Practical Application: Stages of the Creative Process

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Besides being a key component for success in business, creativity is a process. Use this checklist to walk you through the five stages of creativity involved in problem-solving, including key questions to ask yourself at each stage.

The Creative Process

Many people think of creative thinking as inspiration, like those moments of insight that everyone gets from time to time. But creativity is a process. Thinking creatively involves five stages. Use this checklist to help you move through this creative process.

Stage 1: Preparation

The first stage is preparation. During this stage you should be thinking about what the issue at hand is and how it has been approached before. This stage is really about gathering information about both the problem you're trying to solve and what's been tried before.

Task Questions to Ask Date Completed
Identify the problem What is the issue? What problem am I trying to solve?
Test your assumptions What do I know about the issue? How do I know my assumptions are correct? Are there other ways of thinking about this issue?
Gather information What research is available about this issue? How have others approached this problem?

Stage 2: Incubation

After gathering all the information necessary, it is important to let things sit for a while. This could take a few days or a few decades. During this second stage of incubation, you'll be doing other things and not focusing on the problem or issue. Your subconscious will still be working though!

Task Questions to Ask Date Completed
Focus elsewhere What else can I give my attention to? What else can I be doing?
Find a new outlet What creative tasks in other domains can I pursue?

Stage 3: Illumination

The illumination or insight stage is what most people think of when they think of creativity; it's that 'Aha!' moment that sometimes occurs. At this stage, a new idea pops into your mind. Because your subconscious has been working on the problem during the incubation stage, it is able to come up with a solution. Once it has, it offers it up to your conscious mind and you experience insight. During this stage, your task is to gather all the details of your idea.

Task Questions to Ask Date Completed
Recognize the idea What is this solution? How does it solve the problem?
Gather details What is required for this solution? What resources are needed?

Stage 4: Evaluation

Once you've got your idea, you need to evaluate it. During this stage, you will need to think critically about your idea. This is a good stage to talk to others too and get their critical feedback.

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