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Fostering creative confidence in Canadian youth

October 23, 2013

Last week, Tom and David Kelley’s book, Creative Confidence, launched with a lot of media coverage (including on WiredFortuneMindShiftCore77ForbesTimeMetropolisGOODThe New York Times and the TED Blog.

As a practical resource and toolkit to help “unleash the creative potential within us all,” the book is a quick read and is full of visuals that are at once informative and inspiring. The case studies used to illustrate key points draw on experiences that range from those of student entrepreneurs, like the students behind the Pulse mobile application, to those of executives of multinational companies, such as GE Healthcare and 3M.

David’s role as an educator at Stanford’s d.school shines through in the purposeful organization of the book’s chapters, which take you through a series of challenges that increase in complexity and risk, with the goal of developing the reader’s confidence in his or her own creative ability and achievements.

Why creative confidence is a good thing

The key message of Creative Confidence is this: all humans have an innate potential for creativity, but many do not have the chance to—or know how to—develop or grow that potential and, as a result, they often lack confidence in making creative contributions. Helping individuals to develop their creative confidence is a good thing because it is closely tied to Albert Bandura’s notion of self-efficacy.

“As legendary psychologist and Stanford professor Albert Bandura has shown, our belief systems affect our actions, goals, and perception. Individuals who come to believe that they can effect change are more likely to accomplish what they set out to do. Bandura calls that conviction “self-efficacy.” People with self-efficacy set their sights higher, try harder, persevere longer, and show more resilience in the face of failure.” (Creative Confidence, pg. 13).

The authors suggest that the process of developing creative confidence is also about developing resilient individuals. In their years of working with innovators around the world, the authors have also observed that people who are confident about their creative capacities also play an important role as change agents.

“One of the qualities we admire most about people with creative confidence is that they are not passive observers. Even in tough situations, they don’t act or feel like pawns or victims. They live in the active voice. They write the scripts of their own lives, and in doing so, they have great impact on the world around them.” (Creative Confidence, pg. 119)

Developing the creative confidence of youth

An important aspect of developing creative confidence is going beyond the idea stage to take action. True to their method, the authors are currently running a design challenge through their OpenIDEO platform. They ask: “At a time when our world faces unprecedented challenges, how might we ensure that young people practise their creative confidence today so that they have a shot at becoming successful leaders tomorrow?”

The inspiration phase of the challenge, which concluded yesterday, generated a broad landscape of stories and ideas.

In Ontario, MaRS is home to a couple of initiatives that seek to address the same challenge for Canadian youth.

  • The recently announced Youth Business Acceleration Program will expand support for student entrepreneurship in partnership with post-secondary education institutions.
  • Studio Y is an exciting initiative that will develop leadership capacity in youth for tackling systems-level challenges.
  • Future Leaders is our five-day summer bootcamp for teens (13-15) interested in entrepreneurship.
  • Entrepreneurship 101 resources are being used by colleges and universities across Canada in their entrepreneurship programs.

Recommended reading for the “youth” in all of us

In many ways, Creative Confidence is the latest addition to the growing volume of works on applying design thinking and methods to achieve empathetic insights and breakthrough innovations. In this light, the work is relevant for any tech startup. What makes the work more interesting to the innovation ecosystem is Kelley’s vision of how design methods can be used for individual professional growth in a way that is personally fulfilling, while also having a positive impact in the world.

Overall, Creative Confidence is a great read that provides much needed optimism and guidance for youth, young adults and anyone, really, who is seeking to find that “sweet spot between passion and possibility,” especially at a time of accelerated change.

Feature photo credit: Design thinking workshop by Ewan McIntosh CC BY-NC 2.0

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Hyun-Duck Chung

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Hyun-Duck provides market insights to Ontario startups as part of the Market Intelligence team at MaRS, and is a researcher with the Solutions Lab, currently looking at innovations in food systems. She is cross-appointed from the University of Toronto.

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