I came across Creative Confidence when I needed it the most. As I felt creatively down, the book gave me a creative boost. Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley is a book full of stories of how different companies solved their problems by a creative shift in their thinking.
The book has an entertaining with different stories around imagination and experimentation that helped change lives. It can help people be more productive and successful.
This article is a compilation of 25 stories from the book to inspire you to think of different ways to show creativity. Consider it a Creative Confidence summary.
You'll also find a few quotes from Creative Confidence book to better help you unleash your real potential.
Table of Contents
- Have Empathy Towards Your Target Audience
- Make Conscious Choice
- Believe That Learning and Growth Are Possible
- Take Small Steps
- Do More
- Make Mistakes
- Hold out a Hope of Success
- Own Your Mistakes
- Resist Judging Yourself
- Believe in Your Talents and Skills
- Innovation Needs Curiosity and Optimism
- Choose Creativity
- Seek New Sources of Information and Learning
- Observe the Person You're Creating Something For
- Seek out Opportunities to Update Your Worldview
- Minimise Planning, Maximise Action
- Translate Thoughts into Deeds
- To Make Something Great, Start Making
- Embrace Constraints
- Let Your Ideas Evolve
- Feel the Purpose and Meaning
- Change Your View
- Go for the Heart
- Don't Be Afraid to Try and Fail
- Get over the Fear
Have Empathy Towards Your Target Audience
A creative mindset can be a powerful force for looking beyond the normal affairs. It can help improve on existing ideas.
Doug Dietz, a medical imaging system designer at GE Healthcare, discovered that the MRI machine he designed was scaring young patients. So, he attended a design workshop, where he learned about the human-centred approach to design and innovation.
He designed the “Adventure Series” scanner by applying colourful decals to the machine and room. He also prepared scripts for machine operators to lead children into the adventure.
As a result, the number of paediatric patients requiring sedation reduced drastically.
New opportunities for innovation open up when you start the creative problem-solving process with empathy towards your target audience.
Make Conscious Choice
Steve Jobs never settled for the status quo. He believed in achieving ambitious goals through courage and perseverance, and he paid attention to even the smallest of details.
An example of his meticulousness was when he debated over the type of plating for screws in the NeXT Computer. He believed in pushing boundaries and was convinced that once you realize the power of taking risks, your mindset is transformed forever.
Design thinkers make everything a conscious choice. They see opportunities to do things better and have a desire to change it.
Believe That Learning and Growth Are Possible
A person's true potential is unknown. To achieve creative confidence, you must believe that learning and growth are possible.
Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, explored the mindset of freshman students at the University of Hong-Kong. Since all the classes and exams are in English, those who struggle with the English language are at a disadvantage.
Dweck asked them "If the faculty offered a course to improve English skills, would you take it?" She revealed: "Students with the growth mindset said an emphatic yes, while the others were not very interested."
Take Small Steps
Albert Bandura, a psychology professor at Stanford, uses a gradual process to cure phobias, such as snake phobias. His research has shown that people who believe they can change a situation are more resilient and take on tougher challenges.
Doubt in one's ability can be cured by guiding people through a series of small successes. The same holds true for creative confidence too.
He tailors each step to be just within reach, starting with small challenges and gradually increasing them. By the end of the session, the patient has touched the snake. Bandura's
You are better able to find solutions to difficult problems with small successes. You'll find new possibilities and collaborations to improve your situation.
Creative geniuses are quite prolific when it comes to failure. They just don't let that stop them. They do more.
Thomas Edison, one of the most famous inventors had failure baked into his process. He invented the incandescent light bulb, but only after the lessons of a thousand unsuccessful attempts.
Similarly, the Wright brothers are best remembered for the "first flight". But by focusing on that accomplishment, you overlook the hundreds of experiments and failed flight trials in the previous years.
John Cassidy, the creator of Klutz Press, says juggling begins with the drop. Step One is to throw three balls in the air, and let them drop. Then repeat. Having the ball fall to the floor becomes more normal than the ball not falling to the floor.
By making mistakes, you accept it as a part of learning. And you're able to remain confident despite setbacks.
Hold out a Hope of Success
Game designer Jane McGonigal talks about something called urgent optimism. It is the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle motivated by the belief that you have a reasonable hope of success.
For example, when you play a game, you're looking for the win. You keep trying despite the failures. As you move from level to level, success brings you to a state of confidence.
You just need to hold out a "reasonable hope of success" and as well as the possibility of a truly epic win.
Own Your Mistakes
By acknowledging mistakes, you sidestep the psychological pitfalls of cover-up, guilt and rationalisation.
Bessemer Venture Partners is a well-respected 100-year-old venture capital firm. It has gotten in on the ground floor of some stellar growth companies.
