The confidence to create: how creativity can boost confidence

Eugene Hughes on how creative learning can help build a confident mindset.

Reading time: 4 minutes

Earlier this year, a survey by Gartner found that only half of managers feel confident leading their teams. That’s a worrying finding when confidence is one of the building blocks of effective leadership.

Whatever other talents they may possess, trying to grow as a manager without confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It’s particularly worrying given the billions spent globally on management skills training each year.

Creative learning is an approach that focuses on shifting mindsets rather than training skills. Given the increasingly fast-paced rate of business, having a confident mindset is becoming more and more important.

As a starting point what exactly is confidence? Often people talk about someone having ‘a big personality’ implying they are very self-confident.

But there’s a clear difference between the appearance of confidence and a genuine inner confidence, rooted in a robust sense of self that can acknowledge strengths and accept areas for development.

As training and development professionals, you know that work can be a tremendous confidence builder for employees, nurturing their self-esteem by providing a combination of stretch and achievement.

Creative learning is an experience-based approach that focuses on the mindset that can help to develop an employee’s creative intelligence

But workplace environments can also chip away at someone’s confidence. Common confidence crushers include:

The obsession with perfection

There’s a difference between having a healthy ambition and an unhealthy drive for perfection. The tell-tale signs of an unhealthy perfectionism are when the individual starts to feel that they are not good enough.

In a team context, it is particularly toxic because the individual can start to believe that the people around them aren’t good enough either.

The disease to please

 In business it is so important to have a strong service-oriented attitude to colleagues and customers alike. But constantly trying to adapt to please other people is psychologically draining and can pick away at an employee’s self-esteem.

The illusion of control

 The confidence to negotiate ambiguity and focus on the stuff that really matters is fast becoming a critical skill for 21st-century employees.

It can be increasingly difficult as well as stressful, for people to stay on top of the endless flow of communication and control all that’s happening around them.

How creative learning helps

In my opinion, we need a fresh approach to learning that can directly address the factors that undermine employee confidence.

Creative learning is an experience-based approach to learning that focuses on the mindset, methods and behaviours that can help to develop an employee’s creative intelligence.

It does not tell people what they should do, but rather nurtures their innate creativity, so that they have the confidence and inner resourcefulness to work out smart solutions.

Creative learning also focuses on experimentation and practice. For example, over the last five years in the US, rather than teaching the theory of empathy, medical training institutions use life drawing classes to help people to observe patients from different perspectives.

This significantly enhanced their observation and empathy skills when working face-to-face with patients.

This arts-based approach helps young doctors build their confidence in the more human-to-human side of patient care. Just imagine how powerful this technique would be to help first-time managers.

When a business is undergoing a significant period of transformation or change, it can be extremely stressful and confidence eroding for everyone involved. Creative learning can be a powerful tool to help employees to feel more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Sometimes creative processes can be labelled as ‘fluffy’ or ‘fun’ but there is a serious reason why we use them

For example, learning the principles and techniques used in theatre improvisation can give people the confidence to deal with the unexpected, trust their gut, experiment and be spontaneous.

Sometimes creative processes can be labelled as ‘fluffy’ or ‘fun’ but there is a serious reason why we use them. Advances in our neuroscience are playing an important role in the emergence of creative learning.

We know now that experience-based activities generate greater neurological impact on the learner and facilitates the interactivity between the three major neural systems in the brain: the sensory-motor system, the emotion-valuation management system and the cognitive meaning-knowledge system.

Encouraging the interconnectivity between all three has a profound and transformative effect on learning outcomes.

The good news is that everyone is inherently creative, everyone is a creator. But it takes practise, as the creative brain is like a muscle that needs constant exercising.

That’s why creative learning and its focus on experimentation, practise and learning by doing is fast being adopted by the world’s leading brands.

Creative learning challenges conventional ways of learning and replaces it with a highly practical, experiential and experimental approach that focuses on a shift in mindset rather than skills.

When you focus on developing the right mindsets, this gives employees the inner confidence needed to meet the demands of 21st-century business.


About the author

Eugene Hughes is chief executive of Artgym and co-founder of Lead Like a River wilderness retreats, ranked in The Times’ ‘top 20 life changing experiences’.


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