If you watch any of the biggest movers and shakers in an industry today what you'll undoubtedly notice is their ability to exude confidence.
Whether it's Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or Jeff Bezos on stage announcing a hot new service or product, or Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg, or Ariana Huffington inspiring thousands to live a more successful life, each has a remarkable knack for appearing cool and collected no matter the circumstance--or size of the audience.
How each manages to be so calm and convey their ideas so effectively is an example of the role confidence plays not only for each as powerful executives, but also as innovative leaders and forward thinkers.
It's because of their confidence that creative leaders are able to take big risks to reap big rewards, challenge our status quo, and push the envelope when it comes to innovation.
And here's the thing: you don't have to be a high-powered executive to reap the benefits of creative confidence.
Creative confidence is something anyone can achieve, which helps explain why it's become a fundamental topic in creative circles. It's defined as the belief in your ability to create change in the world around you, and its impact cannot be overstated. Not only that, but creative confidence is something each of us can build and grow.
In their book aptly titled Creative Confidence IDEO founders slash brothers Tom and David Kelley write:
"Creative confidence is like a muscle--it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience."
So how do the likes of Zuckerberg and Bezos strengthen their creative confidence, and what can we learn from how they do it? Here are five ways experts have identified those at the top develop and strengthen their creative confidence in order to create change in the world around them.
1. They actively seek out new experiences.
Mark Zuckerberg taught himself to speak Mandarin. Elon Musk literally taught himself rocket science. Richard Branson didn't just start a record company, he learned how to start an airline too.
These leaders know that to build confidence they must constantly embrace uncertainty and the uncomfortable feeling that comes with it; to do that there's no better strategy than seeking to learn new things from new experiences. As Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design Bruce Nussbaum writes in his book Creative Intelligence:
"If creativity is your goal, it may be a better strategy to spend less time practicing to become the best in a particular field and more time learning many kinds of knowledge."
2. They constantly ask investigative questions.
Unsurprisingly, what helps thought leaders stay in the lead isn't their ability to pull insights from thin air, it's in their ability to consistently ask investigative questions.
This constant questioning helps uncover gaps in knowledge, which enables these leaders to not only move quicker than competitors who are only focused on doing what they already know how to do, it also enables them to build confidence around the decisions they're making--knowing they've covered more ground than others.
If you want to make changes confidently, look at what questions you're asking.
3. They interact with experts.
It's not uncommon for innovation leaders to catch lunch or hop on a late night phone call with the best experts in any given field. These leaders know the value of being connected to tested experts.
But it's one thing to be Elon Musk and have chief scientists or investors in your address book, it's a whole other thing to be an aspiring innovator without easy access to industry experts or game changers.
Fortunately the world is a big place full of experts, and to connect with them no longer requires having their phone number--or even their email address--at hand. Instead, sites like Quora, Facebook, and Twitter allow anyone to connect with almost anyone at the tap of a button.
As Steven Johnson summarizes in his book Where Good Ideas Come From:
"It's not that the network itself is smart; it's that the individuals get smarter because they're connected to the network."
4. They role play.
In imagining different perspectives to problems at-hand, the most creative thinkers know that it's an easy way to think differently without putting much at risk.
When you're working on a problem as yourself, your story and ego play a part in what's possible, but if you imagine yourself as someone else, anything goes.
This helps explain why improv has become a phenomenon in creative workplaces: it helps teach the value of not thinking as yourself momentarily and builds confidence around how to act when you find yourself in a moment of surprise.
5. They fail often, but keep tinkering.
You might shy away from failure, fearing the cost of making a mistake. But those at the top understand failure is an inevitable cost of success. From Creative Confidence the Kelley brothers write:
"According to Professor Dean Kieth Simonton of the University of California, Davis...creative geniuses, from artists like Mozart to scientists like Darwin, are quiet prolific when it comes to failure--they just don't let that stop them."