Their website features their Top Exits, of course, but they also have a catalogue of their screw-ups: Anti-Portfolio. One of their partners passed over a chance to invest in PayPal. They also passed, seven times, on the chance to invest in FedEx. It is currently worth $30 billion.
When you own your mistakes and figure out what went wrong, you'll know how to be better next time.
Resist Judging Yourself
Dan Roam, a visual thinking expert and author of The Back of the Napkin, helps people overcome their fear of drawing. He does so by dissociating artistic drawing from drawing for communication.
One of his lessons is called “How to Draw Anything.” He explains that everything can be deconstructed into five basic shapes: a line, a square, a circle, a triangle and a blob. He also covers drawing fundamentals such as size, position and direction to help people make better use of their existing drawing skills.
A nudge towards creative confidence is important. Resist judging yourself. If you can just grab a pen and stand up, you're halfway there.
Believe in Your Talents and Skills
Managers and CEOs going through their first design cycle are like kids going down a slide for the first time.
At first, they may need lots of support and encouragement just to get on the stairs. Some climb halfway up, get scared, and climb back down. However, after watching other kids go down the slide, they get courage.
Eventually, they overcome their fears and reach a breakthrough idea. Like the child on the playground, they feel exhilarated and joyful, ready to start again.
Creativity depends on what you believe you can do with the talents and skills you already have.
Innovation Needs Curiosity and Optimism
Four design students created the Embrace Infant Warmer. It’s a low-cost medical device that provides warmth to premature and low-birth-weight babies.
The team researched the infant mortality problem and decided to design a device for parents in remote villages to keep their dying infants warm. They found that hypothermia, followed by expensive hospital incubator, was the main cause of death.
Their device is shaped like a sleeping bag and contains a paraffin-based pouch that maintains its temperature for up to four hours. It can be used anywhere and costs 99% less than a traditional hospital incubator.
Innovation can happen anywhere. It's fuelled by a restless curiosity, deep optimism, and a mindset that encourages not just ideas but action.
Jill Levinsohn, a member of IDEO's business development team, joined Pinterest and posted a recipe for piñata cookies. It became popular and was re-pinned more than 500 times within a week.
She continued posting, and her followers grew to over 100,000, catching the attention of Pinterest itself. By the end of 2012, she had a million followers. She saw Pinterest as a powerful tool for creative expression. And now she uses her experience to encourage clients to be creative as well.
Being creative doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch or being the sole originator. It's about adding what you can, about making a creative contribution. You need to deliberately choose creativity.
Seek New Sources of Information and Learning
The head of the paediatric ICU at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital was facing challenges in managing patient handoffs from surgery to the intensive care unit.
One day, he was inspired by a Formula One pit crew's precisely sequenced performance on television. He asked one to coach hospital staff members on their techniques. The doctors and nurses then translated these techniques into new behaviours They mapped out tasks and timing for every role and made a checklist to relay key patient information.
As a result, technical errors reduced by 42 percent and information errors by 49 percent. Keep an eye out for new sources of information and learning.
Observe the Person You're Creating Something For
In 2007, PNC Financial Services created a new kind of account, PNC Virtual Wallet, to attract Gen Y customers. PNC realized that Gen Y, while tech-savvy, wasn’t knowledgeable about managing their finances. So they created tools to better manage money.
The Virtual Wallet includes a calendar view to visualize balances, a money slide bar to control fund allocation, and a Savings Engine to set personal rules for automatic money transfers. The product's success has led to greater deposit growth and stronger customer relationships.
There is nothing like observing the person you're creating something for to spark new insights.
Seek out Opportunities to Update Your Worldview
“Don’t be fooled by what you ‘know for sure’ about you, or the world.”
Amanda Sammann, a surgeon and medical director at IDEO, learned the importance of empathy in interactions during an interview with a young patient.
She realized that she typically focused on building patient histories and treatment plans, rather than establishing a connection with the patient. In a subsequent interaction, she discovered that the patient was an energy healer who had not sought medical treatment for a broken wrist.
By adjusting her approach and connecting with the patient on a deeper level, Amanda was able to understand her motivations and frame the treatment in context.
Don’t be fooled by what you “know for sure” about your customer, yourself, your business, or the world. Seek out opportunities to observe and update your worldview. Ask questions and go deep with conversations.
Minimise Planning, Maximise Action
Akshay Kothari and Ankit Gupta, were computer science students at Stanford. They created an application for the Apple iPad as part of a design thinking course LaunchPad.
They set up camp in a café and built quick, rough prototypes, getting feedback from café patrons every step of the way. Later, with actual software mock-ups on an iPad, it got even easier to gather input.
They observed what users did and made small iterations, changing everything from interaction patterns to the size of a button. The result of their intense effort, rapid iteration, and relentless action was Pulse News, an elegant news reader launched.
