Making creativity and innovation happen
Making creativity and innovation happen

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Making creativity and innovation happen

3 Enhancing your creative confidence

Creative confidence: having the freedom and courage to fail/take creative risks and the knowledge that all of the ideas you create have value.

(Grossman-Kahn, 2013)

It is one thing to recognise that everyone has the potential to be creative… it is another thing altogether to have the confidence to unleash that creativity and allow yourself to find your ultimate creative expression. While training and the knowledge of skills and techniques are important, by themselves they are not enough. For creativity to emerge it is critical that you have the necessary confidence in your own creative capacity.

Tom and David Kelley, brothers and pivotal figures in the renowned design and innovation company IDEO, argue that:

Most people are born creative. As children, we revel in imaginary play, ask outlandish questions, draw blobs and call them dinosaurs. But over time, because of socialization and formal education, a lot of us start to stifle those impulses. We learn to be warier of judgment, more cautious, more analytical. The world seems to divide into ‘creatives’ and ‘noncreatives,’ and too many people consciously or unconsciously resign themselves to the latter category.

(Kelley and Kelley, 2012, p.115)
Figure 6 Tom Kelley and David Kelley

A key problem, Tom and David Kelley assert, is that people can be held back by fear in different forms:

  • fear of the unknown
  • fear of being judged
  • fear of the first step
  • fear of losing control.

In order to be more creative, the challenge is to overcome those fears and become more confident in your own creativity.

Activity 4 What is creative confidence?

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch this video of Tom Kelley from IDEO discuss the concept of creative confidence and why it is important. As you are watching, reflect on your own creative confidence and how it might be developed.

Download this video clip.Video player: bb842_openlearn_235431.mp4
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What is creative confidence? What does it mean?
Sure. You know, we stumbled on this idea a few years ago. And when I'm sitting next to somebody on the plane and talking about it, they'll say, oh, yeah, creative confidence. I know about that. And they start in, and we start this conversation. And then almost always, they'll stop part ways in and say, wait, what do you mean exactly? Right? And so we've found it's quite useful to define it a little bit.
And so we think of creative confidence as two things in almost equal measure. The first is the natural human ability to come up with great ideas. And we really believe this is natural. We think everybody's got it. Some people have successfully buried it a little deeper than others. But it's there. And we watched it. We interviewed 100 people that, you know, successfully unburied it.
So it's half that natural human ability. But it's the other half-- and probably equally important-- is the courage to act on your idea. Because, especially in the business community-- we've talked to people in lots of different parts of life-- they're in a meeting in which something that is important to them is being discussed. And they have an idea. And they think their idea might help with the topic at hand. But they kind of look around at the landscape of the meeting. And they look around at the culture of the organisation that they are part of. And then they do a kind of a mental calculation.
And they decide that, on balance, for themselves, it's best not to raise their hands. If I raise my hand, people might think I'm weird. If I raise my hand, I might attract the attention of the devil's advocate. If I raise my hand, gee, that's a lot of work. I'm not going to raise my hand. And so they don't. They don't raise their hand.
And that idea-- we don't even know yet if it's a good idea. They're not sure. They think it might be. The idea runs down the drain. Meeting ends. Then they go back to business as usual. And so you've got to have both.
You've got to have the ability to generate that idea and the courage to, at least, voice it, and hopefully act on it, prototype it.
So I have a question. And for those of you who were at the opening yesterday, Alfre Woodard did a really amazing, I think lovely, kind of conversation, or a big idea around creativity. And one of the things she said was the creative impulse is in our bodies like blood, or something like that.
And so the implication being, that we all carry it. It's all in us. And yet, it goes away. And I think that notion is that even as children, specifically, we really embody creativity. And yet as adults, often many of us won't identify as creative. What is that? Like, how does it get broken down over time?
Well, so think back to kindergarten. If you can remember your own kindergarten days or your kid's kindergarten days, everybody's creative in kindergarten. There's that great guy, Gordon McKenzie who used to go around and speak at schools. And he'd ask each grade, any artists here? And he says, kindergarten, not only is everybody an artist, everybody is a two-handed artist. Me, me, me. I'm an artist.
And he says in the first grade, there's still 100%, but one-handed-- they're one-handed artists. And then it progresses. And he goes through. And he gets to the end of the school day. And he's talked to all these groups and gets to the sixth graders. You know, and so at sixth grade, a lot of this starts happening, researchers say, right in the fourth grade, is a pretty pivotal moment for this self-description about being creative.
So he asked the sixth graders, any artists here? And he gets two or three hands, you know, people. And they're nervously looking around, like, not wanting to be judged by their peers. Oh, people are going to think I'm weird if I raise my hand and say I'm an artist.
And so Gordon McKenzie says to the sixth graders, he says, hey, wait, what happened here? He tells them about the progression of his day, how it started with the kindergartners who were all artists. He says, what happened here? He says, what happened to all the artists at your school? He said, did all the artists here transfer out? Are they all off at art school, leaving just the non-artists behind here?
And he said, no, no. I think something far worse. He says, I think someone or something has told you in the last six years that it's not OK to be an artist. And he said, never mind everything else I said today. He says, kids, I want you to go home. I want you to remember this-- it is OK to be an artist.
And so what happens? One of the things that happens is-- a really interesting breakfast this morning, we were talking about failure a lot. And people do fear failure, even though we know that's how you learn. Skiing, right? We were in one of the great ski resorts of America here. Anybody ever learn to ski? Anybody ever learn to ski without falling down?
If you say, OK, I want to learn to ski. I want to be a great skier someday. But I never, ever, ever want to fall down. That's the same as saying, I never want to learn to ski. Failure is a part of that process. And we kind of forget that.
But with those kids, and then especially with us adults, it's not always just the fear of failure. It's the fear of being judged along the way. Because you see kids, when they, like, knock something down, the first thing they do is look around to see if anybody saw it. Really, no harm done if they knocked the chair over but nobody saw it, right? It's the fear of being judged.
And so that's a part in that meeting, when you don't raise your hand. It's not exactly fear of failure. It's fear of being judged. And so you've got to kind of overcome that and say, I'm not going to be perfect, but I'm going to try stuff. And if you can develop that attitude, it unlocks a lot of that creativity you have inside of you.
End transcript
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In order to be creative you must have confidence – but not just any confidence, creative confidence! Tom Kelley makes a strong argument for everyone to recognise and develop their own creative confidence. Doing so might just be the difference between (creative) success and failure.

So how might you enhance your creative confidence? A key is to address those fears that might be holding you back. If you are able to understand and overcome those, you are well on the way to creative success

Next you will consider the idea of assumptions and how they can, if not challenged, sometimes stifle creativity.


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