I love the Harvard Business Review. Several years back I read a fabulous article about Reclaiming Your Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley & David Kelley of IDEO.
I immediately latched onto everything they had to say in this article, it spoke straight to my heart. I believe everyone is born creative; as a mother of four and now grandmother of 3 (with one on the way) I saw it in my children by the way they explored and questioned the unknown. They saw life through uninhibited lenses that were raw and dreamy with creative thoughts; thoughts that were not commercially generated and thoughts free of tainted impressions. I believe creativity is often stripped out of a child the second they start going to school. When they are institutionalized into following a learning pattern that is not of their own design and leaves little room for free thought. Now, please don’t get me wrong – I strongly believe in education and the merits of teaching a child all the tools and content that they need to survive. I just find the dissolving of creative wonderment being corked and bottled for the good of classroom tranquility a bit mournful.
Early grade school I was classified as "creative". At the time, I believe my parents were a bit disappointed that I wasn’t more intrigued with the academic, non-creative interests and subjects of school. And the time creative intelligence was not even a thought much less a theory, so my creative abilities were often highlighted as a consolation prize for not liking math. My creative abilities did grant me the honors of being a much sought-after partner for science and history projects when illustrations or dramatic poster work was required. This undertone stained my creativity as the years went on; often internalizing that I should mainstream my drawing, colors, and images to appeal to my teachers or school. It broke down the creative confidence that was natural.
Now ‘creative’ is hailed as one of the most universally desired skills in business. Creative confidence is high, and we see it all around us. A person who couples creativity and a masterful skill together is desired in every corner of the business world. Chief Digital Officers now sit on the C-Suite throne. Creative departments, Communication, and Marketing departments are not add-ins to business strategies but firm line items in budgets. Organizations that were operational and financial in service are now transitioning into creative services – just look at what the powerhouse audit and tax service organization Price Waterhouse Cooper has done - digital.pwc.com
The Kelleys sum up in their article that “Creativity is something you practice, not just a talent you are born with.”
They continue to outline the four fears that hinder creative confidence:
- Fear of the Messy Unknown
- Fear of Being Judged
- Fear of the First Step
- Fear of Losing Control
Fear of the Messy Unknown requires opening up to awkwardness, unevenness, unmatched elements, strangeness, pushing yourself to embrace uncomfortable variations that have no apparent patterns to guide the way of doing something new.
Fear of Being Judged means you have to free yourself of caring about what other people think. Seriously, this fear is so debilitating that our brains have a hard time even imagining a life without input from people. Overcoming the internal voice of judgement about practicality, color acceptance, cultural acceptance, financial purpose – the list is never ending on how we judge.
Fear of the First Step is overcoming the move to action. Why are we paralyzed to chart a new path? Because the inner creative child believes we will die if we create something new? It’s quite unlikely so why not move and do it? The Kelleys recommend creating a deadline for yourself to help force movement “Give me till the end of the day”.
Fear of Losing Control means the ability to let go of ideas that aren’t working and to accept good ideas from other people. How true is this in everything in life?
Creative Confidence happens when fears are overcome, when the room to make mistakes is allowed, when the messy journey is embraced and all is celebrated without judgements or excuses. Then the beauty of the creative mind can be renewed to it's natural state of being nonconforming creative.