Angelia Herrin: Hi, I'm Angelia Herrin, and I'm here today in Palo Alto with Tom and David Kelley of IDEO. They're the authors of the new book “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All.” Thanks for joining me here today. This is a really great book for those of us who ponder, “Why can't I think of new great ideas, and why can't I be more creative?” But you don't really focus on the word “creative” or “innovation.” You're focused on confidence. Why?
David Kelley: Yeah, I think that everybody has divided the world into, they're a creative person, they opted out of being creative when they were a kid, but it's just not true. We think everybody's wildly creative, and it's been our experience that that's been true at IDEO and the d.school at Stanford. So, we find it if they have this confidence in their creative ability that they end up being more effective, and they do other things in their lives that allow them to feel better about themselves. And so we've really been excited to see this confidence build in people. We take them to a series of small successes and they end up thinking as though, ”Oh my god, I'm a creative person.”
Angelia Herrin: So, Tom, you actually believe that everybody's creative and that the R&D department doesn't have total ownership of innovation?
Tom Kelley: Sure, absolutely. Everybody's creative. The issue is, it's buried deeper in some than others. And so when David started the d.school at Stanford, at first, we thought we had to teach creativity to people, but in fact, the creativity's there. It's really more about the confidence. And so, someone who doesn't self-identify as creative, if you give them a few tools, if you give them a little coaching, you help them through those series of small successes, then they emerge to confidence -- and they've got the creativity there all the time.
Angelia Herrin: The book makes a strong case for not sitting around waiting for a lightning bolt of inspiration to hit you. It makes a strong case for collaboration and something that you call a “bias for action.” Can you tell us what you mean by that?
David Kelley: Sure. We think that planning and strategizing and preparing to do a project has a lot of value, but we think that what we call a “bias towards action” is a better approach -- which is, get out there into the world. Get into the messy part of being where your customers are and just really trying to build a quick prototype of what your best idea is. It seems foolish to start building the prototype when you have barely started, but we found that you get much more information that way than you do planning in your office.
That action step of going out and having the guts to go and mingle with your customers, and show them your best ideas, and have them tell you what's what --It's really messy, because they tell you what's wrong. Right away, they start saying, “ I don't like that.” Instead of getting depressed and going home, you say, “OK. That's information. I'm going to build another prototype based on that.” And pretty soon, once you've gone through a series of prototypes, you pretty much have at least a gut feel for what direction. Now you can do the planning and strategizing because it's based on some real information that you got from the field. And we see that over and over again that that succeeds over this planning stage. Right?
Tom Kelley: Right. And this bias towards action is built into the essence of what we think of as creative confidence. And so we define creative confidence as the ability -- the natural ability -- to come up with breakthrough ideas, combined with the courage to act on them. Because we know lots of people who are dreamers and come up with ideas all the time, and they just stop and they go back to work or they go back to watching TV, or whatever it is. But it's the ideas plus the action that we think makes creative confidence in first place.
Angelia Herrin: So you both have so much passion for this topic, but why did you decide to focus on creative confidence now? Why did you write this book now? You've written about innovation, you've written about design thinking.
Tom Kelley: Sure. Well, really, we've been doing this for like, 30 years, working on innovation. And as you start to step back and look at the arc of your career, and you start to think about your future legacy and things like that, innovations are really fun, but it's not a 100% success rate, innovation, unfortunately. And so you start to think about creating new innovators, about inspiring people around you to be innovators of their own. And you can pretty much bet that if you create a new innovator, that they will have successes in their career. And so that's what David's teaching at the d.school. And our work with clients -- not just the project work, but the work on culture inside of client organization -- is about getting others to pursue their creative confidence.
David Kelley: There's also a personal reason. In 2007, I got throat cancer, and had about a 40% chance of living. And Tom was there every day for me. And so we decided we would do something, if I survived. Which I did -- I 'm still here. If I survived, we'd do something together. And we decided that writing this book was something we would do together. And so it's been rewarding in that way, because running the company together, we know we wouldn't go to the same place, normally. And so we took a trip together, and on that trip we decided to write this book. And so we have that personal reason as well.
Angelia Herrin: David, Tom, thanks so much. This has been a great interview.
Tom Kelley: Sure – our pleasure. Thanks a lot.