Creative Confidence

In, Creative Confidence, Tom Kelley and David Kelley talk about creativity and how effective design thinking can be in traditionally non-creative fields. Here are some excerpts I enjoyed.

In our experience, one of the scariest snakes in the room is the fear of failure, which manifests itself in such ways as fear of being judged, fear of getting started, fear of the unknown. And while much has been said about fear of failure, it still is the single biggest obstacle people face to creative success.

I used to listen to the Dave Dameshek podcast a lot. One of his catchphrases and audio drops was “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.” My brother and I used to have incredible trouble saying we were wrong. Then one day it changed. I decided to make an effort to identify when I’m about to argue about something for the sake of not being wrong (when I know I’m wrong).

Being afraid of failure is similar. Sometimes it prevents people from starting in the first place. Or from admitting failure and fighting too long to save a sinking ship.

With prototypes, you go in with failure in mind. You test a prototype and see where things failed. The key is failing at a planned time and knowing there’s a chance to learn and fix it before it really counts.

The question hung in the air for a moment before Yo-Yo Ma delivered the bad news to Erik. Long after ascending to the top of his field, Yo-Yo Ma continues to practice as much as six hours a day.

DJ Q-Bert was a hero of mine in middle school, because I liked the idea of being a DJ. I saved up for turntables and then sort of expected to be a DJ, but I didn’t understand that it would take practice. DJ Q-Bert has been world class in his art.

One day hanging out with friends, a waitress let us know that some DJ was performing a set across the street at Turntable Lab. We went across the street and there he was, DJ Q-Bert. Someone asked what he did to practice. Did? I still practice every day.

Karaoke confidence, like creative confidence, depends on an absence of fear of failure and judgment.

There should be a book about Karaoke confidence. I’ve been part of my fair share of Karaoke nights. K-Town has a lot of places where you can book smaller rooms with friends to sing you heart out. Fear of failure and judgment can’t get past those doors. This is where you work out the moves. It’s the paper prototype.

There are other Karaoke places. The ones without rooms. The places where you sing in front of the entire bar. While people play pool and your goal is to at least have them look up. It’s the beta.

The analogy falls apart here. You can prototype things and then eventually release something to the real world based on iterations of that prototype. Professional singers probably don’t get their reps in various Karaoke lounges.

“Think of today as a prototype. What would you change?”

I thought this was great. I’m a designer in tech, so prototypes are a known concept to people I work with. After reading Creative Confidence, I started noticing prototypes and iteration in other fields. Even if they’re not calling it prototyping. Storyboards for filmmakers. Test kitchens and soft openings for chefs. Open mics for stand-up comedians. Situational drills for sports. Labbing in virtual sports like Madden. The list goes on and on.