The Creative Process: The Four Pillars of Creativity
January 14, 2014 2 Comments
When most of us think of creativity, we see it as an intuitive process.
We describe it with phrases like the: “Aha moment” and “having a vision”, but there is much, much more to it than that. Creativity is a skill that can be learned and honed, and the main tool for implementing creativity is the creative process.
The creative process is essentially the Scientific Method of creativity. There are four steps to the process, and they are:
This stage of the creative process involves two things: Defining a problem or question and gathering information. Creativity is nothing more than solving a problem in a way that goes beyond the common or conventional solution. Let’s use taking a shortcut to work as an example. Say traffic always makes you late for work. The common and conventional solution is to leave earlier and allow time for these delays. But maybe you’re like me and simply refuse to give up those few extra minutes of solace before a long day at work. You now have a problem that is demanding a creative solution: How can I get to work on time without leaving earlier?
This brings you to the information gathering part of the preparation stage. Here you gather any information that may relate to creatively solving a problem. As you get more familiar with the process you will use a wider and wider variety of sources to make your decision. You will start making associations that are more and more unconventional, which makes for more effective and efficient solutions. Lets go back to the example of getting to work on time.
You’ve been subconsciously gathering information to solve that problem every day that you drive to work. You know that root by heart, and you probably know the surrounding areas of that root pretty well. You know that your biggest problem is the light to get on the main highway is nearly 5 minutes long, and sometimes you catch it more than once. This is when the process becomes conscious and you start reviewing the information.
The next stage is Incubation. This is the stage of the creative process that we tend to think of when we think of creativity. This is the unconscious process that takes us to the “aha” moment. When creatives are asked how they come up with their ideas, the popular is response is “they just come to me”. The reality is that the incubation stage is running until an idea is reached. How well you do with this is completely dependent on how much information you gather during the preparation stage. The more information you gather, the more information your unconscious will have to make the unconventional connects that are the backbone of creative problem solving, and the creative process in as a whole. Improving your preparation skills will also improve your incubation skills.
This is the actual “aha moment” of the creative process. This is the moment where the information that you prepared finally incubates a creative solution to your problem. This is very similar to the hypothesis stage of the Scientific Method. You’ve made an educated guess about the problem, and then you are ready for the final, and most under-rated, stage of the creative process.
This is the stage that is responsible for determining whether or not the idea is actually the best solution. Think of this as the experimentation stage of the Scientific method. This is the time that you test your creative solution to see if it is the best answer to your problem. Let’s return one last time to the example of finding a quicker and more efficient route to work. Say you finally have an “aha moment” that tells you that you can cut down a side street to avoid the light. If you take this way and it saves you a good chunk of time, then it is the answer to your problem. On the other hand, if it only saves you a minute, there may be a better solution. This sends you back to square one and through the creative process until you have the best possible to solution.
To review, the four stages of the creative process are:
These four steps are the four pillars of creativity, and if you master the creative process, then you master an invaluable tool that can be applied to literally every problem that needs solving.