Earlier this year I was sitting in a conference room at Portland State University. We were there for a CXR Cares project, helping college students with interview skills and job search techniques. One of our CXR Community members was talking about how he was inspired to approach his career in a different way by a book titled Creative Confidence. My curiosity was sparked so I asked him more during a break and he told me that the book was about how to apply design thinking to different aspects of your life. As soon as we were done, I downloaded a copy of the audio book and started listening to it the very next morning during my workout.
I immediately understood why this book stood out to him and, while it’s not a new book, I think it’s well worth a recommendation. Written by IDEO founder and Stanford d.school creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, this book is all about approaching projects from a fresh perspective. If you are feeling stale in your approach to anything in your life, take the time to read or listen to this book.
Everyone is creative
My biggest takeaway from the book is that everyone has creativity and, when unleashed, that creativity can have a significant impact. Perhaps you, like me, are skeptical about this notion that everyone is creative. I promise after listening to the first few chapters of this book you’ll have a change of heart. Part of the issue is understanding exactly what creativity is and I love how the Kelley brothers give real life examples to illustrate different creative approaches. I’ve read books about design thinking before but the concept really hit home while reading this book.
From planning to action
I’m a planner, a list maker, an itinerary lover. It’s a big part of what I do in work and life. That’s probably why this chapter still sticks out to me. You can plan an idea to death… literally. Coming in the middle of the book, this chapter does a nice job of getting you to use that creativity that you now recognize and put it into action. While listening to this chapter I often found myself pausing it to make a note to rethink an approach to a project or add a completely new idea to my to do list. This is where the book really became inspirational for me. While the first half was interesting and caused me to think, the second half caused me to want to do things differently. Even something as simple as asking questions in a new way to elicit different responses and then see where those new answers might lead me.
The book ends with some exercises to help you find your own creativity and inspire design thinking in a group atmosphere. I appreciated that the book took a concept, illustrated it repeatedly with case studies, and then finished by giving the reader concrete action items to spark their own creativity. In fact, you can find some exercises and supporting materials on the book’s website – it’s a great resource on its own!
Wondering if this book is worth your time? I think this quote from the authors in the final chapter, titled Embrace Creative Confidence, answers that question:
Our great friend and IDEO cofounder Bill Moggridge strongly believed that most people were vastly more creative and capable than they knew. And we have always felt the same way. Societal pressures and corporate norms nudge us toward ideas and behaviors that are “appropriate” or expected. But the rewards for creativity and individuality are well worth the effort. Steve Jobs urged us to do something “insanely great,” and during his lifetime that approach allowed him to create and lead one of the most valuable companies in the world. Normalcy is overrated. If you tap into your natural creativity, you have a chance to be extraordinary.
I’d be surprised if this book doesn’t inspire you to change at least one approach or lead a meeting in a different fashion or launch a new project. If design thinking intrigues you – or even if you haven’t really understood what design thinking is all about – this is a great read.