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One bad childhood experience where our creativity was mocked can inhibit us as adults. It can plant the idea that we’re practical people, not creative people, and can grow into a full-fledged “truth” about ourselves later.
But creativity can be coaxed out of people, if approached the right way.
That’s according to David Kelley, who is certainly one to know. Kelly is founder and chair of the design firm IDEO and creator of the “d.school” at Stanford, formally known as the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, where students studying everything from business to medicine work on building their creativity to collaboratively solve complex problems.
In a recent TED talk, “How to Build Your Creative Confidence,” Kelley explained his thinking about creativity (a video and a transcript are at the TED site). Some highlights:
We can be inhibited by fear of judgment. Kelley says he hears from people all the time about “how a teacher shut them down or how a student was particularly cruel to them” in a creative endeavor. It’s at that point, he says, that “some opt out thinking of themselves as creative.” Kelley sees the fallout with IDEO clients, especially when they’re asked to work side-by-side with IDEO staff. “Eventually these bigshot executives whip out their Blackberries and they say they have to make really important phone calls, and they head for the exits. And they’re just so uncomfortable.”
We can break through phobias with “guided mastery.” Kelley met with his Stanford colleague Albert Bandura, a psychologist who studies phobias. Bandura has a step-by-step methodology for working through phobias by slowly introducing people to the thing they fear. “Bandura calls this process ‘guided mastery,”” says Kelley. “I love that term.” What Bandura was doing turned out to be similar to what Kelley was doing in business with his clients, taking them through “a series of small successes.”
A little confidence in creativity leads to a lot of confidence in everything else.