Reading about Creativity from the inside out

I recently finished reading Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley (the folks who founded IDEO.) The book was super useful, but not for the reasons I had originally anticipated.

Book cover photo via

Book cover photo via

I was first attracted to the book because of its free-flowing illustrated cover. The abstract brushstrokes, as well as the seemingly casually scribbled title and author information ogive off a vibe of relaxed, modern cool. It’s also full of color illustrations in rough ink and watercolor to break up the sections. It felt like a very approachable business related book for creatives.


Sketching and drawing turned out to be one of the major components of the recommended Creative confidence approach. I realized as I dug into the book, that I had also bought Back of the Napkin - and it’s recommended in Creative Confidence. That felt like I had guessed something right. In fact, I ended up using both books quite a bit to prepare for teaching a workshop on sketching for UX design.

Supplies for the UX Sketching workshop :)

Supplies for the UX Sketching workshop :)

Reading from the inside out

My reading of Creative Confidence was probably a bit different than how its intended audience of folks who believe they are not creative. I do see myself as “creative”, both in the cliche meaning of “anyone who makes graphical content”, and in the way it’s been defined outside of the advertising world: someone who regularly uses design thinking as a tool to solve problems.

I was nodding in recognition at many points, to practices I know exist - or even use every day. What was new and fascinating for me, looking from the inside, was the wayTom and David Kelley describe my familiar practices in a business context. It was great to see how an ideation exercise I consider normal might feel like a huge leap of faith to someone who has never tried them before. I appreciated the reminder to make all participants feel secure by removing the pressure to perform in a specific way, and the fear of being wrong.

I already know I need to “sell” some audiences on the value of design thinking and creativity in a business context. I routinely talk to experts in various domains about how we might approach a problem they are looking to solve with design thinking, but I am less familiar with navigating large company structures, and gaining support and approval from the bottom up. The TEAM chapter of Creative Confidence outlines specific steps that can increase chances of success, such as starting an experiment on a small percentage of employees’ time, creating an d celebrating small successes and early wins, and hand-picking the first participants to become ambassadors for design thinking.

Building a creative team

Design thinking is not just for designers, even though we’re the most easily associated (or, we could say - least far away from) with creativity, arts and humanities. The book emphasizes the importance of building a team and equipping folks with all the necessary tools to maximize the impact of their ideas. UX designers are normally very good at facilitating discussion and participation. Training everyone to do the same allows the company to tap into the reserves of original ideas coming from often overlooked sources.

Should creatives still read Creative Confidence?

Yes. Even though most design thinking practices seemed familiar, I gained a lot from reading the book. It will help me better understand what my work looks like from the outside in, and better engage collaborators in the process. And if nothing else, I can simply point to a specific chapter as a suggested resource. (The pretty cover, too. It does help. :)

Maria Matveevafifth-9