Way back in May, I was fortunate to attend the Forrester Forum in Orlando focused on digital business and digital transformation. Shortly after, I covered the event on Selectica’s Social Contracting blog including interviews with Chris Curran of PwC and Tom Kelley of IDEO.
One highlight from the event was reconnecting with Tom Kelley given his keynote topic, my previous work with IDEO while at Sun Microsystems under Lew Tucker, and my employment interview with Tom in 1998 before joining Sun. To this day, the IDEO interview experience (and I’ve had many) stands out as the most interesting in a 20+ year career; but I digress.
With proactive social networking in May and being in the right place at the right time in Orlando, Tom and I talked for a few minutes before he went on stage at Forrester Forum and immediately after. The video above captures the essence of his keynote and what any business or technology leader should keep in mind at all times.
In short, Tom’s #ForrForum talk was all about applying creative confidence and an outside-in approach to innovate for latent needs that customers and enterprise stakeholders care about. Then, address those needs with technology.
Following are three takeaways from our conversation:
- Creative confidence is the natural ability to come up with great ideas combined with the courage to act, even if your ideas generate criticism from others.
- Digital business leaders should combine technology with humanity and start with empathy to figure out latent needs that can be addressed with technology.
- Learn through experimentation and embrace “falling down” to help create new innovations that are meaningful to customers and your digital business.
But the video interview at Forrester Forum wasn’t enough for me to move forward with satisfaction. You see, I had heard about Tom’s “Creative Confidence” book, co-authored with brother David Kelley, but had not read it cover to cover (I now recommend it, all 288 pages). After returning from Orlando, I purchased the book and can say with confidence – no pun intended – it’s a must read if you believe creativity and innovation are relevant for your business and career.
I’ll go a step further.
Read the book if you believe we’re all creators from birth and have an incredible, untapped creative potential as individuals and members of collaborative groups in all aspects of life.
It’s an entertaining, reflective, and useful read. There are many takeaways and insights, but here are eight I think are important to highlight if you want to cultivate a creative spark in any aspect of business or life. Following are excerpts direct from the book starting on page 74:
- Choose creativity: To be more creative, the first step is to decide you want to make it happen.
- Think like a traveler: Like a visitor to a foreign land, try turning fresh eyes on your surroundings, no matter how mundane or familiar. Don’t wait around for a spark to magically appear. Expose yourself to new ideas and experiences.
- Engage relaxed attention: Flashes of insights often come when your mind is relaxed and not focused on completing a specific task, allowing the mind to make new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.
- Empathize with your end user: You’ll come up with more innovative ideas when you better understand the needs and context of the people you are creating solutions for.
- Do observations in the field: If you observe others with the skills of an anthropologist, you might discover new opportunities hidden in plain sight.
- Ask questions, starting with “why?”: A series of “why?” questions can brush past surface details and get to the heart of the matter. For example, if you ask someone why they are still using a fading technology like landline phones, the answers might have more to do with psychology than practicality.
- Reframe challenges: Sometimes, the first step toward a great solution is to reframe the question. Starting from a different point of view can help you get to the essence of a problem.
- Build a creative support network: Creativity can flow more easily and be more fun when you have others to collaborate with and bounce ideas off.
The previous ~250 words of wisdom are only a glimpse into the goodness of the book, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. I highly recommend you purchase and read it more than once with the intent of taking what you already have within you to a whole new level of action.