“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
– Steve Jobs
Steve Job’s simple understanding of how professionals innovate through the creative ideation process wasn’t too far from what science tells us.
Creativity is the process of integrating stored data with new information to satisfy an individual’s curiosity. For you to make a creative discovery, all you need is to understand a domain. Your brain will automatically problem-solve for you!
Sometimes, it’s not creativity that is lacking but rather determination. Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m smart. I just stay with problems longer.” You do not have to be a genius to have a breakthrough! To innovate as Einstein or Jobs did, there is only one trait you must possess. You must have a burning desire to fulfill your own curiosity.
The 4-Step Creative Ideation Process
There is a basic 4-step creative ideation process that explains how an idea can turn into a billion-dollar company. The more familiar you are with it the more effective you will be at following it.
Phase 1: Knowledge Accumulation
This initial stage is all about absorbing as much information as possible. This stage is all about hunger for knowledge which you can attempt to satisfy through reading articles, joining discussion groups, or attending events that educate us on our domain of interest.
As you process these new concepts, you end up with many more questions than you started out with. This is your brain telling you what pieces of the puzzle are missing. It’s there to encourage you to continue feeding yourself more information.
As Steven Johnson explains in his study of scientific pioneers, “Ideas are built out of self-exciting networks of neurons, clusters of clusters. When we think of a certain concept or experience some new form of stimulus, a complex network of neuronal groups switches on in synchrony.” The more information you feed your mind, the quicker your brain can establish new connections from which to generate ideas.
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Phase 2: Incubation
With all that newly acquired information, it’s always best to step away to let it all sink in.
Your subconscious knows your goals, desires, and needs more clearly than your conscious mind does. Once you rest from knowledge absorption, the incubation phase begins transferring that information to your subconscious, which reorganizes and strengthens neuron connections.
The brain incorporates past experiences and knowledge with our conscious accumulation of information, to find unique solutions to our interests. From this, it can identify gaps and will attempt to work itself using the information it has.
As the difficulty of finding a solution increases, the level of creativity required does as well. If you’re still stumped, it means you don’t have enough of the puzzle put together yet to see the big picture, so the best solution is to return to the absorption phase and build on from there.
Phase 3: The Idea Experience
If you are having trouble getting from Phase 2 to 3 of the creative ideation process, some proven ways to speed up the transition are to:
- contemplate the idea some more,
- switch up your work environment,
- participate in monotonous activities to relax your mind,
- address tasks that are distracting you, and
- write down any thoughts that pop into your head.
These actions will help you relax and clarify your mind so you can extract ideas more effortlessly.
This next phase occurs when your mind overcomes a gap and you have your notorious “Aha!” moment. Suddenly, your confusion is simplified and your clouded thoughts seem much clearer. Once the subconscious can piece together a creative solution in a way that makes logical sense, the solution is brought into conscious awareness where you can then decide on a plan of action.
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Phase 4: Implementation
The implementation phase of the creative ideation process is where you find ways to incorporate your idea into daily life.
Persistence is a key factor. Each idea worth implementing will most likely run into temporary setbacks before it becomes successful. It will take several attempts at restructuring your idea before it will achieve its final form. In the meantime, begin testing your idea, ask for consumer opinion, and most importantly, don’t let your hunger go satisfied.
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There are many different fields of innovation, such as coordinating events, improving services, inventing products, writing programs, and throwing parties among countless more.
Once you realize the creative capability of your brain, make a commitment to incorporate your ideas into all areas of your life. With a taste of your own potential, it very well could be your words that appear at the top of the next article.
Katie Christensen is a senior at Loyola University Chicago studying entrepreneurship and currently works as the Director of New Business Ventures at Loyola Limited.