Expert Insights

→ Difference between creativity and creative confidence
→ How to train creative confidence

Organisations today act within a highly competitive and global environment. Embracing a creative mindset is thus key to survival. Nonetheless, the common understanding that there are solely two kinds of people, the “creatives” and the “non-creatives”, still exists. Despite the fact that creativity is a proven valuable attribute in the fields of business and innovation. As the Financial Times calls it, creativity is one of the most eager sought qualities in the business world. And they are not the only one. In business research done by the World Economic Forum (WEF), it is exemplified that by 2022 the most valued skills will be:

1) Analytical thinking and innovation
2) Active learning and learning strategies, and
3) Creativity, originality and initiative

But what do we understand from a term that is so ambiguous? At Spark Works we see creativity as an act of creating something new by the use of your imagination. It is a process that involves the generation of original ideas, concepts, solutions or approaches. Either from scratch or as a combination of existing ones. Creativity, as a result, can lead to an invention. Thus, it is an essential ingredient for innovation. Whereas the aforementioned sounds very simple, the misconception that individuals active in the cultural and creative industries or who hold a creative position within an organisation are solely praised with the invaluable skill of creativity, unfortunately still exists. Changing your perception of your own and your organisation’s creative ability can thus be a strategic advantage for the development of novel ideas, which lead to organisational development and growth and success.

But what is the difference between being creative and having creative confidence?

Creativity is, as mentioned before, the capacity to use your imagination for the creation of new concepts or ideas. Creative confidence, however, goes a step further. You would, with no doubt, agree with the statement “The real value of creativity does not emerge until you are brave enough to act on those ideas” (Kelley & Kelley, 2013, p. 6). In this light, creative confidence is more than the capacity to imagine. It is a combination of embracing a creative mindset and actually having the courage to act on it. It embodies the ability to come up with novel ideas and have the determination to validate them or being comfortable enough to invalidate them. In particular, in the corporate culture there is still a large deficit of creative confidence. On the one hand, this is caused by the small acceptance of failure. On the other hand, the fear of being criticised for our work or coming up with new ideas is still present. However, criticism is inevitable if you are trying to do something new and out of the ordinary. Another common deficit relates to the fear that your ideas are not good enough. Nonetheless, striving for perfection prevents you from taking risks and challenging the norm.  Creative confidence is therefore not only a tool to improve your problem-solving practice.  Foremost, it is a mindset that will result in being more comfortable with uncertainty and it supports your own imaginative capabilities.

How to train your creative confidence?

Growing your capability to imagine, creating something new or coming up with new ideas can be trained. At Spark Works, we enhance creative dexterity therefore in multiple ways. Within workshops, for instance, we make use of several tools that train the creative confidence of the participants. In particular, before we enter an ideation session together, we aim to stimulate divergent thinking through several warm-ups. One of the most well-known tools to stimulate the ability to think and act creative is the Thirty Circles Exercise. It is a great way to jump-start into an ideation session. This exercise encourages participants to push their own creative potential by turning as many circles as possible into recognisable objects within 3 minutes.

This small creativity warm-up is ideal to teach your participants and yourself a quick lesson about ideation. On the one hand, when done in a group, it illustrates the different ideation processes inherent to participating individuals. On the other hand, the exercise highlights the balance between fluency and flexibility. Both fluency - the speed and quantity of ideas generated - and flexibility - the divergence of these ideas - are key elements for deriving at a wide array of ideas.  

Another exercise we often include in our workshops is the Brick Activity, also known as Alternate Uses. This exercise has, like the Thirty Circles Exercise, the goal to  warm up the imaginative mindset. Within three minutes you have to come up with as many ideas possible for the use of a given item, like a brick. And the possibilities for using this exercise are endless. As long as you can come up with different objects to ideate with. There is only one side note; Do not overcomplicate things. Only include objects that everyone knows, like a banana, pencil, or hairdryer.

Last, the One + One = One exercise is all about stimulating your ability to connect existing ideas or concepts to create something new. This simple exercise aims to let the participants explore the barriers of their imaginative thinking. In pairs they are incentivised to create new and yet unfound ideas. By, for example, combining objects like a zebra and a toothpaste, a keyboard and a soap, or glasses and a truck. When each participant has received or chosen an object, you give the pairs the assignment to come up with as many new ideas possible. They have 7 minutes to create exciting combinations.

All the above exercises embrace divergent thinking, which encompass the creation of a lot of different ideas in a short amount of time. Indeed, there are countless other small exercises that you can do with either your team, your clients or by yourself. And remember everyone can be creative, it just takes practise.

Some other exercises we like:

Impossible Objects - To test your imagination and create never-seen-before objects
Squiggle Birds - Convince the least-artistic confident people they can draw
Complete This Drawing - Practise your free drawing and creative skills
The Worst Idea Technique - To overcome the creative performance anxiety

Is your team or organisation ready for a creativity boost? Then do not hesitate to reach out to us!

Hughes, E. (January 10th, 2020) The Future of Work is Creative Collaboration. Link  
Kelley, T., & Kelley, D. (2013). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all
Strimaityte, A. (November, 2019) 9 Best Exercises to Spark Creativity in Ideation. Link

Jiske van Straaten
Business Associate
Jiske has a background in Communication, Creative Business Management and Strategic Design. With a heart for creativity, arts and design she additionally developed a passion for (impact) innovation by connecting and working closely with social startup ecosystems across the world. In her current position as business associate she support clients with their innovation challenges on a daily basis. Always making sure to continue to learn and share the innovation mindset inherent to Spark Works.
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