David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence


David Kelley is founder, chairman, and managing partner of the design firm IDEO and a professor at Stanford University. He has received several honors for his contributions to design and design education.


People divide themselves into ‘creative’ types and ‘not creative’ – often discouraged by being judged in their childhood. It’s not that they can’t be creative, just that they’re afraid to try.

David talks of phobias, and a treatment for fear of snakes implemented by Albert Bandura (described by David as the fourth greatest psychologist of history). People would be told there is a snake in the next room, then when they were comfortable they’d be taken to a window where they could see the snake, then be led to the doorway, then be in the room and eventually touching the snake. At each point they are held until they are comfortable moving to the next step. At the end they could even see the beauty in snakes, and would be less anxious about other parts of their life – they had gained a new confidence in their own self-efficacy.

He discusses an anecdote from ‘Doug’ – a technician who designs MRI machines. He is a technical type, but forced himself to be creative when he discovered children were terrified of an MRI. 80% needed to be sedated to run the scan, so he made it more exciting for them. The machine was painted in bright colours, with a pirate ship theme. The operators were trained also to make it more exciting – they told the children the story of having to be perfectly still or else the pirates would get them, and described the movement of the machine as if the boat was rocking. The children loved the new machine – with only 10% needing to be sedated and this saved the hospital a lot of time and money in having to call for the anesthesiologist all the time.

David has survived a cancer scare, and through that decided his calling was in inspiring people to regain the creative confidence they had lost. When people regain this confidence, they can a new perspective on what’s important to them. They will change the direction of their lives to achieve whatever their goal is. We should not divide the world into ‘creatives’ and ‘non creative’, people are all naturally creative. We should be able to achieve self-efficacy and touch the snake.

My Thoughts

David has a lot of emotional stories, but I’m disappointed he didn’t describe how to build creative confidence. He tells us to ‘do it’, which is easy to say, but still might be intimidating to some people. There is no list of steps similar to the snake to get people to be more creative.

One thought on “David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

  1. Pingback: Watch: TED Talk - How to build your Creative Confidence : CREATE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s