Creative Process: How Do We Find Ideas

Creativity is described as generation, development and transformation of ideas that are both novel and useful for solving problems. It is vital for the progress of humankind, our lives, our work, our existence.

We in agency use our creativity each and every day. All creative industry people are doing it. We create ideas. We create solutions. We find new ways, new relations and new connections from what we have in hand.

But it is interesting that we don’t think too much about how we do it. How do we use our creativity and find ideas? What is the process behind it? Or do we even have a concrede process during this phenomenon. Is there a linear process / assembly line to craft great ideas?

I sincerely believe that each and every creative has different kind of approach to creativity with a unique way of doing, technique, routines or stages. Our minds are following a very complex and non-linear path during creative process. It is nearly impossible to standardize this frustrating period. However I also believe there are some fundamental possible stages of this journey which roughly explains the state of mind in creative process.

If you spend more time with these concepts and understand the patterns of thinking and your creative abilitiy, you will be more productive and happy. So lets think about “how we think” now.

The most significant theory of creative process is written by Graham Wallas, in his book “Art of Thought” in 1926. Yes, again, in 1926. He was a sociologist and political scientist. it is natural that creativity was a topic among scientists and artists, since the world met with advertising as a complete study and formation only in 1970s.

Wallas describe the famous 4 stage creative process in Art of Though:

1.Preparation: The problem to be solved is carefully analyzed, all information gathered, current situation considered.

2.Incubation: The consideration of the problem is internalized. You get away. You let your subconscious to handle it and let ideas develop.

3.Illumination: A moment of insight and optimism. Or a A-Ha! moment. The mind flows from subconscious to conscious. You see the light.

4.Verification: Solutions are tested. You refine it. Polish it. And try to validate with 100% conscious practice.

The most significant aspect of this model is that, Wallas states the idea finding moment is a result of a subconscious efforts during the whole incubation stage. According to his theory, we let go of the problem, go away from it, and do a lot of other stuff while our subconscious is starving and chasing the right idea. If you think of your own creative process I can’t say he is wrong.

Think you get a brief. You gathered all information, read, questioned, analyzed, argued and chat. Then you let it go and turned back to your daily routines. Now it is time for subconscious do the job. You go to lunch, you walk the street, you surf the net, you chat with friends, you go to a movie, you read a book, you cook, you sleep, etc etc. Then after a certain point you come up with an idea! This is what happens to most creatives right?

What I don’t agree with this 4 stage model is that Wallas describe it as a linear path. To me it is not working that way. For myself, I can suddenly go back to preparation stage while I am in incubation, or I can just jump forward to illumination stage while I was talking with colleagues about something in incubation.

Creativity is about finding connections in a way others can’t see. It is about observing and finding new relations over something. The process is very complex and sometimes seems very individual. On the other hand advertising is totally collaborative business which makes you create ideas together with your colleagues most of the time. So each agency have their own path to the right idea. Sometimes it goes linear, sometimes non-linear.

There is also another phenomenal model of creative process from and advertising man; James Webb Young. In his famous book, “A Technique for Producing Ideas” (1939) he also described a 5 step model for creativity in advertising. Very similar to Wallas’s model.

1.Immersion: Gathering raw material and information through background research and immersing yourself in the problem.

2.Digestion: Taking the information, working it over and wrestling with it in the mind.

3.Incubation: Putting the problem out of your conscious mind and turning the information over to the subconscious to do the work.

4.Illumination: The birth of an idea – the phenomenon, “Eureka! I have it!”

5.Reality or Verification: Studying the idea to see if it still looks good or solves the problem, then shaping the idea to practical usefulness.

These models just give a perspective of how our minds are working during creative process. Of course it is not a magic trick or assembly line solution. It can never be. Rather than that, they can stimulate our way of thinking about “thinking”. And it is a good thing.




52 thoughts on “Creative Process: How Do We Find Ideas”

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