Understanding the creative process

Creativity is a process and creativity can be learned. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi* broke it down into the following five steps;

  •      Preparation – becoming immersed in problems and issues that are interesting and that arouse curiosity.
  •      Incubation – allowing ideas to turn around in your mind without thinking about them consciously.
  •      Insight – experiencing the moment when the problem makes sense, and you understand the fundamental issue.
  •      Evaluation – taking time to make sure that the insight provides sufficient value to outweigh the various costs involved in implementation.
  •      Elaboration – creating a plan to implement the solution and following through.

There are many similar lists, the wording changes but the essential process remains the same.

The key factors are taking time to work on the problem and taking time to not work on the problem. The process of ‘unconscious’ thought, stepping back from the problem and allowing our minds to do the work, is a common sticking point when there are deadlines and the pressures of our jobs to consider. It has been suggested that this part can be supported with activities such as going for a walk or doing something which detaches us from our reality, doodling, playing with creative materials, being in a noisy room etc, which is why an internet search for “ways to be more creative” often returns lists of creative prompts for artistic creativity (like those in our Creative Block on the top right).

Each of the stages can be supported with methods to help focus (or unfocus) on the problem you are trying to solve.

Next step; Go straight to the list or Continue with the Tutorials.

*The Systems Model of Creativity: The Collected Works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Springer; 2014 edition (27 Jan. 2015) ISBN-10: 9401790841


Leave a Reply