Book Summaries

Book Summary – Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley.

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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.

In Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, IDEO founder and Stanford creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, IDEO partner, provide a framework for unleashing the creativity inherent within each and every one of us. They share stories, insights and lessons learned from working with the most successful businesses and creative teams in their work at IDEO. They expand on concepts such as Creative Confidence, Design Thinking, creative heuristics and strategies for becoming more creative.

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.

The Creativity Myth

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.

Creative Confidence – Opposite of Creative Myth

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

“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. Creative confidence is like a muscle—it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience.

Creative confidence is an inherently optimistic way of looking at what’s possible.

On Creativity

  • Creativity is 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Creative confidence is a way of experiencing the world that generates new approaches and solutions.

In 2005, David founded the (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.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is a way of finding human needs and creating new solutions using the tools and mindsets of design practitioners. Design thinking is a methodology. Using it, we can address a wide variety of personal, social, and business challenges in creative new ways.

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

Failure sucks, but instructs.


An old proverb reminds us that “success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” To learn from failure, however, you have to “own” it. You have to figure out what went wrong and what to do better next time. If you don’t, you’re liable to repeat your errors in the future.

Acknowledging mistakes is also important for moving on. In doing so, you not only sidestep the psychological pitfalls of cover-up, rationalization, and guilt; you may also find that you enhance your own brand through your honesty, candor, and humility.

Strategies for building your creative confidence:

1. CHOOSE CREATIVITY: To be more creative, the first step is to decide you want to make it happen.

2. 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.

3. ENGAGE 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.

4. EMPATHIZE WITH YOUR END USER: You come up with more innovative ideas when you better understand the needs and context of the people you are creating solutions for.

5. DO OBSERVATIONS IN THE FIELD: If you observe others with the skills of an anthropologist, you might discover new opportunities hidden in plain sight.

6. ASK QUESTIONS, STARTING WITH “WHY?”: A series of “why?” questions can brush past surface details and get to the heart of the matter. For example, if you ask someone why they are still using a fading technology (think landline phones), the answers might have more to do with psychology than practicality.

7. REFRAME CHALLENGES: Sometimes, the first step toward a great solution is to reframe the question. Starting from a different point of view can help you get to the essence of a problem.

8. BUILD A CREATIVE SUPPORT NETWORK: Creativity can flow more easily and be more fun when you have others to collaborate with and bounce ideas off.

If you want a good idea, start with a lot of ideas.

If you let go of what you “know,” you can start to look at things with fresh eyes—and with more questions than answers. But the real insights come from getting out into the world and gaining empathy with the people whose lives you want to improve.

Think on Paper

Write down the things that bug you, and you’ll start being more mindful of them. It may seem like you’re focusing on the negatives, but the point is to notice more opportunities to do things better. And while many of the items on your bug list may be things you won’t be able to fix, if you add to it regularly, you’ll stumble onto issues you can influence and problems you can help solve. Almost every annoyance, every point of friction, hides a design opportunity. Instead of just complaining, ask yourself, How might I improve this situation?

How might I improve this situation?


The “looks good, feels bad” trap is all about avoiding a career that makes you feel unhappy—and finding the right fit in terms of your interests, skills, and values.

Researcher and professor Robert Sternberg said,

“People get so bogged down in the everyday trivial details of their lives that they sometimes forget that they don’t have to be trapped. It’s sort of like those Chinese finger traps you had when you were a kid. The more you tried to pull your fingers out, the more you were stuck. But when you pushed them in, you could get out. Sometimes, you just have to redefine things.”

Work doesn’t have to feel like “Work with a capital W.” You should be able to feel passion, purpose, and meaning in whatever you do. And that shift in perspective can open up a world of possibilities.


  • Actively engaging in exercises that foster divergent or unconventional thinking can encourage the generation of ideas.
  • Tool Recommended: Mind Map


All the Best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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