Creative Confidence: A book review by Bob Morris

Creative ConfidenceCreative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
Tom Kelley and David Kelley
Crown Business/Random House (2013)

How almost anyone can develop a creative, human-centered mindset and help achieve breakthrough innovations

I have read Tom Kelley’s books and am well aware of David Kelley’s leadership of IDEO and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (“d.school”) at Stanford University. Individually, each is among the most influential and highly regarded authorities on creative and innovative thinking. What we have in this volume is a unique and compelling collaboration on information, insights, and counsel that can help their reader to “unleash the creative potential within.” They insist — and I agree — that literally anyone can live a more creative life, at work and elsewhere, in all situations in which they have problems to solve, questions to answer, goals to set, tasks to complete, and relationships to nourish.

The Kelleys challenge all manner of misconceptions, such as the common refrain “I’m just not creative.” In fact, they suggest, “As brothers who have worked together for thirty years at the forefront of innovation, we have come to see this set of misconceptions as ‘the creativity myth.’ It is a myth that far too many people share. This book is about the opposite of that myth. It is about what we call ‘creative confidence.’ And at its foundation is the belief that we are all …Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you’ll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place.

Incremental innovation may sometimes be the most effective way to improve one or more aspects of one’s life as well as of a company. For example, in 2004, a leadership team led by Jørgen Vig Knudstorp transformed LEGO – “brick by brick” – into one of the world’s most innovative as well as most profitable and fastest growing toy companies.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of the Kelleys’ coverage.

o Creativity Now (Pages 7-10)
o Three Key Factors to Balance (23-26)
o Design-Driven Innovation (26-28)
o Nurturing Creative Thinkers, and A Growth State of Mind (32-36)
o The Failure Paradox, and Designing for Courage (44-49)
o Permission to Fail (53-57)
o Drawing Confidence (63-67)
o Cultivate a Creative Spark (78-81)
o Empathize with Your End User (89-92)
o Do Observations in the Field (93-98)
o Reframe Challenges (103-105)
o Cultivate Creative Serendipity (109-111)
o The “Do Something” Mindset: Live in the Active Voice (119-122)
o Experiment to Learn (134-136)
o Find Your Sweet Spot (165-167)
o Strategies to Get Started With (253-260)

Here are three of several reasons why I think this is Tom Kelley’s most valuable book…thus far…and why I think his collaboration with David Kelley achieves a level of excellence that neither brother could (probably) have achieved alone. First, like world-class musicians in a jazz band, they are playing the same song (let’s say “All Blues” with Miles Davis) but with different instruments and with improvisation that enriches rather than detracts from the pure quality of the group’s sound. The Kelleys are masters of carefully nurtured spontaneity.

Also, they are passionate advocates, indeed evangelists about helping as many people as possible to think innovatively about how they can live more innovatively. The Kelleys know that developing that mindset will require courage to overcome significant — albeit self-generated — fear. That is why the ten strategies they recommend near the conclusion of the book take human nature (for better or worse) into full account. Although heaven knows the disruptive innovations for which IDEO is renowned are exciting, the reality is that most people have convinced themselves that they are incapable of generating them, even when in collaboration with others. They lack courage because they lack confidence.

Finally, the Kelleys are committed to being eager and enthusiastic collaborators with their readers as well as with their students, their colleagues and their clients. To those plagued by self-doubts, struggling with self-imposed limits, they have an emotional intelligence that provides a reassurance, anchored in reality rather than delusional PMA, that people really can believe in what is possible for them.  First, they have to imagine it and then summon the courage to believe they can achieve it. Any journey of personal discovery is necessarily perilous. Tom Kelley and David Kelley are ideal companions for that journey.

Posted in

Leave a Comment