When was the last time you tried something new and failed? Did you feel proud of yourself then? You probably should have, because chances are that your failure was a sign of you pushing your creativity to the limit. And it takes a lot of guts to do so.
As IDEO founders David and Thomas Kelley point out in their book Creative confidence creativity means that you can imagine the way the world should be, believe in your capacity to make positive changes and be brave enough to take action (2013, p. 64). Creative thinkers discover new opportunities, think in variety of possibilities and take multiple perspectives into account. They experiment and operate against well known solutions and stereotypes. The plot twist? We all have what it takes to be a creative thinker (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p.4-6).
Creativity, like any other skill, can be trained (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 5-6; 30). The training program for your mind muscles are processes that these days goes by the name design thinking (see for example Tschimmel, Santos, Loyens, Jacinto, Monteiro & Valença 2015, p. 69). These processes help to build empathic understanding, to find new perspectives and make sense of the world around us. Design thinking processes are human-centred, multidisciplinary, collaborative, optimistic and experimental (Tschimmel et al. 2015, p. 6; 72). Design thinking is also design doing: it always aims to produce something concrete and new to the world.
Stirring the status quo
Unfortunately many of us adults are too afraid of failure and the lost of appreciation of our peers to fully tap into our creative potential (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 6; 44; 53-55). We often see creativity as something that “the artistic” or “the innovative” types have. Because of these beliefs good ideas are left unshared and the unique solutions go undiscovered (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 62).
In the future working life transversal skills such as creativity, collaboration skills and ability to take initiative are on high demand (Tschimmel, Santos, Loyens, Jacinto, Monteiro & Valença 2015, p. 6). But using design thinking to unleash the full power of our creative capacity is not only a matter of skilled workforce. As the over 7 million people marching in the global Climate Strikes in September 2019 reminded us: there are no jobs on a dead planet.
The biggest challenges of our times are summarized in UN Agenda 2030 goals that are interlaced and overlap each other. Like in design thinking the needs of people are in the center of these goals: for example the need for a livable environment is fundamental. As many of these challenges are described as wicked problems, it is becoming increasingly clear that we can’t tackle the problems created by the current ways of living by continuing “business as usual” (see also Tschimmel, Santos, Loyens, Jacinto, Monteiro & Valença 2015, p. 72). As the problems we are facing as humankind are getting more all-encompassing and complex, the need for human superpowers like empathy and creativity is ever increasing.
So where do I start?
Not all of us are educational leaders or politicians who have the power to disrupt systems teaching us how to think and behave. Luckily, as we have established, everyone can make a difference. Here are some of the tips from the experts that we can try in our everyday life to unblock the creative superpowers within us and the others around us:
- Try until you fail and push others to try too. Learning cycles including failure are an essential part of unblocking creativity. You can think that if you haven’t failed yet, you weren’t reaching far enough. Try to create opportunities for those around you to fail as well in a supportive environment. Start by failing small and aim for massive failures as your creative confidence increases.
(Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 50-53; Tschimmel, Santos, Loyens, Jacinto, Monteiro & Valença 2015, p. 7; 72.)
- Label your next great idea as an experiment and let everyone know that you’re just testing it out. Make sure that the people around you know that you only have reasonable hope for success and the whole point is what you can learn from the failure if and hopefully when it happens. (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 47; 50.)
- Pay attention and intervene when someone around is feeling insecure or undervalued. Keep in mind that insecurity isn’t always a sign for lack of skills or experience. Perfectionism can be crippling if we think that being and expert means excelling without a flaw. Fight these feelings of insecurity by always giving credit when credit is due. Remember to give credit from trying and failing as well, not only succeeding. (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 57; 61-63.)
- Start keeping an idea journal. It doesn’t matter whether you write, draw or dictate your ideas. Create a way to have a way to store you ideas right away no matter where you are, because even the greatest ideas might be fleeting.
(Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 216-218.)
- Remember that creative processes are collaborative processes. Share your ideas, ask for help and take care of your social support system. (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 58; Tschimmel et al. 2015, p. 72.)
Enjoy creating, embrace failing!
The writer is a career counsellor venturing in the world of design thinking. She failed yesterday with a new veggie stew recipe, but is determined to try again (much to her family’s horror).
Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. 2013. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential within Us All. New York: Currency.
Tschimmel, K., Santos, J., Loyens, D., Jacinto, A., Monteiro, R. & Valença M. 2015. Research Report D-Think. Design Thinking Applied to Education and Training. ERASMUS+ KA2 Strategic Partnerships. Available online: http://www.d-think.eu/uploads/1/6/2/1/16214540/researchreport_d-think-dv.pdf [Accessed September 30th 2019].
Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking [lecture]. Held on 6-7 September. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.