Home » How To Build Your Creative Confidence by David Kelley – TED Talk Transcript

How To Build Your Creative Confidence by David Kelley – TED Talk Transcript

We see it at the d.school now all the time. People from all different kinds of disciplines, they think of themselves as only analytical. And they come in and they go through the process, our process, they build confidence and now they think of themselves differently. And they’re totally emotionally excited about the fact that they walk around thinking of themselves as a creative person.

So I thought one of the things I’d do today is take you through and show you what this journey looks like. To me, that journey looks like Doug Dietz. Doug Dietz is a technical person. He designs medical imaging equipment, large medical imaging equipment. He’s worked for GE, and he’s had a fantastic career. But at one point he had a moment of crisis.

He was in the hospital looking at one of his MRI machines in use when he saw a young family. There was a little girl, and that little girl was crying and was terrified. And Doug was really disappointed to learn that nearly 80% of the pediatric patients in this hospital had to be sedated in order to deal with his MRI machine. And this was really disappointing to Doug, because before this time he was proud of what he did. He was saving lives with this machine. But it really hurt him to see the fear that this machine caused in kids.

About that time he was at the d.school at Stanford taking classes. He was learning about our process about design thinking, about empathy, about iterative prototyping. And he would take this new knowledge and do something quite extraordinary. He would redesign the entire experience of being scanned. And this is what he came up with.

He turned it into an adventure for the kids. He painted the walls and he painted the machine, and he got the operators retrained by people who know kids, like children’s museum people. And now when the kid comes, it’s an experience. And they talk to them about the noise and the movement of the ship. And when they come, they say, “Okay, you’re going to go into the pirate ship, but be very still because we don’t want the pirates to find you.”

And the results were super dramatic. So from something like 80% of the kids needing to be sedated, to something like 10% of the kids needing to be sedated. And the hospital and GE were happy too. Because you didn’t have to call the anesthesiologist all the time, they could put more kids through the machine in a day. So the quantitative results were great. But Doug’s results that he cared about were much more qualitative. He was with one of the mothers waiting for her child to come out of the scan. And when the little girl came out of her scan, she ran up to her mother and said, “Mommy, can we come back tomorrow?”

And so I’ve heard Doug tell the story many times, of his personal transformation and the breakthrough design that happened from it, but I’ve never really seen him tell the story of the little girl without a tear in his eye.

Doug’s story takes place in a hospital. I know a thing or two about hospitals. A few years ago I felt a lump on the side of my neck, and it was my turn in the MRI machine. It was cancer. It was the bad kind. I was told I had a 40% chance of survival.

So while you’re sitting around with the other patients in your pajamas and everybody’s pale and thin and you’re waiting for your turn to get the gamma rays, you think of a lot of things. Mostly you think about, am I going to survive? And I thought a lot about, what was my daughter’s life going to be like without me? But you think about other things. I thought a lot about, what was I put on Earth to do? What was my calling? What should I do? And I was lucky because I had lots of options. We’d been working in health and wellness, and K through 12, and the Developing World. And so there were lots of projects that I could work on.

But I decided and I committed to at this point to the thing I most wanted to do — was to help as many people as possible regain the creative confidence they lost along their way. And if I was going to survive, that’s what I wanted to do. I survived, just so you know.

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 that they can choose from better ideas. And they just make better decisions.

So I know at TED you’re supposed to have a change-the-world kind of thing; isn’t that? Everybody has a change-the-world thing. If there is one for me, this is it. To help this happen. So I hope you’ll join me on my quest — you as kind of thought leaders. It would be really great if you didn’t let people divide the world into the creatives and the non-creatives, like it’s some God-given thing, and to have people realize that they’re naturally creative. And those natural people should let their ideas fly. That they should achieve what Bandura calls self-efficacy, that you can do what you set out to do, and that you can reach a place of creative confidence and touch the snake.

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