “come up with an innovation breakthrough solution to a problem” by the end of the semester.  In the book, they describe such assignments now spreading throughout the universities across the country.   In other words, learning to innovate, on a schedule, is practically a new required business survival skill.

And, companies, in essence, need to make similar assignments.

The Kelley brothers in essence say: people need to participate in many, regular “innovation exercises” in order to develop their abilities to innovate, and to keep such abilities sharp.  In other words, you have to practice innovating in order to be able to innovate when you really need to.

I wish I had learned this skill better, earlier.


(You will be able to purchase my synopsis of this book, with comprehensive, multi-page handout, plus the audio of my presentation, soon, at our companion web site,


David Kelley at TEDDavid Kelley gave a terrific TED Talk on How to Build Your Creative Confidence.  Watch it here.




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