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Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

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Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
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PRAISE FOR

CREATIVE CONFIDENCE

“A five-star WOW! This wonderful, heartwarming book may literally change the world. Indeed, it must change the world. Don’t just read it. Use it. Now.”

—TOM PETERS, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE

“An indispensable field guide for creative explorers of all kinds. This compelling book will help build creative muscles for when you need them most.”

—TODD SPALETTO, PRESIDENT, THE NORTH FACE

“Creativity is not magic, it’s a skill. Get this book and learn the skill from the brothers who have taught it to more people—from nurses to bankers to teachers to computer scientists—than anyone else.”

—CHIP HEATH, AUTHOR OF MADE TO STICK, SWITCH, AND DECISIVE

“A cross between Steve Jobs’ commencement speech on creativity and a modern-day What Color Is Your Parachute?, the Kelley brothers offer simple but effective tools for the ‘I’m not creative’ set—business leaders and professionals seeking the confidence to innovate.”

—JOHN MAEDA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN

“This is the only book about creativity that you’ll ever need.”

—GUY KAWASAKI, AUTHOR OF APE: AUTHOR, PUBLISHER, ENTREPRENEUR

“In hospitality—like in all industries—creativity is the life blood of engaging employees and guests (customers) and it is the capacity that allows you to strengthen your brand with every interaction. This book can help you engage powerfully with employees and customers and keep your brand relevant through changing times.”

—MARK HOPLAMAZIAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HYATT HOTELS CORPORATION

“Tom and David have put together a practical, useful and generous book that’s essential reading for anyone in the business of being creative.”

—SETH GODIN, AUTHOR OF THE ICARUS DECEPTION

“I have long marveled at the Kelley brothers’ ability to innovate in seemingly impenetrable fields (like health care). Now they’ve unfettered that power in all of us, sharing the tools and inspiring the confidence we need to find the very best solutions to complex problems we face at work—and in our personal lives.”

—GARY L. GOTTLIEB, M.D., PRESIDENT AND CEO, PARTNERS HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

“David and Tom have written an incredibly insightful book that challenges us all to have the courage to break out of our ruts, innovate, and create.”

—TIM KOOGLE, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, YAHOO

“Developing both the courage and confidence to create and the ability to cultivate original insight is of enormous practical importance, and this new book is the first place I send people to learn how it is done.”

—RICHARD MILLER, PRESIDENT, OLIN COLLEGE

“David and Tom Kelley show us how to effortlessly dance between the creativity of elementary school and the pragmatism of the business world.”

—JOE GEBBIA, COFOUNDER, AIRBNB



COPYRIGHT

William Collins

An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.WilliamCollinsBooks.com

First published in Great Britain by William Collins in 2013

First published in the United States by Crown Business in 2013

Copyright © David Kelley and Tom Kelley 2013

David Kelley and Tom Kelley assert the moral right to be identified as the authors of this work.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Illustrations by Beau Bergeron, Alyana Cazalet, and Dan Roam Jacket design by Martin Kay

Ebook Edition © October 2013 ISBN: 9780007518005

Version: 2015-12-16

Dedication

To Mom & Dad …

who gave us the freedom to express creative ideas, and the confidence to act on them

CONTENTS

Cover

Title Page

COPYRIGHT

Dedication

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION THE HEART OF INNOVATION

CHAPTER 1 FLIP FROM DESIGN THINKING TO CREATIVE CONFIDENCE

CHAPTER 2 DARE FROM FEAR TO COURAGE

CHAPTER 3 SPARK FROM BLANK PAGE TO INSIGHT

CHAPTER 4 LEAP FROM PLANNING TO ACTION

CHAPTER 5 SEEK FROM DUTY TO PASSION

CHAPTER 6 TEAM CREATIVELY CONFIDENT GROUPS

CHAPTER 7 MOVE CREATIVE CONFIDENCE TO GO

CHAPTER 8 NEXT EMBRACE CREATIVE CONFIDENCE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

NOTES

BY THE SAME AUTHORS

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

CREDITS

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

PREFACE

This is a book from two brothers who have been close all their lives. As children in small-town Ohio, we played baseball on the same Tigers Little League teams in the summer and built snow forts together in the winter. We shared a bedroom for fourteen years, tacking up posters of muscle cars on the knotty-pine walls in the kind of finished basement that was popular in the Midwest. We went to the same grade school, joined the same Boy Scout troop, went on family vacations to Lake Erie, and once camped all the way to California and back with our parents and two sisters. We took many things apart, and put some of them back together.

