The Secret to Innovation: Think Like a Kid

November 13, 2013 — 3 Comments


“I’m not a creative person.” I hear that all the time from clients when they first start working with IDEO. It’s an offhand comment, meant as an excuse for not being able to come up with innovative ideas on their own, but behind it lies a fear of failure—of being judged by others. While it’s tempting to blame oppressive corporate culture for this crisis of creative confidence, its roots can often be traced to the classroom.

If you’ve ever watched young children play, you know what uninhibited creativity looks like. Toddlers will belt out off-key tunes at the top of their lungs, dance with abandon down the aisles of a supermarket, or color on walls and floors, never questioning their ability. But somewhere along the way—maybe because of a remark by a parent, teacher, or peer, or maybe because of their own insecurities—many kids lose confidence in their creative instincts, especially during their high school and college years.

Inspired by Tom and David Kelley’s new book, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, our friends at the open-innovation hub OpenIDEO have launched a global design challenge to help reverse this troubling childhood trend. In the past, the OpenIDEO community has rallied to address such issues as healthy aging, human rights, and urban revitalization, creating breakthrough services, campaigns, and social enterprises in the process. Their current challenge is about generating inspiring ideas to help teenagers and young adults around the world nurture their creativity. The question they’re asking anyone interested in participating is:

How might we inspire young people to cultivate their creative confidence?

The world is full of complex, thorny challenges that require innovative solutions. It’s critical that young people start flexing their creative muscles today so they can take the lead in addressing those challenges in the future.

If you haven’t yet contributed ideas to the challenge, I encourage you to do so before November 20, when the initial Ideas Phase ends. Afraid your ideas won’t measure up? Take the Kelley brothers’ advice: “The best way to gain confidence in your creative ability is through action, taken one step at a time.”

How do you encourage the young people in your life to fulfill their creative potential?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

Tim Brown


3 responses to The Secret to Innovation: Think Like a Kid

  1. I’m not sure if you gave this guy permission, but he’d using your stuff on his blog promoting his business.

  2. December 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    The secret to innovation in the US: let children actually have a childhood which translates into, among other things – places and space to play, programs during and after school that foster creativity and then perhaps when we grow up, we might remember how to think like a kid.

    While I appreciate that idea phase question, I think the design challenge might have a greater social impact if it is more in the area of positioning people in power such as the Kelly’s at IDEO as the humans in their own human centered design process and ask themselves: how does our way of life and privilege limit the ability of folks at the grassroots level to encourage young people in fulfilling their creative potential?

  3. Lee Ashley Briggs Heron February 6, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Acceptance from your father. My father was an oil painter and I was great at art. When I was 5 he died and so did my interest in art. My step father was into sport.

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