Creativity isn’t about coming up with the one genius idea that solves the problem, but trying and failing at a hundred other solutions before arriving at the best one.
Minimise planning, maximise action; have a "do something" mindset.
Translate Thoughts into Deeds
John Keefe, a senior editor at WNYC, overheard his colleague's mother complain about how often she waited at city bus stops, not knowing when the next bus would arrive.
He created a solution within 24 hours by using existing services creatively. He bought a toll-free phone number for $1 per month from Twilio and wrote a program that accesses real-time location data from the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority site and converts it to speech.
The resulting service allows bus riders to call in, input their bus stop number, and hear the location of the next approaching bus, even without a smartphone.
The first step towards being creative is often simply to go beyond being a passive observer and to translate thoughts into deeds.
To Make Something Great, Start Making
A ceramics instructor divided his pottery class into two groups during the first session. One group was to be graded on quality and the other on quantity.
Throughout the course, the “quality” students funnelled their energy into meticulously crafting the perfect ceramic piece, while the “quantity” students threw pots nonstop in every session.
At the end of the course, the best pieces all came from students whose goal was quantity.
If you want to make something great, you need to start making.
Francis Ford Coppola, the director of popular films like The Godfather, turned a production challenge into an opportunity for creativity. In one low-budget film project, a scene called for a right-hand-drive taxi. But all available taxis in Romania, where they were filming, had left-side steering wheels.
Instead of requesting an expensive vintage taxi, Coppola asked his makeup team to part the actors' hair on the opposite side and his props team to create a taxi top light and a license plate printed backwards. He then shot the scene and reversed the image in post-production.
Constraints can spur creativity, as long as you have the confidence to embrace them.
Let Your Ideas Evolve
Air New Zealand's CEO challenged his team to improve the long-haul flying experience. With the liberty to exercise creativity and rethink the customer experience, managers brainstormed a dozen unconventional concepts.
By being open to wild ideas and questioning assumptions, they developed the Skycouch, a simple solution that allows a row of three seats to transform into a futon-like platform for lying down.
Air New Zealand challenged conventional wisdom and created a breakthrough innovation by being open to experimentation.
Defer judgement long enough to let an idea evolve. Sometimes the craziest ideas can lead to valuable solutions.
Feel the Purpose and Meaning
Jeremy Utley felt unfulfilled in his analytical job despite his competence. So, he enrolled in a Bootcamp class at Stanford's d.school while studying for his MBA. He found fulfillment while prototyping ideas and making creative decisions.
He eventually left his old career path to become a Fellow at the d.school and later became a director of executive education, finding that it no longer felt like work to him.
Feel the purpose and meaning in whatever you do. And that shift in perspective can open up a world of possibilities.
Change Your View
Yumiko was an international flight attendant at United Airlines. The job was sometimes very tiring, and the working conditions could be stressful.
But she saw herself as a caregiver in the air, helping her passengers have a rewarding flying experience. She greeted everyone on the long flight with a radiant smile and zipped around the cabin with tireless energy, pausing to entertain toddlers and chat with business travellers.
How you view your job is important for your creative confidence.
Go for the Heart
Scott Woody, a biophysics PhD candidate, felt worn out from lab life and enrolled in a design class to explore different approaches.
He gained some creative confidence and applied to an entrepreneurship class, where he developed an idea for a tool to create custom resumes. Scott's newfound confidence and realization that science research was not his true calling led him to quit his PhD program and pursue his startup, Foundry Hiring.
His mother initially disapproved but later supported him when she saw how happy he was. The lesson is to identify areas of interest and commit to taking small actions each day to explore them creatively.
When you go for the heart, you can tap into and unleash inner reserves of energy and enthusiasm.
Don't Be Afraid to Try and Fail
Lauren Weinstein, a law student felt disconnected from her classmates. Everyone focused just on legal precedents and grades.
However, after taking a class on creativity, she gained confidence in her ability to experiment.
During a mock trial about a construction worker hit by a train, Lauren took a new approach in her closing arguments. She asked the jury to imagine the situation from the perspective of the victim. The jury ultimately voted in her favor, and the judge praised her argument as the best he'd ever heard in that mock trial.
Don't be afraid to try and fail. The worst thing you can do is to play it safe, stick with the familiarity of the status quo, and not try at all.
Get over the Fear
Marcy Barton, a long-time teacher noticed that kids were losing their creativity. So, when she attended a design thinking workshop, she decided to revamp the curriculum and include design challenges.
In her next history and math classes, students were better engaged, by constructing miniature colonies and acting out historical events. They not only improved their test scores but also began to ask better questions and engage more with the world outside of the classroom.
Everyone can solve problems in new ways when they are not afraid to be creative.
And that’s all from this Creative Confidence summary.
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