Build Your Creative Confidence: 15 Seconds of Brilliance

Build Your Creative Confidence: 15 Seconds of Brilliance

Everyone is creative. This belief runs through everything we do at IDEO
Tom Kelley
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Everyone is creative. This belief runs through everything we do at IDEO, and in 2013, it led my brother David and me to write a book that would help others—even those who don’t think of themselves as “creative types”—to unleash their creative potential. Creative Confidence has inspired thousands of people to adopt a creative mindset and apply it to the diverse real-world challenges they face. In this series, we’ll share some exercises from the book that can help you approach your challenges from a new perspective.

Creativity Challenge # 2: Increase your creative output

Anyone who studies dreams will tell you that if you want to remember your dreams, you need a dream journal right beside the bed. The moment you wake up—whether it’s the middle of the night or in the morning—you should capture those dreams before they fade away. The same holds true with your waking “dreams,” your partially or fully formed ideas, your glimpses of possible futures. If you want to maximize your creative output, don’t rely on short-term memory.

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, make an effort to capture those ideas right away, because your short-team memory only holds a thought for fifteen to thirty seconds. One simple way to have more ideas in your arsenal is to start keeping track of them as they occur.

Tool: 15 Seconds of Brilliance
Participants: This is a solo activity
Time: 10 minutes per day
Supplies: Paper and pen, or a digital means of keeping notes


When you have an idea or observe something intriguing, take note of it. The actual means of capturing the idea doesn’t matter as much as having it with you at all times. Choose a method or a technology that fits with your lifestyle and your personality:

  • Digital tools are great, but paper still works exceptionally well. I always have a pen and a simple folded piece of paper in my back pocket. I also keeps a small pad of paper on my bedside table, with a lighted pen that I can use to jot down an idea while reading or in the middle of the night without fear of waking up my wife.
  • My brother David has a whiteboard marker in his shower, so he can write a passing idea before it disappears.
  • IDEO partner Brendan Boyle has experimented with various forms of “idea wallets” designed specifically to record his thoughts.
  • Mobile voice assistants will let you dictate a quick mental note.
  • Your laptop or tablet has all kinds of notepad applications. But we think you’ll get more functionality out of purpose-built programs like Evernote, specifically designed to store such ideas.

So increase your odds in the war against lost ideas. You’ll be amazed at how many good ideas you end up with when you make an effort to jot down those sudden moments of insight. Our brains are constantly making connections and associations with other people, things, and ideas we come in contact with. Don’t let those serendipitous insights go to waste.

This post is the second in a series of exercises taken from Chapter 7 of Creative Confidence. Purchase the book for more on how to use creativity to solve problems. Read part one here.

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Tom Kelley
Tom Kelley is the best-selling author of Creative Confidence, The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation as well as a partner at IDEO. As a leading innovation speaker, Tom addresses scores of business audiences on how to foster a culture of innovation and tap into the creative potential of their organizations.
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