Developing Creative Confidence

For too long we have upheld the myth that there are those who are creative and those who aren’t.  Contrary to this theory, David and Tom Kelley advocate that creativity is not reserved for the few but that the capacity for being creative lies within all of us.  In their book, Creative Confidence, they share “At its core, creative confidence is about believing in your ability to create change in the world around you. It is the conviction that you can achieve what you set out to do. We think this self-assurance, this belief in your creative capacity, lies at the heart of innovation.” Being creative and innovative extends far beyond art projects and is more about a way of thinking and acting to create better ideas and possibilities.  

Often in school, when we focus on answers and dismiss learner’s unique ideas, creativity can be squelched. Instead, encouraging learners to ask more questions, empathize with others, and seek problems to solve can kindle their creative spark. Creating opportunities in school where students are not just practicing for later in life but creating something for an authentic audience and purpose now,  integrates core curriculum while empowering learners to explore passions and learn by doing.

Imagine if we focused on deliberately creating and expanding on the ideas of the learners rather than planning how to transfer information. By honoring diverse experiences and questions we can solve problems that are meaningful beyond the classroom.  David and Tom Kelley remind us that, “That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.” Through intentional practice, we can enable creativity to flourish and new ideas to emerge. The following methods can create the conditions that empower learners to develop and test new ideas and questions, rather than simply providing the right answers.



Creating low stakes opportunities to play or tinker allows for new ideas to emerge without limits or expectations. Make time to build, mix, remix, take apart stuff and create something new.


Immerse yourself in the perspectives of those you serve.  Ask questions, experience their world. Spend time with other exploring new and better ideas and get feedback from people you’re designing for.


Imitation is the biggest form of flattery, right? Using a model to “copy” is how many people get started and inspires more ideas. Think mentor texts, models, not your neighbor’s test.


Spend time deliberately getting as many ideas on the table as possible. Build on and expand the possibilities to improve through iterations and feedback and create new ideas. Think “yes, and…” instead of “yah but.”


Start small and get something out into the world in order to learn what works and what doesn’t.  Don’t worry about it being perfect, just design a “hack” to share or test your idea and get feedback quickly.  Hacking allows you to get your innovative solution out into the world through small manageable steps.

When learners are empowered to find and solve problems in their communities they develop knowledge, skills, and mindsets to be successful in life.  Beyond the skills, and possibly even more important, is that the students see their ideas matter. By putting ideas out in the world they begin to see and trust they can actually make a difference. When individuals of all ages, with diverse passions and experiences, use their unique talents and contribute to an idea and see a project come to life, it increases their creative confidence.


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