Sanjeev Kotnala: Tapping Creative Confidence the Kelley brothers way

31 Jan,2018

By Sanjeev Kotnala


I like the book ‘Creative Confidence’. I am impressed with its simplicity in presentation. It avoids jargon and keeps the narrative very conversationalist.

It is not a book that I am going to uncage soon. The Kelley brothers — David: co-founder Ideo (the global innovation and design consultancy, founder Stanford D. School ) and Tom author of ‘The Art of Innovation’ — present a simple framework of action-oriented thinking to jumpstart the creative process.

The book sites examples of innovative thinking led product sprinkled throughout the book. It does make it engaging.  The Kelly brothers share few of the processes one could adapt, but that seems to be an afterthought. The book makes a strong case of all of us being creative, and that we can think differently.

Talking about the book, the authors say: “Creativity comes into play whenever you have the opportunity to generate new ideas, solutions or approaches. And we believe everyone should have access to that resources.” It seems logical.

It is our self-imposed constraints and underestimation of capabilities that pull us back. “Creative confidence is like a muscle – it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience.” It seems like most of us fail to exercise these muscles.

The need to be action-oriented, multiple iterations, moving in early with the users are all part of the process. In one of the chapters, they share few strategies to help one get from a blank page to insight. Some of them choose creativity, think like a traveller. Engage relaxed attention, empathise with your end-user, make observations in the field, ask questions starting with why re-frame challenges and build a creative support network. In a way, none of them is a new strategy.

There is nothing new for a serious reader and followers of the subject. It reiterates the need to be human-centric in your creativity and solutions. “Being human-cantered is at the core of our innovation process. Deep empathy for people makes our observations powerful sources of inspiration. We aim to understand why people do what they currently do, with the goal of understanding what they might do in the future. An empathetic approach fuels our process by ensuring we never forget we’re designing for real people. Design thinking relies on the natural and coachable human ability to be intuitive, to recognise patterns, and to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional. We’re not suggesting that anyone should base a career or run an organisation solely on feeling, intuition, and inspiration. However, an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky.”

There is a definitive tilt towards start-up culture; if you are in that space, it may be a book to read.

“If you want to make something great, you need to start MAKING. Striving for perfection can get into the way during early stages of the creative process. So, don’t get stuck in the planning stage. Don’t let your inner perfectionist slow you down. All over, planning and procrastination, and all the talking are signs that we are afraid, that we DON’T FEEL READY’. Kill this feeling and go and make.

Here I must share something that one keeps hearing in the corridors of power discussions and mostly tend to over-ride and overlook. And just this insight will help your cause more than anything else.

‘No matter how high you rise in your career, no matter how much expertise you gain; you still need t to keep your knowledge, and your insights refreshed. Otherwise, you may develop false confidence in what you already “know” that might lead you to a wrong decision. Informed intuition is useful only if it is based on information that’s accurate and up to date.”

There is too much ‘I’ in the book, and in few pages, it reads like a brochure for the D-School. I understand a book can have many reasons to exist. But then please that could have been better camouflaged, that is the intent.

So, if you have read a few books on innovation and design thinking, then maybe it a good idea for you to drop give this book a miss. Otherwise, it is a decent introductory self-help book on the subject.


CREATIVE CONFIDENCE. Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelly (best-selling author selling author of Art Of Innovation) And David Kelly ( Founder Ideo & Stanford School Of Design). William Collins an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. Rs 399. Pages 260.



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