Developing Creative Confidence With Practice

The means to developing the ability to create useful, valued products and service comes from learning through doing.

What is the best way to learn design? Design something.

It’s a bit trite to say this, but it’s true.

Someone can be a designer having never taken a design course or completed a degree or they could have advanced training and certification in a design discipline. Just like with art, formal training is simply a vehicle for supporting reflective, deliberative, consistent practice and the development of craft.

Design ability comes from having done design in practice, not just in theory. Expertise in design comes from designing things repeatedly, consistently, and deliberative practice.

Many people don’t need expertise, they need competence and that requires confidence.

Creating Confidence

Confidence comes through a sense of self-efficacy tied to a set of tasks. Self-efficacy has been a concept developed by Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura and many others and confidence are one of its key products. It’s a multi-faceted concept that involves:

  1. Mastery experiences: Performing something multiple times over to demonstrate a type of mastery from practice. Having done something successfully before makes it much more likely we can do it again.
  2. Modeling: The ability to witness others performing the task or activity we wish to do can show us what can or ought to be done to accomplish something.
  3. Words of encouragement and motivation: Having those who we respect supporting us through positive affirmation, guidance, and motivationally-sensitive language is another aspect of self-efficacy
  4. Emotional and physiological control: The ability to channel our emotions and physiology for positive effect or the ability to manage fear and other emotions that might limit our ability to perform is another component.
  5. Imagined or visualized experiences. This is not part of Bandura’s original model and reflects later work that has shown how creative visualization and vivid imaginary guidance through a possible experience can increase our sense of competence and self-efficacy prior to undertaking something.

Like many behaviour changes, these five aspects of confidence-building and self-efficacy development operate like an index: the more of these you engage, the more likely you’ll increase your confidence.

The more you increase your confidence, the more you are likely to create things.

Making it Happen

The key lesson of self-efficacy is that there are specific things you can do right now to improve your chances at making a change, creating that product, or initiating something you’ve wanted to do.

  • Mastery is the most obvious first place to start. Build a deliberative practice and praxis for learning while doing. Create time to reflect and integrate what you learn from your efforts into regular, consistent, and persistent practice.
  • Build a supportive network around you to inspire and motivate you. Innovation and creation is a team activity at its best.
  • Engage in mindful action to help focus and better channel your emotions to positive effect. Mindfulness practice can help keep your emotions in check. This is sometimes like the High Diving Board Problem where our perceptions of risk and fear of change confront us.
  • Find models of success and study them. Seeing can help you to believe that you, too can create. Whether it’s diving into documentary profiles (e.g., Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a terrific study of what craft looks like in practice) seeking out your successful peers for a discussion, or simply binge-watching YouTube or dive into podcasts, there have never been more ways to observe and hear examples of how people have lived the change you seek.
  • Creative visualization through futures thinking can help you to see the change that hasn’t happen. Using techniques like the Butterfly, Stamped or other backcasting approaches can use your preferred future (change) as the future point and all you to walk back from that.

Confidence is critical to sustained creativity and innovation. We call can do it as individuals and organizations. We just need to build our self-efficacy to do it.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Cameron D. Norman

I am a designer, psychologist, educator, evaluator, and strategist focused on innovation in human systems. I'm curious about the world around me and use my role as Principal and President of Cense Ltd. as a means of channeling that curiosity into ideas, questions, and projects that contribute to a better world.

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