Creative confidence by David & Tom Kelley


“Creative confidence” is the first book I listened to instead of reading ūüôā I think it was a good choice to opt for an audio book this time as walking through the process seemed a bit more personal, which is in line with the topic.

We are reassured from the beginning¬†that creativity lies within us all, despite the belief that only the “chosen ones” (aka talented people) can be creative. The book is about fighting this preconceived notion and¬†achieving creativity confidence which is, as the authors state, the base of innovation.

You can find a preview of each chapter here¬†and you can read below my over-detailed notes ūüôā



Chapter 1: FLIP – from design thinking to creative confidence

The human-centered approach is at the core of the innovation process, therefore understanding people’s needs, motivations and beliefs,¬†is part of the design thinking process along with examining¬†the technological feasibility (technical factors)¬†and the economic viability (business factors).

There is no standard recipe for bringing new ideas to life but many programs include a variation of the following innovation steps:

  1. Inspiration: seeking new experiences, connecting with people, looking at other industries to see how the issues are addressed
  2. Synthesis: translating the research into actionable items
  3. Ideation/experimentation: generating countless ideas and creating prototypes for the most advanced ones
  4. Implementation: refining the design through an iterative process

It’s important that during the process you keep a¬†growth mindset, the belief that we can expand our capabilities through effort and experience. Combined with¬†focused intentionality, which refers to¬†not leaving anything to chance, it can work miracles or at least, great accomplishments ūüôā

Chapter 2: DARE – from fear to courage

We all should be familiar with the fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of the unknown…

And most of us try to keep away from failure but it seems that what brings you closer to success is to be prepared for more failure. Or on short, failure sucks but instructs. There is no magic potion, creative people just do more experiments as innovation is a trial & error process. What seems impossible in a giant leap, it is manageable in small steps through incremental change by taking one small manageable step at a time.

Designing for courage:

  • Be a fly on the wall in an online forum¬†by¬†paying attention to customers’ feedback, pain points & latent needs
  • Try your own customer service by pretending to be a customer in order to live the experience by yourself and find gaps or improvement opportunities
  • Talk to unexpected experts (receptionists, medical assistants, repair persons)
  • Play detective and pursue insight¬†by¬†observing how people interact with your product and/or service
  • Interview customers, tell them you’d like to ask a few questions and follow-up with¬†questions like “why?” and “can you tell me more about it?”

An interesting feeling that I believe¬†we all experience when playing a game is hoping until the last moment that victory can be ours even if the situation is not looking always bright ūüėź Apparently this is useful in the creative process (so keep it active!) and there’s also a name for it:¬†urgent optimism! ūüôā

Chapter 3: SPARK – from blank page to insight

In this chapter, we receive a long list of things to do in order to cultivate our creative spark:

  • Choose creativity: even if it sounds a bit silly,¬†attitude¬†is important so like any other thing that you want to accomplish, you first need to¬†decide that you want to make it happen and put efforts into it
  • Think like a traveler: pay close attention to the environment around you, expose yourself to new ideas & experiences, see the world with fresh eyes in order to rediscover the familiar, think of it as a treasure hunt.
  • Take a class in a creative discipline
  • Read magazines & blogs of your interest
  • Listen¬†to different kinds of music
  • Look out for new ideas from different countries, companies, industries
  • If you are stuck on a problem, get away for 20 minutes (you can¬†take a walk)
  • Engage relaxed attention:¬†allow your mind to make new connections with seemingly different ideas by daydreaming
  • Empathise with your end user¬†by observing the users interacting with the product or by interviewing¬†them
  • Do observations in the field. This is¬†a powerful compliment to interviews as you can find latent needs, not so obvious in¬†an interview. When you notice a discrepancy between what you see and what you expected to see, dig deeper. It’s not what you know that gets you in trouble but what you know for sure and it’s not quite so.
  • Ask questions starting with “why” and/or “what if” to understand the motivations behind
  • Reframe challenges. Before searching for solutions, step back and reframe the obvious question in order to address the real problem.
  • Build a creative support network. You don‚Äôt have all the answers and you don‚Äôt need to generate ideas all on your own.

