Anyone can be creative. That was the key thought gathered from the book Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. Too often creativity is associated with being artistic. In its’ essence, creativity is about finding solutions to open-ended problems – a natural part of us, that we must just learn to unblock.
How does one improve their creative thinking abilities and get rid of the fear of failure, the one thing holding so many of us back from realizing our inner creative potential? One way is through Design Thinking processes, the repetition of which can not only harness our brains to be more in tune with our creativity, but help us realize that failure is an inevitable risk in any endeavour. Every step of a creative journey – whether a triumph or a failure, is a step forward. The one taking the most steps is the most prone to succeed.
“The inescapable link between failure and innovation is a lesson you can learn only through doing.”
First steps of ideation
In a Design Thinking workshop, such as the one we recently attended called Design Thinking Masterclass, taught by Katja Tschimmel, teams were challenged to “shake their collective brains” by going through a process of different creative steps and phases to come up with innovative solutions to open-ended problems and arrive at new, more or less ready-to-go ideas in the end.
Our creative problem during this workshop was to innovate ways to reduce food waste at the school’s lunch cafeteria. As an example, one step of this creative process was prototyping. As Kouprie and Sleeswijk Visser expressed in their 2009 article titled A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life, “to evaluate if an early idea would fit the user’s needs, the designers could step in the user’s world, discover what aspects would have influence on the product use, wander around, try to understand how the user would feel and evaluate how the idea can be improved according to the imaginary user’s situation.” One way to step into the user’s world in this case was through prototyping what happens during the service scenario being innovated upon.
In the book Creative Confidence, it is mentioned that Claudia Kotchka, vice president of design innovation and strategy at Procter & Gamble used similar workshops successfully at her company to get executives to brainstorm problems requiring creative thinking.
“The workshop moves so fast they don’t have time to question the process. They are immediately engaged.”
The above quote encapsulates the feeling during Mrs. Tschimmel’s workshop perfectly as well. You were constantly being challenged to come up with new ideas together. Especially the multicultural and multidisciplinary aspect of the teams resulted in a lot of energized discussion and fluid building of ideas on top of the previous ones. I suspect all of us would have had trouble assigning any specific idea to any individual team member after the workshop.
“Bringing together a variety of life experiences and contrasting perspectives results in a creative tension that often leads to more innovative and interesting ideas.”
In closing, it can be said that the power of Design Thinking workshops lies in the very beginning of this post: anyone can be creative. Creativity helps us solve big and small problems daily, whether in our professional or personal lives. As creative confidence is defined as “the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out”, as with any other ability, being confident helps us move forward. The first step could be as easy as trying to rediscover the familiar: doing something you do every day, a different way, and paying close attention to new thoughts that pop up in your head. You might just discover something new you’ve never thought about before.
Written by Anna Laidinen & Janne Rönkkö
Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013) Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business. (http://www.creativeconfidence.com) Quotes from pages 32, 103, 137, 147.
Kouprie, M & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009) https://laurea.finna.fi/PrimoRecord/pci.proquest35179856 Journal of Engineering Design Vol. 20, No. 5, October 2009, 437–448. Quote from page 10.
Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf
Design Kit. Ideo.org. https://www.designkit.org/mindsets/3
Design Thinking: An Introduction. System Concepts. https://www.system-concepts.com/insights/design-thinking-introduction/
Very interesting how the experiences from our last class had so much to contribute to this article. I liked how you used our shared experience to add value to the academic content. I’m sure everyone reading this post can relate much to it. Also, bringing creativity to reality, to solving daily challenges is in my opinion a very healthy way of dealing with it. It helps realize that creativity is here and now for everyone. Nice post!
You bring up an important and interesting angle to creativity in your blog: unleashing our inner creativity. In addition to what creativity is, it is essential to also discuss who is creative, who can be creative, and who is allowed to be creative.
As you write, creativity is often regarded as something artistic. This implies that the understanding of creativity, the definition of it, is very narrow. Simultaneously, creativity is reserved to those who are considered to be ‘artistic’. ‘Artistic’ individuals are granted with the freedom of doing things creatively, differently from what is usual, whereas similar manner is not as acceptable for a ‘common’ individual, to put it sharp. By legitimizing creativity for only some, this divisive thinking narrows the potential of all the rest.
The narrowness associated with creativity keeps it hidden, or even as if it was non-existing. Understanding what creativity essentially is, helps to widen its definition. The design thinking workshop with the first steps of ideation was a real learning-by-doing exercise. You mention ‘the constant challenge to come up with new ideas together’, which I think is one of the central points: when needed, our creativity comes out. If others are associated, it comes out even easier. Once we recognize the seed of our creativity, we can start building our creative confidence by practice. Start the process of unleashing our inner creativity. To begin with, by doing daily things in a different way, as you suggest.
This blog was a good recap to the class we had and a great way to showcase how Design Thinking in action works. Seeing how all of us, from various backgrounds, were able to ideate together and create our own prototypes of the ideas shows that, yes, everybody can be creative!
Really well written and enlightening articles. Practical, easy to read and clearly elaborates key elements of Design Thinking process. This should be published somewhere else as well 😉 There are a few things resonate with my perspective on Design Thinking process:
– Failure. My favorite slogan for innovation processes is ‘Fail faster’. I strongly believe that if you are not failing and struggling in the innovation process, you are not doing it right.
– The importance of prototyping: In my opinion, prototyping the most crucial stage of the DT process, since we move from the stage of ‘thinking’ to the stage of ‘doing’. And ‘thinking’ innovation is just air; thus, the faster we start prototyping, the better it is. Prototyping allows us to be creative while having something tangible that we can see, touch, put in the context and test with potential users.
– Iteration: easy to say, hard to do. Iteration is the process where we ‘force and push’ our brains to go from the box to outside the box. It requires a lot of mental energy but also a clear framework of steps on how to do it, otherwise, its just a tiring, clueless process.
My fav article ❤