With great design comes great fear
A friend of mine happened to ask me, quite recently, about how I design a piece of artwork. I think he expected me to spew some industry jargon, because when I told him of the methodical process that is design conceptualization, he was stunned. “So, the idea doesn’t just hit you like a bolt of lightning?” Yeah, if only it were that easy! He seemed really impressed by the fact that creative thinking is a conscious decision. Little does he know that the creative bit isn’t even the toughest part of being a designer. The true test always comes afterward – that of public approval.
During my early years at D-school (yeah, it’s a word), we would showcase our work in front of the class during evaluations. This would allow us to learn from others’ mistakes and be more prepared for our presentations. However, what started out as a motivational tool, soon turned into a nightmare. A stern examiner shot down a student’s project so ruthlessly that she lost faith in her idea. Almost instantly, the confidence level of the group dropped to a zero. From that day forward, we would only conduct evaluations in private, freeing us from the judgment of our classmates. Years later, I would learn why this was the worst thing to happen to us, through one of the most inspirational Ted Talks of my life.
Tim Brown, founder of IDEO - the company that pioneered human-centered design, said that when it comes to design, adults are, more than anything, afraid. We fear the rejection of our peers, which comes forth almost exclusively when presenting an ‘out-of-the-box’ concept. Calling this a lack of ‘creative confidence’, he went on to say that the most creative people on the planet are, believe it or not, children. Why? Because children aren’t afraid to show their ideas, however ridiculous they might seem. Unaware of the scope of their ideas, they believe anything to be possible. This supposed lack of knowledge, he claims, is what makes them more imaginative, capable of providing the most ingenious solutions to problems.
So, what happened to the adults? When did our thoughts stop being so brazen?
We are all born creative. As children, we are more unabashed, but with age comes caution - ‘What would they think of my idea? What if they don’t like it? Is it even good enough? I’m sure there are much better ones out there.’ Our quest for public consent is what holds us back. For all you know, the person who you thought had a better idea than yours, is probably thinking the same about you. The world is divided into the ‘creatives’ and non-creatives’, with far too many people adopting the label of the latter. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just like every drop in the ocean is valuable, every idea, however outrageous, definitely counts for something. We need to care less about social validation and focus more on building creative confidence. Sure, to cultivate this courage is much easier said than done. But wasn’t it Edison who claimed “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”?