Creative thinking is one of the most useful skills you can possess. Nearly every problem you face in work and in life can benefit from innovative solutions, lateral thinking, and creative ideas. When you research the “creative process” and you’ll eventually come to an English political scientist and psychologist named Graham Wallas. Graham is known as the father of the creative process.
In his 1926 classic, The Art of thought Wallas summarized the creative process in four basic stages:
The four stages of the creative process:
Stage 1: Preparation
The creative process begins with preparation: gathering information and materials, identifying sources of inspiration, and acquiring knowledge about the project or problem at hand. This is often an internal process (thinking deeply to generate and engage with ideas) as well as an external one (going out into the world to gather the necessary data, resources, materials, and expertise).
Stage 2: Incubation
Next, the ideas and information gathered in stage 1 marinate in the mind. As ideas slowly simmer, the work deepens and new connections are formed. During this period of germination, the artist takes their focus off the problem and allows the mind to rest. While the conscious mind wanders, the unconscious engages in what Einstein called “combinatory play”: taking diverse ideas and influences and finding new ways to bring them together.
Stage 3: Illumination
Next comes the elusive aha moment. After a period of incubation, insights arise from the deeper layers of the mind and break through to conscious awareness, often in a dramatic way. It’s the sudden Eureka! that comes when you’re in the shower, taking a walk, or occupied with something completely unrelated. Seemingly out of nowhere, the solution presents itself.
Stage 4: Verification
Following the aha moment, the words get written down, the vision is committed to paint or clay, the business plan is developed. Whatever ideas and insights arose in stage 3 are fleshed out and developed. The artist uses critical thinking and aesthetic judgment skills to hone and refine the work and then communicate its value to others.
These four stages of the creative process by Graham has been what alot of creatives have used from time and although variations of this creative process were developed over the last century, Wallas’ four-stage framework remains.