The Journey to Innovation

’’Creative confidence’’ was published in 2013 by the founders of – David and Tom Kelley. I first encountered the book when I was doing a post-graduate course at HPI School of Design Thinking at Potsdam, where being curious and living in the moment were highly appreciated as a part of the mindset of innovation. It was a truly inspirational experience, but what made it tangible and impactful was the implementation of my first user-centered innovation project. In this short post I would like to discuss the journey every individual and organization has to undergo in order to become an innovator.


Going back to our creative roots

David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, discussed in their book ‘Creative Confidence’ that  we are all born creative. Creativity is an attitude and bravery to try something new, to ask offbeat questions, to draw a hat and call it elephant. However, over time, because of formal education, organizational culture, we restrict those impulses and instead become more cautious, more analytical and start dividing the world between ‘creatives’ and ‘noncreatives’. In their book, the Kelleys aim at guiding people in rediscovering their creative confidence – their natural ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out. They came with few guiding principles for every innovation process: defer judgment, embrace the unknown, get out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of the first step. Those principles shape the working environment at every truly innovative company.

Learn to think like a designer

In 2011, Nigel Cross, a design researcher and educator, analyzed the work process of several famous designers and summarized the findings in his book ‘’ Design Thinking: Understanding how designers work and think’’. He considered what designers do during the activity of designing and discussed the nature of design ability. Cross concluded that Design is an act, the ‘making’ of and bringing something new, whether it is a service or product. It is a process that has its own logic and steps that can be applied every time we plan for something new to happen. Meanwhile Design Thinking is the ‘how to’, the approach, the mindset and behaviors needed to design something new.  Further elaborated by Katja Tschimmel from MindShake as: ‘’Design Thinking is the extrapolating Design from any specific toolset (Industrial Design, Architecture, Graphic Design) and recognizing that the process can be applied to any problem space.’’

Act like an Innovator

Creativity generates lots of ideas, but the most important question for organizations is how to make those ideas valuable. Tim Brown made a strong case in his book: ‘’Change by design’’, that the key to innovation is in the execution of ideas. Below, I summed up four key characteristics of the innovation process:

  • Innovation is empathy. Understand the user base and let them drive the decision-making.
  • Innovation is iteration. Testing ideas, iterating ideas till the concept is refined.
  • Innovation is team work. Understand the organization from inside out and involve experts in the process.
  • Innovation is implementation. Create an implementation plan and start acting.

Overall, anyone could be creative and generate ideas, but not anyone can be innovative. The journey to Innovation requires hard work and courage to face your ideas. We will all have the chance to walk that journey during the SID Program at Laurea.

Written by Mihalina Georgieva



Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation.

Kelley, David and Kelley Tom, 2013. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All.

Cross, Nigel, 2011, Design Thinking: Understanding how designers think and work.

Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.



One thought on “The Journey to Innovation

  1. Thanks Mihalina for the post. I really like that you have pointed out Tim’s focus on implementation. It’s rarely focused upon during design thinking and service design courses, but delivering value to customers and users is the whole point of innovating, right?

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