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Nov 6, 2017

Have you ever been asked to come up with a fresh idea but weren’t sure where to start? We all have opportunities to solve problems and how we approach the process makes a big impact on the outcome.  Finding new ways to tackle a challenge is the inspiration for this episode using strategies found in the book “Creative Confidence Unleashing The Creative Potential Within us all” by bestselling authors and co-founders of IDEO Tom Kelley and David Kelley who is also the founder of the d. School at Stanford.  

How does design thinking transform into creative confidence in real life? One of the most memorable stories shared in the book is about Doug Dietz, who works at GE Healthcare to develop high tech Medical Imaging Systems. Dietz discovered that many children had a very strong fear of experiencing the scan and needed to be sedated. Instead of looking at the obvious and expensive way to make a change which would have been the MRI machine, Dietz and his team approached changing the experience for children instead. The outcome transformed how kids felt about the scan and reduced the need for sedation prior to the test.

If you aren't sure how to look at a problem and solve it in a new way, check out the 8 steps shared by Tom and David Kelley to help you turn a blank page into a canvas filled with ideas.

8 Steps to Brainstorming New Ideas 

  1. Choose Creativity: before starting to come up with new ideas, decide first that you want to try a new method of problem solving.
  2. Think Like a Traveler: If you have ever gone to a new city or country for the first time, your senses are more in tune with the world around you. Tap into that feeling of wonderment and be open to seeing the world differently.
  3. Engage Relaxed Attention: the best ideas come when the mind is quiet-when you first wake up, or after meditating an idea may come to you.
  4. Empathize with Your End User: the better you understand the mindset of who the solution is for, the solution will come to you.
  5. Do Observations in the Field: Look for things that are out of sight not obvious.  Think of an archaeologist who uncovers a find at a dig.
  6. Ask Questions Starting With “Why”: for example if you ask someone why they are using something that is relatively obsolete it could be more about change and less about features.
  7. Re-frame Challenges: ask questions in a different way-from another point of view.
  8. Build a Creative Support Network: one of the keys to creativity is having people who can collaborate with you to brainstorm ideas.

Once you have decided on your problem to solve make sure you use bite size actions to stay on track. The authors suggest these three tips to make it easier to take action.

  • Start with one “doable” piece to the problem. At the end of the brainstorm session, prioritize your needs.
  • Narrow your goal-don’t start with a monumental problem, look for something that you can impact.
  • Create milestones-it is very helpful to establish deadlines and include interim touch points so it isn’t here is the challenge and then here is the solution. Having progress check points along the way makes it much easier to manage and arrive at the goal.

David and Tom Kelley have so many great insights in this book and at the end there are tangible exercises you and your team can try to practice your creative confidence muscle.  This quote as it circles back to being in tune with the world around us:

“Take Time to ask yourself each day “When was I at my best”. - David Kelley. The answer may surprise you.

If you would like help to solving a problem using design thinking, reach out to me at

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Inspiration for this book is thanks to Laine Mann and Don Schmid from Pfizer.

A big thanks as  always to Christy Haussler at Team Podcast for editing this episode.