But a close-knit relationship and overlapping lives do not mean our paths were the same. David has always been a bit unconventional. His favorite class in high school was art. He played in a local rock band called the Sabers with his friends. He built giant plywood structures like jukeboxes and grandfather clocks for the annual Spring Carnival at Carnegie Mellon. He started a firm called Intergalactic Destruction Company (the month Star Wars debuted in theaters) so he and his friends could do construction work together for the summer. Just for fun, he painted three bold green stripes along the back wall of our parents’ house, still there forty years later. And he always loved creating one-of-a-kind gifts, like the time he made his girlfriend a phone that would dial only his number, no matter what buttons she pushed.

Tom, on the other hand, followed a path that seemed more traditional. After studying liberal arts in college, he considered going to law school, tried working at an accounting firm for a while, and played an IT-related role at General Electric. After getting an MBA, he worked in a spreadsheet-intensive position as a management consultant. Along the way, his jobs were mostly predictable, both in their day-to-day work and the longer-term career paths each offered. Then he joined the design world and discovered there was more fun to be had coloring outside the lines.

 

We remained close all this time and spoke to each other most weeks, even when we lived eight thousand miles apart. After David founded the design and innovation firm that would become IDEO, Tom helped out there during business school and then rejoined full-time in 1987. We have worked together ever since, as the firm has continued to grow: David as CEO and then chairman, Tom in leadership roles that included marketing, business development, and storytelling.

The story of this book begins in April of 2007, when David—the older brother—got a call from his doctor, who uttered one of the scariest, most dreaded words in the medical lexicon: cancer. He was at his daughter’s fourth-grade class helping nine-year-olds think about how to redesign backpacks when the call came through, and he managed to spend another hour with the young students before breaking away to process this new setback. David had been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma—throat cancer—and given a 40 percent chance of surviving the ordeal.

At that moment, Tom had just wrapped up a presentation to two thousand executives in São Paulo, Brazil. As he sat down backstage and switched his cell phone back on, it rang almost immediately. When he got the sobering news of David’s diagnosis, he abandoned the rest of his South American trip and headed straight for the airport. Although he knew there was little he could do to help, he had to get home to see David.

We had always been close, but David’s illness further cemented our bond that year. Through the next six months of chemotherapy, radiation, hydration, morphine, and finally surgery, we saw each other almost every day, sometimes talking endlessly and other times passing hours together while speaking barely a word. At the Stanford Cancer Center, we crossed paths with patients who eventually lost their battle with cancer. We couldn’t help wondering whether time was running out for David too.

If there is an upside to that terrible disease, it’s that cancer forces deep reflection, causing you to think about purpose and meaning in your life. Everyone we know who has survived cancer says that they look at life differently in its aftermath. Late in the year, as David recovered from surgery, we saw the first real hope of pushing cancer into the background of our lives. Faced with that joyous possibility, we vowed that if David survived, we would do two things together that involved neither doctors nor hospitals: First, we’d take a fun brother/brother trip together somewhere in the world, which we had never done in our adult lives. And second, we would work together side by side on a project that would allow us to share ideas with each other and the world.

The trip was an unforgettable week in Tokyo and Kyoto, exploring the best of modern and ancient Japanese cultures. And the collaborative project was creating the book you now hold in your hands.

Why a book about creative confidence? Because we have noticed from thirty years at IDEO that innovation can be both fun and rewarding. But as you look at the sweep of your life and start to think of a legacy that survives beyond it, giving others the opportunity to live up to their creative capacity seems like a worthy purpose. In the midst of David’s battle with cancer in 2007, a recurring question was “What was I put on Earth to do?” This book is part of the answer: To reach out to as many people as possible. To give future innovators the opportunity to follow their passions. To help individuals and organizations unleash their full potential—and build their own creative confidence.

David and Tom Kelley


(photo/illustration credit itr.1)

INTRODUCTION
THE HEART OF INNOVATION

When you hear the word “creativity,” what do you think of next?

If you are like many people, your mind immediately leaps to artistic endeavors like sculpture, drawing, music, or dance.

You may equate “creative” with “artistic.”

You may believe that architects and designers are paid to be creative thinkers, but CEOs, lawyers, and doctors are not.

Or you may feel that being creative is a fixed trait, like having brown eyes—either you’re born with creative genes, or you’re not.

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.

The truth is, we all have far more creative potential waiting to be tapped.

We’ve helped thousands of companies bring breakthrough ideas to market—from Apple’s first computer mouse to next-generation surgical tools for Medtronic to fresh brand strategies for The North Face in China. And we’ve also seen that our methods can produce a new creative mindset in people that can dramatically enhance their lives, whether they work in the fields of medicine, law, business, education, or science.

Over the past three decades, we’ve helped countless individuals nurture their creativity and put it to valuable use. They’ve created housing optimized for the needs of service men and women returning from war zones. They’ve set up an ad hoc innovation team in a corporate hallway, generating so much energy and noise that the company gave them a dedicated project space. They’ve developed a low-cost system for screening and fitting hearing aids among elderly villagers in developing countries, providing benefit to some of the 360 million people in the world who suffer from disabling hearing loss. The people we’ve helped have many backgrounds but share one common trait: they all have gained creative confidence.

