“You just need to start” (Kelley & Kelley 2014, 122). Seems easy, right? But in fact, I’ve found that the act of starting is actually one of the most difficult hurdles to get through when talking about how to practice creativity and design thinking.
The challenge of taking that first step
Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved to draw. I also love photography and writing. But the older I’ve gotten, the more occupied I’ve become with family, work and other things in life. And what’s followed, after not doing much creative stuff, is that I’ve found myself become critical about my potential creative work! This, in turn, has often and disappointingly led to not starting “that something creative” at all. Tom and David Kelley, in their book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All (2014, 40), refer to this as the fear of failure, which is indeed the biggest obstacle to creative success.
My introduction to Design Thinking
My introduction to learning by doing design thinking methods and tapping back into my creative side was guided by Katja Tschimmel in a 2-day course at Laurea Leppävaara in September 2019. I’d really like to highlight the word doing here. Reading about service design and design thinking is one thing, but actually doing it, is a whole different experience. During the course, Katja introduced and led us through the different phases of The Mindshake Design Thinking Model E.6², which she has created.
Our class was divided into 4 groups and my group, the Yogis and the wannabes, as we named ourselves, worked together through the model’s design thinking phases from Emergence (identifying an opportunity) all the way to Exposition, which was about communicating the new solution. In short, our group discovered a need for better facilities and services that support student and staff well-being at Laurea Leppävaara campus. This discovery guided us in the phases to create something meaningful and valuable to address the issue.
Gaining creative confidence
“Letting go of the belief that you are not good at being creative is vital in order to gain creative confidence” (Kelley & Kelley 2014, 30). This is also what Katja Tschimmel pointed out during our class. “You’re all able to draw!” she encouraged us. And, in fact, this was one of our first tasks. We each had 2 minutes to tell others in our group about ourselves while one team member drew our portrait and another one wrote notes about us. Everyone got a chance to draw a team member’s portrait and I think we did a pretty good job.
The power of visualisation
As the course proceeded, we experienced firsthand the power of visualisation in design thinking. Visualisation was not only done by drawing, but also by making prototypes. And what we learned was that the goal of building prototypes isn’t to make a finished project but, instead, to learn what’s good about the prototype and what can be improved (Tschimmel 2019, Brown 2008, 87).
Each step in this course, for me, involved doing and thinking in a new way and I must say that this felt invigorating and inspiring. Working together through the stages strongly highlighted the power of the group. What we were able to co-create when we, as individuals from different backgrounds with different experiences and strengths, put our heads together and aimed towards a mutual goal, was wonderful. And those lightbulb moments we experienced were great! One of the most fantastic points that Katja Tschimmel highlighted during the course was, that in the end, there are no my ideas, there are only our ideas. I find that this statement is truly at the core of design thinking.
Looking back, I have to admit, that at the end of the 2-day Design Thinking course, it wasn’t easy to process everything we’d done. In fact, as Brown (2008, 88) describes, design thinking can feel chaotic to someone experiencing it for the very first time. But I accept that and that’s ok, since this is only the beginning of the journey and I’m very excited to see and experience what’s yet to come.
Anyone struggling to take that first step into becoming more creative? I would highly recommend the below book by Tom and David Kelley (Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, 2014).
This post was written by Sofia Salo, Service Innovation and Design Master degree programme student.
Brown, T. 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review 06/2008, 84-92.
Kelley T. & Kelley D. 2014. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. London: William Collins.
Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking lectures. Held on 6-7 September. Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Espoo, Finland.
Tschimmel, K. 2018. Evolution 6² : An E-handbook for Practical Design Thinking for Innovation. MindShake.
I couldn’t agree more on the point you made about fear of failure being the biggest hindrance to achieve creative success. I have also experienced this in my lives. And yes, I will also recommend the book ‘Creative Confidence’. It is such a motivation.
Thanks for your post, Sofia! I agree with you that the magic there was, as the design process moved on with Katja’s guidance, was palpable (although I was in a different group. 😀). And I do agree with Tim Brown that the design process can feel chaotic when experiencing it for the first time. I’ve now tested the process twice (in an earlier training and now in this class), and in both occasions, it has been rather difficult for me to track down later what were the phases of the process and what happened at each stage. As you said, this just proves to us we are still in the very beginning of our learning process.
“You just need to start”, that’s a good one. Starting with things or ideas is a problem a lot of people face (at least now and then). The sentence with which Nike has been trying to motivate us for over 30 years now comes to our mind JUST DO IT, but we often don’t. Because we do not have the time, we think too big, too complex or because we fear the fact that we need to do it better, best, perfect.
Even though design thinking seams chaotic sometimes, I think that this approach can give us a structure to understand the possible steps of the process after we have started something. When we know about the steps, we can still think big, but we can divide our thoughts into manageable pieces. Also, Design Thinking doesn’t claim to be perfect, which allows us to get away from the pressure of having to create a masterpiece directly with the first pencil stroke.
“Letting go of the belief that you are not good at being creative is vital in order to gain creative confidence” – This was such an important point to read from the Kelley & Kelley book and to hear during the course! It feels amazing that creativity is like a muscle you can train to become better in it.
I really liked the empathy -viewpoint and design thinking has on solving problems and putting human in the center of design. This way it feels easier for me to empathize with myself, too, when ever it feels challenging to come up with new ideas. In these situations Kelleys’ idea on proceeding with baby-steps sounds extremely good.
Thank you for the article Sofia, it was very interesting to read! 🙂
Thank you Sofia! What an inspiring blog post. I will add Creative Confidence book to my read list : ) In our group work in the workshop, our first reactions for drawing were very similar. We were convinced that we can’t draw. The workshop itself was a good confidence booster and kickstart for future!