Creative confidence, or creative self-efficacy, is one of the most significant factors related to actual creative performance. In a recent meta-analysis of the antecedents to innovation at work, Hammond and colleagues found that creative self-efficacy was one of the strongest correlates to individual-level innovation, second only to role expectations (whether the organization designed the employee's role to work on creativity-required tasks and whether they expected the employee to be innovative).
It seems pretty obvious and intuitive, but people who are more confident in their abilities to: a) generate lots of ideas, b) think of unique solutions to problems, and c) develop the ideas of others are more likely to actually do these things and demonstrate higher levels of innovative behavior.
David Kelley gives one of my favorite TED talks about creativity on this very topic. I love this notion of creative confidence because it is so simple, yet immensely powerful and important to consider when trying to achieve great things, individually or within a team.
My favorite parts of the talk:
"When we track them down and ask them what's going on, they say something like, "I'm just not the creative type." But we know that's not true. I f they stick with the process, if they stick with it, they end up doing amazing things and they surprise themselves just how innovative they and their teams really are."
"We could take people who had the fear that they weren't creative, and we could take them through a series of steps, kind of like a series of small successes, and they turn fear into familiarity, and they surprise themselves."
"I really believe that when people gain this confidence -- and we see it all the time at the d.school and at IDEO -- they actually start working on the things that are really important in their lives. We see people quit what they're doing and go in new directions. We see them come up with more interesting, and just more, ideas so they can choose from better ideas. And they just make better decisions."
My Main Takeaways from this TED Talk:
- Help others break out of their assumption that they are not a "creative" person. So many people have this viewpoint - that they just are not a creative type. This. Makes. Me. So. Sad. Everyone has their own unique talents and styles of thinking. If you are a leader, design some simple developmental initiatives that help stretch and challenge your employees to be creative. Be sure to tell them you expect them to be creative as well. They just might surprise themselves and you as well. One workshop I developed helped graduate students ignite their creative self-efficacy by showing them that they could even write a rap song about an organizational issue that they were working on. If you asked anyone at the beginning of the workshop if they had any musical talent or could write a song, they all would have laughed and said, "Hell no! You crazy?!?" But within an hour, the participants had broken up into two songwriting teams and created AND performed two very-well crafted rap songs (one team even choreographed some dance moves). It was so much fun! As David Kelley suggests, sometimes all it takes is great facilitation and leadership - helping people stick to a process and work through their doubts - to build creative confidence and ultimately creative solutions.
- Provide Small Wins. There is no better way to build creative confidence then by giving people small opportunities to be creative in their work. In order to continually develop your employees' creative confidence and performance, help them build up their creative momentum by gradually increasing the challenge and level of creativity required to perform their responsibilities.
- Leverage the Power of Collaboration. One of the best ways to build individual creative confidence is to instead allow people to form teams and collaborate towards achieving a creative goal. A well-designed and led team can provide the context for even greater levels of innovation by leveraging individual strengths and talents, while mitigating individual weaknesses. The end result is often some combination or transformation of expertise that could not have occurred individually.
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