• Akshayta Rao

Creative Confidence by Tom & David Kelley

Creative Confidence was a read that I’d been eyeing for a while, so when I was gifted the book, I dropped everything and delved right in. My sole intent behind reading it was to see how the Kelley brothers would dumb down the ‘design’ process for a larger audience. What I found instead was a fascinating guide on how creativity can, if nurtured well, flourish almost anywhere.

‘Creative confidence is like a muscle’ the authors say, ‘It can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience’. They begin the book claiming that we are ALL creative, and that their goal is to build confidence in their readers to help explore this potential. And through 8 neatly structured chapters, the authors take the reader on a journey of self-discovery through real-life experiments, creativity-inducing tasks and heart-warming stories of success, all in an attempt to champion the power of cultivating creative confidence.

What makes it bookshelf worthy?

There is a little something in here for every kind of reader, and that’s what makes it an extremely handy book. For creative professionals, it is a much-needed reminder of all the things we are taught in design school but become too busy to practise. For start-ups, it helps inject design thinking into the DNA of the organisation and if done well, can have far-reaching effects. For established businesses, it talks about how to go beyond the initial, obvious ideas and tap into the truly innovative solutions. And for the completely unattached reader, it opens up the avenues of the mind that are forcefully locked away as we grow older.

This book has every opportunity to turn into a preachy novel, but instead, it teaches by example. The authors are the founders of Ideo (a world-class design consultancy) and also pioneers of the d.school at Stanford, making them experts in the field of introducing creativity to the world. Their personal experiences of transforming seemingly ‘uncreative’ people into truly ‘creative’ individuals elucidates that there is hope for everyone.

And after all this, the second to last chapter is what piqued my interest. It intelligibly jotted down different exercises that one could do to foster creativity. Simple and to-the-point, these exercises (some of which I’ve tried myself) are not just crowd pleasers, but also perfect tools to get people to think differently, and thereby better.


There were a few points in the book that seemed stretched for no reason. Aspects that could’ve been explained more succinctly were dragged on, often causing my mind to wander. I also found the narration somewhat identical to Change By Design (a book I finished just last month), but I guess that was expected since all the authors are closely tied to Ideo in some way or another. In retrospect, I should have waited before picking up another read from the same genre, a tip I shall keep in mind before I grab The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley.

All in all, for me, reading Creative Confidence was like hitting the refresh button. There were many tools and tips that I was inherently aware of, but had forgotten along the way. Often guilty of reverse-engineering my designs, I was reminded of why design has the power to influence millions if practised correctly. As a designer, I often get asked ‘How are you so creative?’ So far, I’ve managed to answer this question by casually remarking that I lucked out. After reading this book, however, I realise that creativity is hardly a stroke of lightning, but an outcome of dedicated, cultivated behaviour – a rewarding by-product of developing creative confidence.


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Welcome to Tryst with Design. This blog has added immense value to my life, and I love having the opportunity to share my musings with you. Read on, and enjoy.