Creativity is the same no matter the topic

No matter what type of work you’re trying to do (create a painting or write a symphony, solve a problem at work or come up with a memorable date idea), the process of doing it creatively is always the same.

This may come as a surprise to some, either to the artistic type who believes the work she creates is the only true form of creative expression, or to the creative analyst who uses creativity to identify trends in business performance.

The creative process affected by what it is you’re attempting to do, only that you’re following the right steps to produce novel and useful ideas, and surrounding yourself a with the right influences to do so.

We need to merely look at the model of creativity as first defined in 1926 by social psychologist Graham Wallas to see the point. Wallas defined the four stages of creativity as:

1. Preparation. In which the problem or work is first investigated. This is when you’re looking at the canvas and gathering art supplies, or evaluating the problem environment in order to better understand what’s possible.

2. Incubation Once you’re prepared to start the task at hand, an unconscious process of deliberation takes place. Sometimes our sense of preparation isn’t entirely accurate and we find ourselves stuck, staring at a blank page. Other times our preparation has come after some level of incubation. In each case, the process of ruminating on an idea, of “combinatory play” must take place.

3. Illumination Once we are mentally (and physically) prepared to tackle the task, and upon giving ourselves ample time for ideas to incubate in our minds, we should find ourselves encountering an almost uncontrollable phase of illumination: of having ideas.

4. Verification Lastly, we find ourselves producing the work or tackling the challenge with the new ideas and thoughtfulness behind us.

In any pursuit of creative ideas, the process is always the same. What changes is typically how we approach each step and what we allow ourselves to do along the way.

The artist that does not prepare, or allow ideas to incubate, misses out on the work that matters most. The strategist who does not allow for incubation to take place and for illumination to occur naturally undoubtedly misses vital information.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist, writer, musician, dancer, marketer, entrepreneur, barista, or student: the process for generating novel ideas is the same. Use it.

Photo via Flickr.