radio waves

How To Build Your Creative Confidence
  • How To Build Your Creative Confidence
  • David Kelley
  • TEDTalks
David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

Is your school or workplace divided into “creatives” versus practical people? Yet surely, David Kelley suggests, creativity is not the domain of only a chosen few. 

I wanted to talk to you today about creative confidence. I’m going to start way back in the third grade at Oakdale School in Barberton, Ohio.

I remember one day my best friend Brian was working on a project. He was making a horse out of the clay that our teacher kept under the sink. And at one point, one of the girls who was sitting at his table, seeing what he was doing, leaned over and said to him, "That’s terrible. That doesn’t look anything like a horse." And Brian’s shoulders sank. And he wadded up the clay horse and he threw it back in the bin. I never saw Brian do a project like that ever again.

And I wonder how often that happens. It seems like when I tell that story of Brian to my class, a lot of them want to come up after class and tell me about their similar experience,how a teacher shut them down or how a student was particularly cruel to them. And some opt out thinking of themselves as creative at that point. And I see that opting out that happens in childhood, and it moves in and becomes more ingrained, even by the time you get to adult life.

So we see a lot of this. When we have a workshop or when we have clients in to work with us side-by-side, eventually we get to the point in the process that’s fuzzy or unconventional.And eventually these bigshot executives whip out their Blackberries and they say they have to make really important phone calls, and they head for the exits. And they’re just so uncomfortable. When we track them down and ask them what’s going on, they say something like, "I’m just not the creative type." But we know that’s not true. If they stick with the process, if they stick with it, they end up doing amazing things and they surprise themselves just how innovative they and their teams really are.

So I’ve been looking at this fear of judgment that we have. That you don’t do things, you’re afraid you’re going to be judged. If you don’t say the right creative thing, you’re going to be judged. And I had a major breakthrough when I met the psychologist Albert Bandura.

I don’t know if you know Albert Bandura. But if you go to Wikipedia, it says that he’s the fourth most important psychologist in history — like Freud, Skinner, somebody and Bandura.Bandura’s 86 and he still works at Stanford. And he’s just a lovely guy.

And so I went to see him because he has just worked on phobias for a long time, which I’m very interested in. He had developed this way, this kind of methodology, that ended up curing people in a very short amount of time. In four hours he had a huge cure rate of people who had phobias. And we talked about snakes. I don’t know why we talked about snakes.We talked about snakes and fear of snakes as a phobia.

And it was really enjoyable, really interesting. He told me that he’d invite the test subject in,and he’d say, “You know, there’s a snake in the next room and we’re going to go in there.”To which, he reported, most of them replied, ”Hell no, I’m not going in there, certainly if there’s a snake in there.”

But Bandura has a step-by-step process that was super successful. So he’d take people to this two-way mirror looking into the room where the snake was, and he’d get them comfortable with that. And then through a series of steps, he’d move them and they’d be standing in the doorway with the door open and they’d be looking in there. And he’d get them comfortable with that. And then many more steps later, baby steps, they’d be in the room, they’d have a leather glove like a welder’s glove on, and they’d eventually touch the snake. And when they touched the snake everything was fine. They were cured. In fact, everything was better than fine. These people who had life-long fears of snakes were saying things like, ”Look how beautiful that snake is.” And they were holding it in their laps.

Bandura calls this process “guided mastery.” I love that term: guided mastery. And something else happened, these people who went through the process and touched the snake ended up having less anxiety about other things in their lives. They tried harder, they persevered longer, and they were more resilient in the face of failure. They just gained a new confidence. And Bandura calls that confidence self-efficacy — the sense that you can change the world and that you can attain what you set out to do.

Well meeting Bandura was really cathartic for me because I realized that this famous scientist had documented and scientifically validated something that we’ve seen happen for the last 30 years. That we could take people who had the fear that they weren’t creative, and we could take them through a series of steps, kind of like a series of small successes, and they turn fear into familiarity, and they surprise themselves. That transformation is amazing.

We see it at the 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 percent 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 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 percent of the kids needing to be sedated, to something like 10 percent 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 percent 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 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 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. 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 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.

A conceptual illustration of Nikola Tesla’s Trans-Oceanic Global Energy System. [After Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham Long Island, NY]; Unfortuneately Nikola Tesla’s Trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting, and proof-of-concept demonstrations of wireless power transmissions never fully materialized. Tesla claimed to be developing an Intercontinental form of Super-conductive Wireless Technologies which would be capable of distributing free and limitless power throughout the surface of the entire planet. (1901–1917)

Archaeology without a shovel


Modern archaeologists send radio waves into the earth to find unknown cultural heritage.

Have you ever seen a researcher pushing a cart up and down a hill, or back and forth on a field? Then you might have seen a modern archaeologist at work.

Geophysical methods are becoming more and more common in archaeology.

They make it possible for archaeologists to discovered new pieces of cultural heritage without ruining anything, and also to plan where to focus an excavation before it starts. Read more.

Millisecond Pulsars

As the name suggestions, millisecond pulsars have pulse periods that are in the range from one to ten milliseconds. Most such millisecond pulsars are found in binary systems, typically with white-dwarf companions. These pulsars are highly magnetized, old neutron stars in binary systems which have been spun up to high rotational frequencies by accumulating mass and angular momentum from a companion star. Neutron stars form when a massive star explodes at the end of its life and leaves behind a super-dense, spinning ball of neutrons. A pulsar is the same thing as a neutron star, but with one added feature. Pulsars emit lighthouse-like beams of x-ray and radio waves that rapidly sweep through space as the object spins on its axis. Most pulsars rotate just a few times per second, but some spin hundreds of times faster. These millisecond pulsars are the fastest-rotating stars we know of.

  • To hear the sound of a pulsar, click here

Credit: NASA

Symphony of the Universe

After my radio astronomy article yesterday, I thought I should expand on the idea of “sound” in space—how, after all, can stars and galaxies make noise? Sound waves only travel through a medium, such as solid, liquid or gas, by making their molecules vibrate and creating a compression wave. When there is no medium, there’s no sound—hence why the near-vacuum of space is almost completely silent. In the 90s, NASA released an album called “Symphonies of the Planets”, but the sounds weren’t exactly of the planets: they were converted from measurements of the interactions of electromagnetic disturbances, such as charged particles in the planets’ magnetospheres or trapped radio waves. Electromagnetic waves, such as radio waves or light, don’t need a medium to travel like sound waves do. They’re composed of both electric and magnetic waves and so they’re self-propagating, because the oscillating electric field creates an oscillating magnetic field which then creates an oscillating electric field and so on, and the continued disturbances keep the wave moving forward. It’s not until they’re captured here on Earth that they’re converted into sound, and we can hear the symphony of the universe.

It's Not Right, But It's Okay
  • It's Not Right, But It's Okay
  • Radio 1 Live Lounge

"It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay" by CHVRCHES // Originally by Whitney Houston

CHVRCHES are everywhere this week, with the release of their excellent new album, The Bones of What You Believe. The band showed up at the Radio 1 Live Lounge to support the album, and in turn dropped a killer electro pop cover of Whitney Houston’s classic, “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay”. There’s a lot to love here. 


Richie’s endearments