Skip to content

Tom Kelley, David Kelley: “Creative Confidence” | Talks at Google

By Karla Schlaepfer
creativity, innovation, google, creative confidence, interview, video

How might companies unlock their employees’ creativity?

A short summary of the YouTube film with David and Tom Kelley speaking with Frederik G. Pferdt Head of Creativity and Innovation at Google:

How can change begin at the organizational level, so employees can use their creativity?

It begins from the top down. Allowing employees to experiment. Starting little brush fires. Hoping that they grow on and catch together. The mass or habits too often suppress the ideas before they have a chance to catch hold.

In cultures in which a not yet perfect idea gets puts on the table and how do leaders react with this? In a restrictive company culture, the boss will react with “ get out of my office” and don’t waste my time with unfinished concepts.

In a creative company cultures, the unfinished notion or concept is considered for its potential. The Kelley’s call this kind of rough estimation “squinting”. Here you ignore the surface details and look at the shape of the idea and try to figure out how can you make it better. If the leaders are squinters, there is a better idea flow within the company.

Idea flow is an important component for innovative companies. You have a rich culture of ideas to choose from. Those are the companies that succeed and sustain in the long run.

Another important element in unblocking creativity is freedom from fear and repercussions. This fear of being judged, making a mistake or saying the wrong thing is all too common. Kelley cites the work of Albert Banduras a Stanford psychologist who has a phenomenal rate for curing phobias to snakes or spiders. Banduras calls it„self- efficacy“. He exposes the client to their fears in tiny steps and thus reduces the felt fear as the person feels more empowered and learns how to be in control and eventually overcome their inhibitions.

The Kelleys suggests a parallel kind of approach for people who have opted out of living their creative. They call this „guided mastery“. This technique helps students and others to rediscover their creativity and conquer the fear of failing.

People’s confidence is incrementally boosted by experiencing the success of projects which are designed to become more challenging as the semester progresses. They talked with over 100 participants from the d-school and were astounded just how transformative this creative confidence can be. All 100 of these people had decided that they were creative and were extremely happy to persue this further.

Not just the vitality of these guys but the fact they are taking on bigger challenges, more resilient and show more perseverance is amazing.