A Combined Model of the Creative Process
We took elements from the different models of the creative process and fit them into one model that explains the process according to our understanding. We used this model as a base for all of our further work.
The Process of Innovation (I)
The »Process of Innovation« (I) contains all necessary steps of both the problem-solving (II) and the ideation process (III), but differentiate itself in that the ideas are also put into practice (Robinson, 2011, p. 3) and validated by the market: After a successful validation from the inner problem-solving process (II) a main step of innovation is the application phase (10), in which the offered solution is realized, refined, produced and distributed. The timespan between application (10) and acceptance (11) varies depending on the individual solution, but it is a longer-lasting step. The process of acceptance (11) is the main gatekeeper, which can inhibit ideas or solutions from transforming into innovations. In this step the decision is based on external economic factors like market and competitors.
The Process of Problem Solving (II)
Much of creativity research is concerned with the problem solving process (II), that ideation is a part of: Regardless of whether we want to find the solution for a difficult equation, are unsatisfied with a situation, or try to improve a process, we are often searching for the solution to a problem.
Problem Definition (3)
Every problem consists of three components: »Predicament initial state«, »necessary measures« and the »target state«. Problem Definition (3) is an important step, because the way in which a problem is described has a huge impact on the solution: »The determination of the unfortunate initial state is a central component of the problem definition« (Schönwandt et al., 2013, p. 25). »Necessary measures« describe how the »target state« can be achieved. The »target state« is the goal, which should be achieved through these measures: »By setting a goal, we are dictating the direction of march« (Schönwandt et al., 2013, p. 28).
When describing the problem solving process (II), problems can be classified as one of the following: Transformation problems are problems that have a clear initial state, target state and measures to achieve the goal. When talking about synthetic problems initial and target states are clear, but the required measures are unclear. The last class are called dialectic problems, where the target state is unclear, but all the other aspects are known (Arbinger, 1997, pp. 9 – 11).
Horst Rittel (1992) stated that there are two core types of problems: »tame« and »wicked problems«. A »tame« problem is a problem which can be easily solved by applying the right algorithm, pattern or method. The process for a »tame problem« is linear starting from initial to the target state. In contrast »wicked problems« are nearly impossible to solve, because of their complexity and relation to the symptomatic of other problems. The process of solving »wicked problems« are almost infinite loops of solutions generating new problems, in which we investigate again to find new solutions.
Before the »Ideation process« (III) starts, there is a phase of preparation (4), where information, related ideas and suggestion are collected. This research is »a very rational, laborious and often even frustrating part of the creative process« (Boon, 2014, p. 92) as »no scientific, inventive, conceptual, or artistic results are booked« (Boon, 2014, p. 92). The preparation phase isn’t something that is only executed when we try to solve a specific problem. In fact every information and idea we absorb throughout our lives can be seen as gaining insights in preparation for future problems (Boon, 2014, pp. 94 – 95).
After an idea has passed the self-censor (B) and reached the breakthrough-state (7) of the ideation process (III), the idea has to pass the external censors (C) as well. In the communication phase (8) the idea is shared with external shareholders, organizations or interest groups, which weren’t involved in the ideation process (III). They analyze and criticize the idea in terms of practicability, economic aspects and effectiveness. As the quality of an idea is hard to measure, passing both censors – internal and external – can be an indicator of high-quality.
In the last phase of the problem-solving process (II) the idea is tested, analyzed and a decision is made whether the idea is actually a possible solution for the underlying problem (Linneweh, 1994, p. 60).
The Process of Ideation (III)
During the incubation stage (5) the brain connects different pieces of information. When two concepts from previously unrelated domains are connected, a new idea forms. This happen unconsciously and can only be stimulated, not controlled.
»The stage of incubation ends immediately when the unconscious brain connects with our conscious brain to share an insight« (Boon, 2014, p. 99). In the expression phase (6) thoughts are shaped and expressed. This determines the starting point for conscious thought in the ideation process (III).
»Is my idea good or not? How might others think about it once I’ve shared my thoughts with them? Is this idea even helpful and goal-driven at all?« These questions often block progress within the ideation process (III).
Between the step of expression (6) and the breakthrough (7) an expressed idea has to pass the self-censor (B). As »[n]ew ideas have a higher potential for danger, […] we learn to be suspicious of them« (Mauzy, 2008, p. 9). Sticking to an idea and taking time to refine it is always a risk-taking endeavor, but it is crucial to the creative process. Often the self-censor is so distinctive that it blocks many thoughts or potential new ideas unconsciously (Mauzy, 2008, p. 9), as the self-censor validates the ideas regarding »self-esteem«, »self-image« and »self-punishment« (Mauzy, 2008, p. 7).
Once the idea has passed the individual self-censor it is important to lead the focus away from the actual problem and our possible solution and to revisit it with a fresh mind. Not every idea leads to a breakthrough immediately. This is called the maturation phase of an idea (Linneweh, 1994, p. 60). In this phase the mind has to be receptive and able to recognize new insights as breakthroughs. After an idea has matured one often experiences »Aha«-moments, which describe the outcome of breakthrough phase (7) (Linneweh, 1994, p. 60).
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Boon, W. (2014). Defining Creativity: The Art and Science of Great Ideas. Amsterdam: Bis Publishers.
Linneweh, K. (1994). Kreatives Denken: Techniken und Organisationen produktiver Kreativität (6th ed.). Rheinzabern: Verlag Dieter Gitzel.
Mauzy, J. H. (2008). Managing Personal Creativity. In T. Lockwood & T. Walton (Eds.), Corporate Creativity: Developing an Innovative Organization (pp. 5 – 15). New York: Allworth Press.
Rittel, H. W. J. (1992). Planen, Entwerfen, Design: ausgewählte Schriften zu Theorie und Methodik. Stuttgart Berlin Köln: Kohlhammer.
Robinson, K. (2011). Out of our minds: learning to be creative. Chichester: Capstone Publishing Ltd.
Schönwandt, W., Voermanek, K., Utz, J., Grunau, J., & Hemberger, C. (2013). Komplexe Probleme lösen: ein Handbuch. Berlin: Jovis.