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10 Exercises to Build Your Creative Confidence

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Aug 22 2019

Creativity is on the rise as a top skill leaders will need to face the increasingly complex challenges the future has in store for them. For those who identify as "creative types," this is likely music to your ears. For those who don't, stay with me! As luck would have it, IDEO was founded on the belief that everyone is creative—and that creativity, like any other leadership skill, can be learned and practiced. In 2013, David Kelley and Tom Kelley put that belief down on paper in their best-selling book, Creative Confidence.

In The Octopus's Build Your Creative Confidence series, we’ve shared exercises and activities from the book to help you approach challenges from a new perspective. We’ve compiled all ten exercises here in hopes that you’ll hit the ground running on your creative journey and excel in a future where creativity is currency.

1. Mindmaps: Push yourself to think divergently and creatively

When searching for innovative solutions, mindmaps can be a powerful way to come up with new ideas or gain clarity about a topic of exploration.

2. 15 Seconds of Brilliance: Increase your creative output

Even if you never get to experience Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame, you’re likely to have your own moments of brilliance once in a while. When that happens, be ready to capture the magic.

3. 30 Circles: Jumpstart an ideation session

This quick, simple exercise is perfect for getting warmed up. Use it with a group as an icebreaker or on your own when you need a jolt of inspiration.

4. Empathy Maps: Lessons from observing human behavior

You’ve gone into the field in search of knowledge, meeting people on their home turf, watching and listening intently. But synthesizing all that data can be a little daunting. Organize your thoughts with this tool.

5. I Like, I Wish: Encourage and accept constructive feedback

We all instinctively know that constructive critique is essential, and yet it can be hard to listen to and absorb feedback without letting our egos and defensiveness distract us from what may be a valuable message. Use this exercise to help introduce feedback into the innovation process.

6. Speed Dating: Warm up a group and break down barriers

Creativity thrives amidst free-flowing social discourse. To get a roomful of strangers to innovate, start by breaking down some of those pesky social barriers. By carefully thinking about your group, you can craft this exercise to prime your participants for the work that comes next.

7. Nickname Warm-Up: Eliminate hierarchy to improve idea flow

While the previous exercise useful in situations where people don’t know each other well, sometimes you’ll encounter the opposite problem: a group meeting where people know each other too well. This warmup allows folks to “try on” a new persona and new behaviors.

8. Customer Journey Map: Empathize with customers, employees, and other end users

A journey map helps you think systematically through the steps your customers—internal or external—have when they interact with your product or service. Use this exercise to drum up new insights about your end users.

9. The Dream/Gripe Session: Define a problem to work on

Dreams and gripes are both a normal part of the innovation process. In this exercise, pair folks up to translate conversations into creative thinking challenges.

10. The Wallet Exercise: Help your group understand innovation thinking

The exercise uses a simple object that most people carry with them as a prop to discover needs, design and prototype solutions, and get user feedback. It gives everyone a chance to cycle quickly through the human-centered design process.

  • Saige Perry

    Marketing Lead, Content Strategy, Global Brand
    Saige Perry is a content strategist at IDEO, where she looks after the IDEO brand and its many digital homes. Her happy place is somewhere in the shadowy back-right corner of a hole-in-the-wall music venue.
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