Finding the Sweet Spot of Innovation

I’ve been reading the book, “Creative Confidence,” by Tom and David Kelley this last week. I started to read the book in preparation for a class I am teaching at Winthrop University next semester, but like everything else in life, I find parallels to my 9-to-5 and day-to-day wonderings. The book’s aim is to demystify the term “creative” by illustrating that we all have the power to be imaginative – we may just not realize it. “Creativity and the ability to innovate, they explain, are like muscles – the more we use them, the stronger they get.” The book also demonstrates how human-centered design (building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for) can lead to breakthrough innovations.

But innovation can be scary, both to my students and our partners here at Moonlight (and let’s be honest, even us as designers sometimes). Change is daunting.

Luckily, there are balancing factors in innovation, which brings us a bit of logic and structure to this somewhat “mushy” subject. The goal of innovation is finding the “sweet spot of feasibility, viability and desirability.” We must balance the technical (feasible), the business (viable) and the people (desirable) in order to innovate. You can see below how small that “sweet spot” is. It’s a careful balancing act to find which small fractions must combine to inspire innovation.


Innovation is vulnerable. Any project that involves finding a new way to do something, takes a certain amount of risk – it hasn’t been done before so there’s risk in being the first to try it. But that shouldn’t scare us. As designers, it is these challenges that fuel our creative thinking and problem-solving skills. We thrive in that sweet, little vulnerable area. This book reminds us not only to develop and follow methodologies (those things that exercise our creative muscles) that help with design thinking, but also to be brave.

If you don’t have time to read the book “Creative Confidence” you can get the abridged version from Ted Kelley’s TED talk on “How to build your creative confidence.” It is one of my favorites.