David Kelley on "Creative Confidence"

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“A series of small successes leads to creative confidence.” - David Kelley

This past week we attended a talk by Founder of IDEO and the Design School at Stanford University, David Kelley about his new book “Creative Confidence”. For those of you who don’t know Mr. Kelley he is an incredible guy at the forefront of the design thinking process, innovative learning, and teaching creativity. Some of his key points addressed a broad range of topics from confidence to failure, the D-School philosophies to human centered design, having a “bias towards action” to diversity in idea generation and always asking why. One of the most memorable things I took away was to “do something that feels like action instead of thinking through/talking through/planning it ahead of time.”


When asked about his opinion on failure Mr. Kelley responded by talking about John Cassidy (founded of Klutz Press)’s book called “Juggling for the Complete Klutz.” In the book he talks about how our brains “are wired to notice failure”, and that if we desensitize ourselves to failure and don’t care if the ball drops then we can learn to juggle easily. One of Mr. Kelley’s main points was to “take chances over thinking about failure”, so instead of thinking about the stakes or how something might not work, take a chance and learn from our mistakes.

Design School (D-School)

Mr. Kelley talked about how at the D-School they believe in a “meritocracy” or a ranking based on how well students do. In addition to critiquing each other in a very constructive way using phrases like “I like…”, “I wish…” and “yes and…”, instead of “I don’t like”, “No, but” etc. He also talked about how they are creating a “nurturing environment” where students are able to reconnect with their younger selves and “learn to play”. He believes that everybody is “wildly creative” but as we grow older we opt out of creativity in favor of more “sensible things”, so why can’t we be creative and reasonable? Mr. Kelley also talked about how through “guided mastery” workshops they were able to teach students, and executives to believe that they were creative and unlock their creative side once more. He also talked about how he believes that “every task can be done in a creative way, and with that every job can be done in an extraordinary way. ” He also talked about the tension between sustainable and extraordinary, citing that we should all do the sensible option and then add depth with a secondary component. He also talked about enjoying constraints and how at the D-School the students and faculty like structure but “don’t like planning everything out in the beginning”, he believes that the creative process is dynamic and should be changed as the situation evolves. Mr. Kelley also talked in depth about a “bias towards action” instead of planning something out, he believes we need to jump-in, do some need-finding and the plan after we really understand the problem.

Human Centered Design/Design Thinking

Mr Kelley like many professionals in the field believe that the innovation space is growing rapidly, and allowing us to make great leaps in many fields (citing healthcare and his personal favorite: cars). Specifically he talked about the balance of the three main components of innovation: technological feasibility, business viability, and human accepted. The first two components are pretty easy to understand, while he felt like the third didn’t get addressed as much as it should be, which is where design thinking comes into play. As one of the main developers of the Design Thinking problem solving model, Mr. Kelley elaborated on the “human-side” of innovation talking about consumer empathy, and how human centered design makes products more meaningful and likely to sell. If you want to learn more about design thinking check out our posts here.

Memorable quotes

“The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed” Mr. Kelley quoting a fellow professor

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