Creative Confidence



Without confidence in your creative abilities, you can’t achieve great things. Through consistent effort and various strategies, we are all capable of becoming more innovative. Don’t let fear of judgment hold you back from reaching your creative potential.

25 lessons

Creative Confidence

– by Tom & David Kelley –

1) We are all creative

Belief in your creative capacity lies at the heart of innovation. Creative confidence is about believing in your ability to create change in the world around you. It is the conviction that you can achieve what you set out to do.

2) You can become more creative

Creative confidence is like a muscle – it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience. In order to achieve creative confidence, you must believe that your innovation skills and capabilities are not set in stone. You need to believe that learning and growth are possible.

3) Think like a traveler

Like a visitor to a foreign land, try turning fresh eyes on your surroundings, no matter how mundane or familiar. Don’t wait around for a spark to magically appear. Expose yourself to new ideas and experiences.

4) Engage in relaxed attention

Flashes of insight often come when your mind is relaxed and not focused on completing a specific task, allowing the mind to make new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.

5) Take part in human-centered design

New opportunities for innovation open up when you start the creative problem-solving process with empathy toward your target audience. 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. Make an effort to get at people’s motivations and core beliefs. Try to understand why people do what they currently do and what they might do in the future.

6) Actively seek inspiration

Don’t wait for the proverbial apple to fall on your head. Go out in the world and proactively seek experiences that will spark creative thinking. Interact with experts, immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments, and role-play customer scenarios. Inspiration is fueled by a deliberate planned course of action.

7) Synthesize your research

You need to recognize patterns, identify themes, and find meaning in all that you’ve seen, gathered, and observed. Move from concrete observations and individual stories to more abstract truths that span across groups of people. Reframe the problem and choose where to focus your energy.

8) Explore possibilities through experimentation

Your most promising ideas should be advanced in iterative rounds of rapid prototypes – early, rough representations of ideas that are concrete enough for people to react to. The key is to be quick and dirty – exploring a range of ideas without becoming too invested in only one.

9) Combine rational thinking with design thinking

Design thinking relies on the natural human ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, and to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional.

10) Build confidence through experience

Doubts in one’s creative ability can be cured by guiding people through a series of small successes. Building confidence through experience encourages more creative action in the future, which further bolsters confidence.

11) Give yourself permission to fail

We all suffer from the fear of being judged, the fear of getting started, and the fear of the unknown. But if you want more success, you have to be prepared to shrug off more failure. Give yourself creative license. Label your next new idea an experiment, and let everyone know that you are just testing it out.

12) Find motivation through urgent optimism

Urgent optimism is the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, motivated by the belief that you have a reasonable hope of success.

13) Let go of comparison

It takes courage to leave the land of certain outcomes and the comfort of what we know to try a new approach or share a wild-sounding idea. 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 endeavors.

14) Build a creative support network

Creative people are often portrayed as lone geniuses or rugged individuals. But in reality, many of the best ideas come from working with other people. Creativity can flow more easily and be more fun when you have others to collaborate with and bounce ideas off.

15) Create an abundance of ideas in your teams

When ideas are in short supply, it’s tempting to become possessive or territorial and limit your options. But when ideas are plentiful and easy, then there’s no need to become territorial about them. And if an idea you had gets blended with others, it’s not a problem. The whole group shares the credit.

16) Ask ‘Why?’ questions

Asking ‘Why?’ forces you to examine and express the underlying reasons for your behaviors and attitudes. Even if you think you understand, dig deeper into your own assumptions.

17) Ask questions of a diverse range of people

Try finding and interviewing unexpected experts. Ask a blind person how they use a smartphone. Ask a biomimicry expert to tell you what people can learn by watching ants. Ask a science fiction writer to think about the future of packaging.

18) Make sure you’re asking the right questions

Sometimes, the first step toward a great answer is to reframe the question. Problem statements often assume that you already know what to look for, that you know the correct solution and that the only challenge lies in figuring out how to achieve it. Before you start searching for solutions, however, step back to make sure you have unearthed the correct question.

19) Have a ‘Do Something’ mindset

One of the best qualities about people with creative confidence is that they are not passive observers. Even in tough situations, they don’t act or feel like pawns or victims. They live in the active voice. They write the scripts of their own lives, and in doing so, they have greater impact on the world around them.

20) Don’t be a perfectionist early on

Striving for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process. Ultimately, you just need to start, regardless of small failures that may occur along the way. It’s unlikely that your first try at anything will be a success, but that’s ok. It’s hard to be ‘best’ right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements.

21) Keep a ‘Bug List’ to find creative opportunities

We are surrounded every day by products that don’t work well, services that slow us down, and setups that are just plain wrong. Keep track of opportunities for improvement that can help you engage with the world around you in a more proactive way. The running list can serve as a useful source of ideas when you’re looking for a new project to tackle.

22) Use constraints to fuel creative action

Constraints can spur creativity and incite action, as long as you have the confidence to embrace them.

23) Make a change

If you want to transform your life from mere duty to real passion, you have to start by realizing that your current situation is not the only option open to you. You can change how you live and how you work. 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.

24) Encourage and accept constructive feedback

We all instinctively know that constructive critique is essential. And yet it can be hard to listen to and absorb feedback without letting our egos and defensiveness distract us from what may be a valuable message.

25) Experiment with experiences

Pursue new experiences. Get another stamp on your passport. Seek out an undiscovered part of your own hometown. Pick up a new magazine you’ve never read before. Take a class in the evening. Make a lunch or coffee date with someone new at work. Approach the world with a sense of childlike wonder, and see what new ideas you can identify and explore.