Now, go get¬†sparkling! OR, if it still feels like a big challenge, you can read¬†some tips about how to get moving ūüôā

Chapter 4: LEAP – from planning to action

Two words: DO mindset. Meaning that you need to minimise planning and focus on¬†doing quick prototypes followed by numerous iterations.¬†Translate thoughts “wouldn’t be great if” into deeds and you can even keep a bug list to come up with¬†ideas for improvement.

Action catalyst:
  1. get help: involve someone
  2. create peer pressure: have someone else in the room to get started
  3. gather an audience: talk your ideas through and get feedback
  4. do a bad job: just get something out there
  5. lower the stakes: give less importance to the events

Chapter 5: SEEK – from duty to passion

You can see work as a job, career or calling. In order to have a rewarding professional life, you should be asking yourself 3 questions:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What would people pay you to do?
  3. What were you born to do?

The last question is usually the hardest to answer so you can try a few tricks:

  • Watch out for the activities¬†where you are completely immersed, when you find your flow
  • Write down each day what made you feel best and gave you satisfaction
  • Jot down the things that you love and explore the key elements that make you happy, then commit time daily to experiment with something in the area
  • Experiment with all kind of activities by enrolling in side projects

Chapter 6: TEAM – creatively confident groups

Besides building an individual creative confidence, innovation in an organisation requires collective change.

5 guidelines to build an innovation culture:

  1. Keep your sense of humour
  2. Build on the energy of others
  3. Minimise hierarchy
  4. Value team camaraderie and trust
  5. Defer judgment

Chapter 7: MOVE – creative confidence to go

This chapter is full of exercises¬†to help you unlock the¬†creativity inside if you. I will summarise only a few, to get a taste of it ūüėČ

Push yourself to think divergently

Tool: mind maps
Time: 15 min
Materials: pen & paper


  • Put one big challenge in the center of the page and look at it as an opportunity for innovation.
  • Add related items and if one seems to need a mind map of its own, then put a rectangle around it to emphasise it.
  • Use each connection to spare new ideas.
  • Keep going: you are done when the page fills with ideas. If that happens and you still have more to write, then reframe the challenge to give it another perspective and start over.
  • Choose the ideas worth implementing.


  • The first set of ideas will always feel clich√©s,¬†then your mind will open up with interesting associations.
  • Mind maps help to generate ideas, hence should be used early in the creative process when you want to create something new. You can then use lists to select the best solutions.
Increase your creative output

Tool: 15 sec of brilliance
Time: 10 min/day
Materials: paper & pen or digital means to take notes


  • Capture your ideas right away.
  • Use the technology that fits your life style (for example, I am using Evernote!).
Jump start in ideation session

Tool: 30 circles
Time: 3 min
Materials: pen & paper with 30 identical circles


  • Turn as many blank circles as possible into recognisable shapes.
  • Check out the quantity and the diversity of the ideas.

A very fun way to spend 3 minutes of your time!

Learn from observing people behaviour

Tool: empathy maps
Time: 30-90 min
Materials: whiteboard, flipchart, post-notes


  • Draw a 4 quadrant map with the following sections: say, do, think, feel.
  • Populate the quadrants with post-its by using one post-it per idea: do in the lower left quadrant,¬†say in the upper left quadrant,¬†feel¬†in the lower left quadrant and think¬†in the upper left quadrant.¬†Colour code your observations by using green post-its for positive things, yellow post-its for neutral things and pink or red post-its for frustrations/pain-points.
  • Look at the map as a whole and draw insight with conclusions.

Chapter 8: NEXT – embrace creative confidence

The best way to gain creativity confidence is through action. Practice leads to small successes which lead to creativity confidence. Focus on a project for half an hour each day before/after work. Network with like-minded people interested in design thinking. Explore open innovation platforms and communities. Take action!

Hope you enjoyed the reading and if you are not yet convinced that creativity is not something you are born with but an ability to be developed over time through practice then pick up the book “Creative confidence” by¬†David & Tom Kelley, you will surely change your mind!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *