Tom Kelley

General Manager, IDEO
Author of the bestseller, Creative Confidence

A bestselling guide to unleashing the creative potential in anyone.

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Tom Kelley practices innovation every day. His ability to foster a culture of creativity in the companies he works with has made him one of the most beloved figures in innovation.

Tom's newest book, Creative Confidence, is an out-of-the-box success; in its first week, it was already among the best-selling business books in the country, leading the field in motivational leadership and problem-solving.

Creative Confidence is a guide to recognising and unleashing the creative potential in every employee. Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the "creative types" — artists, writers, the design team. But every one of us has the potential to be creative; creativity is a mindset that anyone can cultivate, not a personality trait you either have or you don't. And in a marketplace where competitiveness is defined by innovation, the more creativity you unlock across the board, the more likely you are to succeed. Creative Confidence was co-written with Tom's brother David Kelley, the founder of IDEO and creator of the Stanford, and the book draws on both brothers' extensive work through these institutions with many of the world's top companies.

This is just the latest step in Tom's highly respected career as a leader in innovation management and design. Under his management, IDEO has won more admiration and awards than any other design firm in the last decade. At the heart of IDEO's success is the Creative Confidence philosophy: everyone can contribute creatively to a project if innovation is part of an organisation's way of life.

Tom's earlier books include The Art of Innovation, which describes IDEO’s "deep dive" approach to successful product creation, focusing on brainstorming and teamwork as invaluable tools. The Ten Faces of Innovation shares ten unique strategies for making sure that good ideas make it to market.

Tom was named the first-ever Executive Fellow by the dean of the Haas Business School, University of California Berkeley, and received the 2009 Kellogg Award for Distinguished Leadership from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.


Creative Confidence

Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

Tom Kelley and David Kelley

New York Times and The Wall Street Journal bestseller
IDEO founder and Stanford creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, IDEO partner and the author of the bestselling The Art of Innovation, have written a powerful and compelling book on unleashing the creativity that lies within each and every one of us.

Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the "creative types." But two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity on the planet show us that each and every one of us is creative. In an incredibly entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO and with many of the world's top companies, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems. It is a book that will help each of us be more productive and successful in our lives and in our careers.

Crown Business (15 Oct 2013)


'Creative Confidence'Financial Times
The confidence to be creativePalto Alto Online


"CREATIVE CONFIDENCE is a myth-busting, muscle-building gem of a book. It shatters the false belief that only some people are creative. Then it provides a smart, practical action plan for boosting your innovative capacities. If you want to be more creative, read the Kelley brothers' words, follow their advice, and then-as they'd tell you-do something!"
— Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive, A Whole New Mind, and To Sell is Human

"David Kelley has unleashed the power of design thinking for thousands of Stanford students and hundreds of influential Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. In CREATIVE CONFIDENCE, he and his brother, Tom, share their secrets about how each of us can find our creative powers. They describe a way of thinking that will change your professional and personal life.
— Charlie Rose, acclaimed interviewer and broadcast journalist

"This book changed me. CREATIVE CONFIDENCE is that rare combination of thought leadership, soulful storytelling, and real-life exercises that inspires you to reclaim your creative passion and courage. I feel braver already. "
— Brené Brown, Ph.D., author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Daring Greatly

"This is the only book about creativity that you'll ever need."
— Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

"A five-star Wow! This wonderful, heartwarming book may literally change the world. Indeed, it must change the world. Don't just read it. Use it. Now."
— Tom Peters, bestselling author of In Search of Excellence

"An indispensible field guide for creative explorers of all kinds. This compelling book will help build creative muscles for when you need them most."
— Todd Spaletto, President, The North Face

"Creativity is not magic, it's a skill. Get this book and learn the skill from the brothers who have taught it to more people-f rom nurses to bankers to teachers to computer scientists-than anyone else."
— Chip Heath, author of Made to Stick, Switch and Decisive

"A cross between Steve Jobs' commencement speech on creativity and a modern-day What Color is your Parachute?, the Kelley brothers offer simple but effective tools for the "I'm not creative" set-business leaders and professionals seeking the confidence to innovate."
— John Maeda, President & CEO, Rhode Island School of Design

"In hospitality — like in all industries — creativity is the life blood of engaging employees and guests (customers) and it is the capacity that allows you to strengthen your brand with every interaction. This book can help you engage powerfully with employees and customers and keep your brand relevant through changing times."
— Mark Hoplamazian, President and CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

"I have long marveled at the Kelley brothers' ability to innovate in seemingly impenetrable fields (like health care). Now they've unfettered that power in all of us, sharing the tools and inspiring the confidence we need to find the very best solutions to complex problems we face at work-and in our personal lives."
— Gary L. Gottlieb, M.D., President and CEO, Partners HealthCare System

"David and Tom have written an incredibly insightful book that challenges us all have the courage to break out of our ruts, innovate, and create."
— Tim Koogle, former President & CEO, Yahoo

"Developing both the courage and confidence to create and the ability to cultivate original insight is of enormous practical importance, and this new book is the first place I send people to learn how it is done."
— Richard Miller, President, Olin College

"David and Tom Kelley show us how to effortlessly dance between the creativity of elementary school and the pragmatism of the business world."
— Joe Gebbia, Co-founder, Airbnb

The Ten Faces of Innovation

IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate and Driving CreativityThroughout Your Organization

Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman

In The Art of Innovation, IDEO's managing director Tom Kelley described IDEO’s "deep dive" approach to successful product creation. Their focus on brainstorming and teamwork has resulted in world-wide acclaim as the leading design and innovation firm in the world. In The Ten Faces of Innovation, Kelley reveals the strategies IDEO uses to help foster innovation throughout the culture of a business and counter the debilitating effect of the devil's advocate. The role of the devil's advocate is nearly universal in business today. It allows an individual to step outside themselves and raise questions and concerns that effectively kill new projects and ideas, while claiming no personal responsibility. Nothing is more potent in stiffling innovation, Kelley claims.

Over the years, IDEO has developed ten approaches businesses can use to foster innovation and new ideas while offering an effective counter to naysayers. Among these approaches are the anthropologist — the person who goes into the field to see how customers use and respond to products, to come up with new innovations; the cross-pollinator who mixes and matches ideas, people and technology to create new ideas that can drive growth; and the hurdler, who instantly looks for ways to overcome the limits and challenges to any situation. Filled with engaging stories of how companies like Kraft, Intel, Safeway and the Mayo Clinic have incorporated IDEO's thinking to transform the customer experience, The Ten Faces of Innovation is an extraordinary guide to nurturing and sustaining a culture of continuous innovation and renewal.

Profile Books (4 Sep 2008)
Broadway Business (18 Oct 2005)

The Art of Innovation

Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm

Tom Kelley

There isn't a business in America that doesn't want to be more innovative and creative in their thinking, products, and processes. At many companies, being first with a concept and first to market are critical just to survive. In The Art of Innovation, the general manager of the world-renowned design firm IDEO, Thomas Kelley, takes readers behind the scenes of this wildly imaginative and energized company to reveal the strategies and secrets it uses to turn out hit after hit.

IDEO doesn't believe in the myth of the lone genius working away in isolation, waiting for great ideas to strike. The fact is, as Kelley points out, everyone is creative, and the goal at IDEO is to tap into that wellspring of creativity among its employees. How does it do that? First, IDEO fosters an atmosphere conducive to freely expressing ideas, throwing out (most of) the standard rules, and freeing people to design their workspaces and environment to fit their personalities. It is IDEO's focus on teams that has resulted in its countless innovative breakthroughs — the constant give-and-take among people willing to share ideas and trust in the group process, dubbed "the deep dive" by IDEO. In entertaining anecdotes illustrating some of IDEO's own successes (and mistakes), as well as poineering efforts at other leading companies, Kelley shows how teams — usually in groups of twelve to twenty people — research and completely immerse themselves in every possible aspect of a concept or problem, examining it from the perspective of the companies they are designing for, from the perspective of safety, and from the perspective of consumers. In the course of the book, Kelley outlines the steps IDEO and other successful companies use to achieve successful problem solving:

  • Closely observing the behavior of the people who will be using a product or service — what Kelley calls the "anthropology of design," of which IDEO is a master

  • Brainstorming ideas

  • Prototyping designs and ideas at every stage

  • Using "cross-pollination" to find solutions to trickyproblems in other, unrelated products or fields

  • Setting frequent deadlines along the way to keep the momentum going

  • Fostering a climate of innovation, flexibility, and camaraderie

  • Taking risks, being unafraid of goofing up, and ultimately aiming for "good enough" rather than perfection

IDEO has won more awards in the last ten years than any other design firm, and a full half-hour Nightline presentation of its creative process received one of the highest ratings in the show's history. Total immersion in The Art of Innovation will provide business leaders with the insights and tools they need to make their companies the leading-edge, top-rated stars of their industries.

Profile Books; New Ed edition (4 Mar 2002)
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group (1 May 2001)


Tom tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Leading with Creative Confidence

Creativity has become a key success factor for companies of all kinds, and Tom Kelley will show how creative methodologies like design thinking can contribute to innovation and growth. Drawing on research from his New York Times bestseller, Creative Confidence, Tom’s presentation will cover three themes in the creative process:

  • Blending technology with humanity at the front end of innovation, so that design and innovation resources focus on areas of human need
  • Using experimentation to reduce the cost of failure and gain valuable learnings before the launch of a new idea
  • Leveraging the power of storytelling to communicate your message and accelerate the adoption of innovations

Growth and Renewal with the Faces of Innovation

Beyond the standard innovation tools • Beyond the usual suspects • Beyond the Devil’s Advocate

The Art of Innovation

Problem Solving

Failing Your Way to Success

Designing the Future

Half-day Workshop on Creative Confidence

As well as giving keynote talks, Tom is equally able to talk over longer periods such as a half-day workshop, providing a more in-depth look at the process and application of design thinking in the workplace.

Doctors spend an extraordinary amount of time getting their qualifications at medical school, and the day they start practicing, they have an up-to-date knowledge of their field. But as medical advances occur on a regular basis, Doctors (and Surgeons) have to find ways of renewing their knowledge and expertise throughout their careers. The way medical practitioners keep themselves updated is with a learning process known as “Hear one, see one, do one”.

First, they hear or read about a new procedure. Then they watch carefully as they see someone else do it. Finally, they do one themselves, usually first in a safe practice setting. Each step reinforces the one that came before it, and practitioners build their expertise. In a similar way, IDEO’s experience with client executives shows that, when they use the “Hear one, see one, do one” learning model, there is a higher probability business audiences will retain the content and turn the ideas into action. Tom uses this process as the basis for this half day workshop and applies it very successfully to business scenarios.

The workshop is broken down into three parts, the design of which is as follows:

1) “Hear one” — This is a keynote presentation to familiarise the audience with concepts and examples for applying design thinking to complex problems of all kinds. After the presentation, there will be time for Q&A and a short break, which brings the workshop to the halfway point.

2) “See one” — The core of this portion is a short video case study of innovation at work called The Deep Dive. The video is from a television called “Nightline,” where IDEO was asked to reinvent a product category in just four days. The product turned out to be shopping carts/trolleys, but the real story of the video case study is the process for innovation. The video was a huge commercial success, the shopping cart went on display at America’s Smithsonian Institute, and The Deep Dive was so influential that it became the basis for a Harvard Business School case study which is seemingly still used in the MBA program there. This is followed by a short Q&A.

3) “Do one” — A practical activity lasting approximately 90 minutes, based on a mini-project from the at Stanford University, (the was founded by Tom’s brother David Kelley). This exercise to designed to allow the group to practice some of the tools used in ‘design thinking’ — this includes empathy, experimentation, and storytelling — to solve problems in new ways.


'Creative Confidence' | Charlie Rose

IDEO creators talk hot to unleash your creativity | CBS This Morning

Art of Innovation

Ten Faces of Innovation


A leading global non-profit trade association:
Dear Tom — A big thanks for participating as a speaker at the [ . . . ] in Sonoma, CA. The feedback on our speaker line up has been overwhelmingly positive and your involvement was a key contributor to our success. In just our 5th year, we are proud of the event we have built and could not have done so without your willingness to share your expertise with our audience. With much appreciation - thank you again.

A professional member service organization for children’s museums:

  • This was an outstanding presentation. So inspiring.
  • Great choice of speaker and topic

  • Tom Kelly was a fantastic choice. Thank you.

  • The speaker was fabulous with great information.

  • Wonderful speaker!!! Really worth staying the last day and attending.

  • This was a very good and engaging session. The speaker was lively, dynamic, relevant and

  • Tom Kelley is amazing and a true inspiration and applicable to my work in the industry!
  • Great information — especially for all of us in the children's museum field.


  • I enjoyed the closing speaker. He gave an inspiring keynote.

Our attendees (and staff) loved you!

A strategic creative thinking company:
Your message was extremely well received by the entire audience and particularly by the team from our Travel Company. As you noted to [...], we have a focus on corporate events and are very passionate about our service ethic. The fact that you have noticed the difference in events that you have participated is music to our ears.

Thank you again Tom for your fantastic presentation and we look forward to seeing you again soon… and hopefully in [...] next year.

A creative innovation/strategy organisation:
Dear Tom — Thank you so much! It was a wonderful event and having you present was a grand slam. Your presentation really put creativity in perspective. It's the golden thread of the experience. Everyone is still buzzing from the event.

A global hospitality company:
Wanted to tell you how much everyone enjoyed Tom Kelley. He was a great listener and listened to what Senior Leadership wanted to convey and help make both meetings a success. I would gladly recommend Tom to any organization looking at him as a speaker.

A diversified technology, media and financial services company:
Tom was wonderful! Everybody loved him – was exactly the punch in the arm and thought provoker we needed to energize the end of the conference. Great recommendation from you and very pleased!!

A leading global marketing communications company:
Your speech was terrific and hugely appreciated by all the leaders.

A technology partner for providers, sellers and buyers of travel:
I'm glad to report that the conference was a great success, and Tom went down extremely well. We had many very good reports about his presentation which was highly entertaining, informative and relevant for the conference.

The VIP lunch was also successful, Tom said a few words and then mingled with all the guests. Everyone went away very satisfied and with a copy of Tom's book in hand.

A national tourism membership organisation:
Hi Tom — It was a pleasure meeting you in Savannah.

Thank you again for presenting at our [...] conference. Indeed, the feedback from your presentation has been extremely positive. Delegates were talking about your comments throughout the rest of the conference. You delivered! Thank you for making those of us responsible for programming look so good.

A major computer entertainment corporation:
Tom's talk was spectacular! I got a lot of very positive feedback from the attendees who found the talk very inspirational, relevant and thought provoking. And a lot of fun!

An event planning company:
You were an enormous hit, and the RSA people were extremely happy. And thank you for being such a delight to work with. I have worked with many celebrities and speakers over the years, and none compare to your warm, friendly (Ohio) charm.

Convention organisers for an industry association:
Tom — I want to follow up on the Convention to express, both personally and as a planning committee member, our deep gratitude for your participation in the Convention. Your presentation was a "slam dunk" — I heard so many people talking about how much they valued your talk (and your blaster rockets were quite the hit as well).

A major sporting goods company:
Just wanted to thank you again for adding tremendous insight and value to our Annual Management Meeting. Everyone was truly happy and impressed, and the words you spoke were quoted again and again in the presentations that followed Wednesday and Thursday. It really made a tremendous impact on my team, and I can't thank you enough. And our dinner the evening before was delightful as well.

A research institute conference on marketing and business strategy:

  • 5 stars - the highlight of [...] - again please and longer
  • Engaging, exciting and inspiring. A fascinating blend of thought-provoking ideas and practical, down to earth advice"
  • He's wonderfully approachable and full of value
  • Best speaker of the conference

A specialty food company:
Yes, everything went well, Tom was there with no symptoms of jetlag whatsoever, the finger arrow exercise was a great success - but not only the arrows were successful. In conversations but also on their feedbacks forms, Tom was rated highly. Our managers liked his clear message, and it made perfect sense because right after Tom's presentation we started the "Deep Dive" session.

The "Deep Dive" methodology that is used by IDEO, has worked extremely well with our managers, and we had the result at the end of the conference we had been aiming for.

So in a nutshell: Tom's presentation has been a great success and we were happy to have him. Thank you for organizing everything so nicely behind the scenes.

A major food company:
Tom did a terrific job for us. His presentation was passionate, on target, and very insightful. I would say it was an unqualified success.

"Tom — Thank you very much. Your presentation was terrific. I believe you helped our organization "get back to the basics" on innovation and created a tremendous amount of energy within our group.

Your points were quoted liberally throughout the rest of our meeting which I believe is the mark of an effective presentation."