Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Process of Creativity

 by Dr David Goetsch
[abridged; used with permission]

People debate endlessly about whether creativity is the result of nature versus nurture. Imagination, originality, and innovation can be applied in any field. Architects are creative in their designs of buildings. Engineers are creative in their solutions to human problems. Business people are creative in how they structure deals. Coaches are creative in developing their game plans. I can say with certainty that the kind of creativity needed in problem solving and decision making in organizations can be learned. Creativity is a process that can be approached systematically and in the 6 phases below.


 Many people think that creativity reveals itself in a momentary flash of insight that simply arises out of the blue. But when it comes to problem solving and decision making in organizations creativity begins with preparation. Preparation in this context means learning, gaining, experience, and collecting information in the field or discipline associated with the problem. Creativity requires preparation. It involves gaining education, training, and experience in that field. It also involves staying up to date and familiarizing oneself with all of the pertinent information about the problem in question. The key is learning to use the intuition that can come from blending knowledge and experience rather than letting knowledge and experience limit the imagination.

Some people think that good ideas just fall down from the sky and land in the minds of creative people. This situation, when it does happen, is the rare exception. Typically the best and most creative ideas for solving problems are the result of determined effort. People typically have to work hard (perspiration) to find creative solutions to problems. The creative process can involve exhaustive research and much trial and error. Organizational leaders should make this point when working with employees to solve problems.

Incubation involves giving ideas time to bump around in one's head for a while. An incubation period gives partially-formed ideas time to clarify – a mental process that can be frustrating because of its ambiguity, but is necessary. Ideas typically incubate best when people get away from the issue in question. It is often a subconscious phenomenon. This is why some of the best ideas seem to pop up when you are engaged in an activity unrelated to the problem in question [e.g. driving, showering, sleeping, playing golf, walking, running, or reading a book, etc.]. Consequently, organizational leaders should always be prepared to immediately jot down notes when an incubating idea begins to take shape by either keeping a small note pad nearby at all times [e.g. car dashboard, pocket, bed stand, next to the recliner, etc.] or making use of recording technologies. Ideas that are incubating can begin to take shape at any time, but they can also be fleeting in nature. They can be like air bubbles in water that float to the surface only to burst and go away.

This is the phase in the process most people associate with creativity. Inspiration occurs when an idea that has been incubating finally bubbles to the surface in one of those ah-ha moments. It is when things appear to have finally fallen into place and a workable solution appears to have been found. When an inspired idea finally reveals itself, the temptation ís to immediately move to the implementation phase. Inspiration rarely occurs without going through the previous steps in the process. Further, an inspired idea should still be validated before being implemented.

Most people have experienced jumping out of bed in the middle of the night with an idea that sounded great at the time only to find problems with it upon more informed reflection. For this reason, validation is an important part of the creative process. Your creative ideas must undergo a reality check; reviewing the idea to determine if it will actually work. Non-creative activities such as feasibility studies, cost-benefit-analyses, and budget calculations come into play here. Creativity and reality must mesh in order for an idea to be accepted and acted on.

Once a creative solution has been arrived at and validated, it must be implemented. Implementing a solution arrived at through the creative process is no different than implementing a solution that was obvious from the start.


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