I’m not creative!



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Uncovering the lie to reveal creative confidence in ourselves

I’m not creative!” is a typical statement. It is also a lie that’s often repeated in our minds, typically when we watch an artistic person at work, like a painter, sketch artist, glass blower, or jeweler. Unfortunately, many of us didn’t get to take Creativity 1 in high school and have likely forgotten how creative we were as children. So, as we entered college, we probably pursued interests in careers that minimized our perceived weaknesses, tapped our strengths and promised financial rewards. As we progressed through our profession, our thinking continued to devolve into a belief that we are not “creative” in any application of the word. The loss of our creative self can happen to any of us. This condition is particularly sad for education professionals who influence and guide our children.

For many educators, the thought of doing something “creative” in classrooms conjures up arts and crafts projects best reserved for arts education and “artsy-type” teachers. For others, creativity and its cousin, ‘innovation’ are tantalizing experiences dancing just outside their reach or reserved for those in business who invent technology products. Creativity in classrooms unlocks the windows of exploration in learning and frees the student to imagine. Einstein believed this to be true when he said,

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.

Education, by design, disseminates information with the hope that students will make something knowledgeable about it to advance into a career or at least, be a productive citizen. The process of transforming data into coherent knowledge structures in a student’s mind is a creative process but woefully underemphasized in today’s curriculum. Linkedin, the career networking site, conducted a survey and found employers are looking beyond the hard skills and seeking employees with a particular set of soft skills. A “creative thinker” is ranked in the top 10 most requested soft skills.

If schools were teaching creativity, then it follows that employees would demonstrate creative skills. However, an Adobe Systems poll of five thousand people from five countries on three continents reports that 80 percent of people feel that unlocking creative potential is critical to economic growth. Only 25 percent of these people think that they’re living up to their creative potential. What the other 75 percent are missing is creative confidence.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Creativity masterminds David Kelley and Tom Kelley are brothers who have a life mission to promote “creative confidence.” In their book, “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All,” they contend that everyone has the capacity to be creative. The difference between the innovators from the rest of us, they add, is “believing in your ability to create change in the world around you.”

If creativity is good for innovation in business and for solving problems in the world, it should be good for education, too. Teaching students how to develop creative confidence would be right in every discipline and academic contexts. Why isn’t creativity at the center of the core subjects taught in schools?

I imagine the challenge is that creativity, like art, is a subjective topic to evaluate, making it difficult for educators to apply a letter grade or numerical value to student’s work. Let’s consider creativity is inherent in all the work a student does, including the processes by which they accomplish assignments and especially projects. It may be challenging to evaluate someone else’s work process and even more, their degree of creativity if you don’t believe you have any yourself. It is perplexing to find a way to measure what you don’t understand adequately.

How might an educator develop their creativity and better yet, their creative confidence?

The Kelley brothers are experts in helping people develop creative capacity drawn from 40 years of creative thinking work. David Kelley is the founder of both IDEO, the global design firm, and the Stanford d.school, a centerpiece of design thinking. Tom Kelley, a partner at IDEO, is also the author of “The Art of Innovation.”

They suggest that creative confidence “is like a muscle — it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience.” Creativity is inherent in everyone. Educators are surrounded daily by opportunities for creatively solving problems. Looking to bring the benefits of design thinking to education, the Stanford d.school has created the K12 Lab Network to “inspire and develop the creative confidence of educators and support innovators catalyzing powerful models for teaching and learning.” Educators can download design thinking and creativity resources from the K12 Lab Network to get started. The underlying premise of design thinking is when you commit to seeking a solution to an open-ended challenge; you stretch your creative thinking and develop a new perspective on your creative potential. Design thinking stimulates creativity within all disciplines using imaginative and visual thinking strategies.

Not ready for a design challenge, yet? Reading the articles and books written by other educators seeking to transform the teaching and learning paradigm is an excellent way to jump-start the innovation transformation in yourself and education. I suggest these two books:

John Spencer and AJ Juliani, Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student [Amazon]

George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity [Amazon]

Couros advocates for educators to take hold of their creative potential to transform the learning experience for students. He suggests that experience is the best teacher. In Launch, Spencer and Juliani promote developing a new mindset that embraces failing as a viable outcome of learning. Both are foundational to creating a culture of safe risk-taking in the classroom.

An entry-level step for educators is to draw from the decades of training in creative thinking that have produced a variety of strategies, techniques, and challenge-based experiences to nurture creative confidence. Teachers can show their students how to represent ideas with simple sketches (e.g., thumbnail sketches or sketchnotes), by encouraging students to ask “why?” questions, by creating collaborative community bulletin boards for sharing ideas, and leading “thought walks” to promote students’ daydreaming.

What might happen if teachers developed creative confidence?
How might schools be different if they nurtured students’ creative confidence?

Positively changed! Teachers would let go of the long-held beliefs and practices about theirs and their students’ creative potential and move towards exploring the possibilities, rather than living within self-imposed limitations. It is more likely that opportunities for meaningful teaching and learning would arise in schools, leading to a cultural transformation of innovation. Students and teachers are more likely to thrive in other areas of life when developing the creative confidence to engage in learning challenges with fresh perspectives.

Erasing the self-taught lie, “I’m not creative,” while simultaneously uncovering the educator’s creative confidence is the first step towards unleashing the creative potential of their students. If we embrace the possibility of creativity in each of us and become the creative spark our students need us to be, the opportunities our students will be prepared to engage are as infinite as our imaginations.


Adobe Systems. “Study Reveals Global Creativity Gap.” Study Reveals Global Creativity Gap, Adobe Systems, Inc., 23 Apr. 2012, www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pressreleases/201204/042312AdobeGlobalCreativityStudy.html.

Brathwaite, Shimon. “4 Soft Skills Every Tech Professional Should Have.” Business News Daily. N. p., 2017. Web. 13 Nov. 2017. http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7860-skills-employers-want.html

Couros, George. The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2015.

“K12 Lab Network.” Stanford D.school, 27 Sept. 2017, http://dschool.stanford.edu/programs/k12-lab-network.

Kelley, Tom, and David Kelley. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential within Us All. William Collins, 2015.

McNeal, Marguerite. “The Top Skills Employers Need in 2016.” EdSurge, EdSurge, 20 Oct. 2016, www.edsurge.com/news/2016-10-20-the-top-skills-employers-need-in-2016-according-to-linkedin.

Spencer, John, and A. J. Juliani. LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring out the Maker in Every Student. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2016.


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