Creative Thinking

by Jayne Cormie

The creative process

The following model represents the creative process as being divided into two phases¹, which can be further broken down into seven steps.

The first phase is the Germinal phase, during which the ideas are generated. The second phase is the Practical phase, which involves evaluating and implementing the ideas. Relating this back to the definitions of creativity in What is creativity?, the germinal phase is the creativity part of the process and the practical phase is the innovation part of the process.

Note that the creative thinking process is not always linear and may jump around within the order described below.

Germinal phase

  1. Motivation – this is the desire to be creative and involves defining the outcome of the creative process.
  2. Search – this involves gathering information relating to the creative task, looking in other fields for ideas, looking at the big picture and being willing to explore other areas.
  3. Manipulation – this is about transforming and manipulating the resources and ideas found so far. It involves delaying judgment and eliminating some old assumptions. The law breaker tool is a good technique to use in this step.
  4. Incubation – this involves walking away from the problem after a time of focused attention and turning it over to the subconscious. Letting go will put the problem into perspective, and the planted idea will grow in the subconscious. Delaying action will often improve ideas.
  5. Illumination – This is the Aha! or Eureka! experience. Ideas can strike at any time, so it is imperative that you always carry a means of recording them. Recognise the time when you are most creative and the place where you generally have your best ideas. Use this time and this place to do your creative thinking.

Any of the creative thinking tools described in the page on The tools to think creatively, can be used during the germinal phase of the creative process.

Practical phase

  1. Evaluation – this involves processing the ideas, using evaluation tools to analyse and select the best ideas. See the page Processing ideas for more information.
  2. Action – this step focuses on implementing an idea in order to make it a practical reality rather than a conceptual thought.

¹As described by Graham Wallas and Roger von Oech.