At its core, 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. We think this self-assurance, this belief in your creative capacity, lies at the heart of innovation.

Belief in your creative capacity lies at the heart of innovation.

Creative confidence is like a muscle—it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience. Our goal is to help build that confidence in you.

Whether you think of yourself as “the creative type” or not, we believe reading this book will help you unlock and draw on more of the creative potential that is within us all.

CREATIVITY NOW

Creativity is much broader and more universal than what people typically consider the “artistic” fields. We think of creativity as using your imagination to create something new in the world. Creativity comes into play wherever you have the opportunity to generate new ideas, solutions, or approaches. And we believe everyone should have access to that resource.

For much of the twentieth century the so-called “creative types”—designers, art directors, copy writers—were relegated to the kids’ table, far from serious discussions. Meanwhile, all the important business conversations took place among the “grown-ups” in boardrooms and meeting spaces down the hall.

But the creative endeavors that seemed fanciful or extracurricular a decade ago have now gone mainstream. Education thought leader Sir Ken Robinson—whose riveting 2006 TED Talk asking “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” was the most popular in history—says that creativity “is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

In the business world, creativity manifests itself as innovation. Tech stars such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter have unleashed their employees’ creativity to change the lives of billions of people. Today, in every department—from customer service to finance—people have opportunities to experiment with new solutions. Companies desperately need employees’ insights from across the organization. No individual executive or division holds a monopoly on new ideas.

Whether you live in Silicon Valley or Shanghai, Munich or Mumbai, you’ve already felt the effects of seismic market shifts. Most businesses today realize that the key to growth, and even survival, is innovation. One recent IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs reports that creativity is the single most important leadership competency for enterprises facing the complexity of global commerce today. An Adobe Systems poll of five thousand people on three continents reports that 80 percent of people see unlocking creative potential as key to economic growth. Yet only 25 percent of these individuals feel that they’re living up to their creative potential in their own lives and careers. That’s a lot of wasted talent.

How might we shift that balance? How might we help the other 75 percent unleash their creative potential?

In 2005, David founded the d.school (formally known as the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design) to teach design thinking—a methodology for innovating routinely—to future entrepreneurs from Stanford’s graduate schools. Originally, we thought that the primary challenge would be to teach creativity to people who saw themselves as “analytical types.” We soon realized that all of the individuals we worked with already had creativity in spades.* Our job was simply to help them recapture it by sharing new skills and mindsets.

We have been stunned at how quickly people’s imagination, curiosity, and courage are renewed with just a small amount of practice and encouragement.

For the people we’ve worked with, opening up the flow of creativity is like discovering that you’ve been driving a car with the emergency brake on—and suddenly experiencing what it feels like when you release the brake and can drive freely. We see this a lot with executives during workshops, or when we have clients in to collaborate side by side with us. They’ve sat through seminars about innovation before, and they are convinced they know how creative—or how uncreative—they’re going to be. So when we get to a point that’s fuzzy or unconventional—like doing an improv exercise—suddenly they whip out their smartphones, heading for the exits to make “really important” phone calls.

Why? Because they are insecure about their abilities in that setting. They instinctively fall back on the defense that “I’m just not the creative type.”

In our experience, everybody is the creative type. We know that if we can get individuals to stick with the methodology a while, they will end up doing amazing things. They come up with breakthrough ideas or suggestions and work creatively with a team to develop something truly innovative. They surprise themselves with the realization that they are a lot more creative than they had thought. That early success shakes up how they see themselves and makes them eager to do more.

What we’ve found is that we don’t have to generate creativity from scratch. We just need to help people rediscover what they already have: the capacity to imagine—or build upon—new-to-the-world ideas. But the real value of creativity doesn’t emerge until you are brave enough to act on those ideas. That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.

Geshe Thupten Jinpa, who has been the Dalai Lama’s chief English translator for more than twenty years, shared an insight with us recently about the nature of creativity. Jinpa pointed out that there’s no word in the Tibetan language for “creativity” or “being creative.” The closest translation is “natural.” In other words, if you want to be more creative, you just have to be more natural. We forget that back in kindergarten, we were all creative. We all played and experimented and tried out weird things without fear or shame. We didn’t know enough not to. The fear of social rejection is something we learned as we got older. And that’s why it’s possible to regain our creative abilities so swiftly and powerfully, even decades later.

 

It turns out that creativity isn’t some rare gift to be enjoyed by the lucky few—it’s a natural part of human thinking and behavior. In too many of us it gets blocked. But it can be unblocked. And unblocking that creative spark can have far-reaching implications for yourself, your organization, and your community.

We believe that our creative energy is one of our most precious resources. It can help us to find innovative solutions to some of our most intractable problems.

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