Sam Nii Adjaidoo believes that everyone possesses the gift of creative confidence. The Ghanaian design strategist and business developer has spent almost a decade educating and inspiring diverse teams both within his community and beyond to embrace their full creative potential. As a follow up to his World Industrial Design Day 2021 keynote, we recently caught up with Sam to explore what it means to design with creative confidence.

With a diverse background that has seen him lead the establishment of several successful enterprises across the design, communication and sustainability spaces, Nii Adjaidoo has witnessed firsthand the power of creative thought.

Sam Nii Adjaidoo (middle) moderating a session at the "Our Time is Now" Afrikan Design Week.

One of his recent endeavors The Institute of Design and Synergistics (IDS), which he co-founded in 2018, is a non-profit design and innovation hub that is specifically dedicated to empowering African youth through creative learning, prototyping and community outreach. With Africa’s population expected to hit 2.4 billion by 2050, with more than 50% of the population under the age of 25, Nii Adjaidoo notes that “we need tools to mitigate socio-economic challenges by raising socially aware young people who, through creative confidence, can serve as the leading catalyst in preparing their communities for the future.”

Indeed, a lot of his work as a ‘creative confidence educationist’ hinges on this idea of merging creativity and design thinking as a means to change lives and communities. “Creative confidence means having the courage, resilience, and willingness to overcome fear in order to execute ideas”, but that’s not always an easy feat. So the job at hand for creative confidence educationists like Nii Adjaidoo is to “inspire and train individuals and organizations to have ideas and not be afraid to execute and share them.”

“Creative confidence means being innovative, ready to accept positive and negative feedback, and having the courage to go where no one has gone before. This leads to valuable experiences and useful ideas. The world is in need of unconventional and disruptive leaders.”

The main challenge is getting designers to overcome their fear of failing as it can “hinder a person’s ability to take risks, make mistakes, and be accepted. Risk-aversion, self-doubt, and a need for perfection can all be caused by a fear of failing, which ultimately prevents innovation.” To do so, he recommends that designers embrace their innate curiosity, learn from their mistakes and recognize that the core of creative activity is iterative and evolutionary by nature. “Big ideas evolve from smaller steps. Going to the moon began in the mind that it’s possible…I am sure someone wrote it down in a notebook somewhere…take the first step, then the first step from there, then the next step.”

In the end, creative confidence is what allows designers to ask the difficult questions. It is that embracing of the unknown that is a true marker of creative leadership.

Nii Adjaidoo's work merges creativity and design thinking as a means to change lives and communities. Seen here representing The Pan-Afrikan Design Institute (PADI) in 2019.

Sam Nii Adjaidoo is a design consultant and business developer, currently serving as lead strategist at DreamBrander Advertising, AxelleMD and the Institute of Design and Synergistics, a design education group that inspires the youth through design thinking and creative confidence. Sam also serves as a board member of the Pan Afrikan Design Institute (PADI).

You can learn more about Sam and his work here. As part of our collaboration, he also shared some of his top creative confidence resources, including: Self-efficacy by Albert Bandura, Change by Design by Tim Brown, Superhuman by Design by Donald Burlock Jr.

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