Creative Confidence : Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

Creative Confidence : Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

Authors: Tom Kelly and David Kelly

Publisher: Crown Business –
October 15, 2013

Pages: 304 pages

ISBN-10: 038534936X

Price: Hardcover: $16.20

Price: Kindle: $15.60

Book Review

Creativity is often shrouded with mysticism and it is widely accepted that people are either born creative or they or not. Maybe some are. But that does not mean that average Joes like us cannot have a slice of that creative pool to complete our day-to-day tasks or excel at our jobs. Tom and David Kelly firmly believe that creative thinking can be learned like any other skill.

Apart from discussing about the right environment and state-of-mind, the authors reinforce that epiphanies are a product of hard work and a trained mind. What it means is there is no such thing as a flash of genius. What may appear as a flash of genius is a result of some new connection made by the discoverer’s relaxed mind building upon years of study and hard work. After all, nobody’s famous until they are famous!

David Kelly is the founder of design firm IDEO, which created wonders such as the first mouse for Apple. He now heads Stanford’s d.school and works toward training the design thinkers of tomorrow. Tom Kelly leads IDEO along with his brother David and is the author of The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation. He is a prolific speaker and helps organizations create environments where creative or design thinking is applied to solve everyday problems.

With Creative Confidence : Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, the authors intend to provide the readers with tools that will equip them to become creative, and give them the confidence required to leap from established practices and find new, fulfilling solutions. The authors define Creative Confidence as the combination of the ability to find ideas and the courage to put them in action. At the same time, they also stress that any solutions that come up must be economically viable. Throughout the book the authors reiterate that creativity is a state of mind and the design thinking methodology in the book can unleash creativity in anyone.

The first few chapters are written in a motivational book style and you will feel that you are perhaps reading a Deepak Chopra or Paulo Coelho at times. However, this style helps the readers get over the fear that they are not the creative type and helps absorb the fundamentals of creative thinking that the authors discuss in the book.

Each chapter in the book is a step in the creative-problem-solving cycle. Authors consistently use stories with real life characters to explain and stress the problems that design thinkers should aim to solve. For example, in the first chapter, Flip – From Design Thinking to Creative confidence, the authors narrate a story of pediatric patients afraid of the monstrous MRI machine. The story talks about GE’s design experience in solving this essentially human problem and point out that human-centered design approach can give better results for both the end-users and can be economical for organizations.

The authors also discuss the four-step method of innovation, but warn that focusing and understanding the human problems is important before jumping into the solution mode – there is no one right answer, and the fastest solution does not get a prize.

In chapter 3, Spark – From Blank Page to Insight, the authors stress that intellectual curiosity, undying optimism, and the ability to rise after repeated failure are the essential characteristics of creative confidence. This chapter talks about the state-of-mind that is necessary for creativity and talk about activities that can spark new ideas.

Asking questions and challenging the set ways of doing things is the first step toward creativity. Just because 10 or 20 others do a certain thing in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it is the best possible way available.

The authors advise that human challenges and needs are much more complex than the technology challenges associated with a device. These challenges are a product of environmental and socio-economic conditions. For example, a device designed to meet the needs of the developed world may not fulfill the requirements of a remote rural area in the developing world. Field study and social research should guide the initial spark as it graduates to fire.

Other than the elaborate case-study like stories, the book is full of small instances of how great ideas and solutions came from the most unlikely places. For example, when a London hospital doctor asked the Ferrari crew to streamline and optimize the process of transferring babies from surgery to the Intensive Care Unit with minimum delay.

The authors also give examples of creativity in action and show that persons trained for an analytical approach can become creative with the right environment and training in the example of how two students at Stanford built a $90 million company they started as a part of the authors’ d.school curriculum.

Chapter 5, Seek – From Duty to Passion, discusses the most pressing question every person must face at one time or another – to follow the heart or to follow money. The chapter discusses stories of how different people turned their lives around and found a balance. A job has to be much more than duty to make you happy. With Jeremy’s example, the authors highlight this struggle when your job doesn’t excite you anymore – something the authors call the “curse of competence” – to doing something when you are never working or are never at work. Following your passion doesn’t necessarily mean less effort, It simply means that you are engrossed enough to be oblivious to the demands of that work. However, the authors clarify that no work is good or bad, what matters most is how you see it – as a job, a career, or as a passion.

The authors will have by now convinced you that creativity need not be genetic. They have given you enough examples and proof of how anyone from any domain can become a creative thinker and apply it to their fields. Chapter 7, Move – Creative Confidence to Go, focuses on giving you the tools to spark new ideas. The chapter presents various exercises that you can start with to train yourself in the creative thinking approach.

In Summary

With this book the authors tell you that,

  • You don’t have to be creative by birth. It is a skill that can be learned as any other
  • The methodology discussed in the book can spur creativity in anyone
  • To be creative you have to first believe that you are creative
  • Creativity is a state-of –mind and an approach to problem-solving

Who is this book for? Anyone who believes that technology exists for people. Engineers can develop a new perspective to look at problems and finding solutions that are centered around human problems rather than the technology that they are using right now. Managers and organizational leaders can help instill the spirit of problem solving and exhort their teams to try and fail and work toward solutions that satisfy all stakeholders – but most importantly, the end-users.