How To Understand the Creative Process - #1 Preparation

Breathing is a skill that (fortunately) comes naturally to humanity.

One of the first things a newborn baby does as it enters the world is take a big gulp of oxygen and then exhale it in a loud scream. We don't have to be taught how to breathe - and if we did the life expectancy of humanity would probably be measured in a matter of seconds.

Health practitioners, counsellors and even corporate trainers, however, often offer classes in "Correct Breathing". They recognise that although breathing is an innate ability, we often pick up bad habits along the way that minimize our breathing efficiency. Their training often involves looking at the purpose of breathing and the effect each movement has - so that the client can become self-aware of their breathing practices and improve their breathing skills.

Similarly, all of humanity learns creativity, as it is essential to our survival.

Babies learn new movements, and discover that certain facial expressions trigger responses in their parents reactions. Children create new games and stories that allow commonality to develop among their peers.

All of us are creative and have the ability to use our creativity in our professional environments - yet we do not often understand the creative process in a systematic way. This lack of knowledge can create doubt and uncertainty, leading to fear and a stifling of the creative process.

This blog series will shed light on the creative process that occurs whenever we develop novel, interesting and useful ideas. Sometimes this process happens in a matter of seconds - other times it takes months to progress. Understanding this process will help you to become more self-aware of your creativity and allow you to engage in a more systematic practice of innovation and development.

1. Preparation

The first step is always a key step - and with creativity, it is no different.

The first step in the creative process is preparation, which involves becoming immersed in a problematic issue that engages your self and arouses a sense of mystery within you.

Simon Senek, author and thinker around the art of inspiration, links this to the "Why" question, that is central to all great innovators. The Wright brothers, for example, were fascinated with the idea of powered flight - and devoted four years of their lives to this problem. They were captivated by the question - "Why couldn't humans fly?" - and immersed themselves in it in a multi-disciplinary approach, involving physics, engineering, politics and research.

Fundamentally, the Wright brothers were not interested in money and fame (although they did receive both) - but were driven by the internal motivation of creating human flight. They immersed themselves in this problematic issue, and were driven by a continual curiosity that improved each effort.

In the preparation stage, it is vital that you clearly define the problem you are attempting to solve - if you can't explain it in a sentence, then you need to define it more clearly. Practice describing your problem to colleagues and friends, to see if you can communicate the problem in a clear and concise way.

Secondly, is the immersion stage. Creativity is often about combining ideas in new and interesting ways - and for this to happen, there must be a range of diverse ideas present to be combined. Too often, our research into a problem area is too limited - staying within the field that we are comfortable with.

If, for example, you are looking to expand a product line into a new market - normally you will research marketing strategies. Reading about the spread of civilizations, airborne diseases, mating cycles of swallows and the distribution of Walmart's are all diverse fields that could be combined to help new and interesting marketing campaigns to be developed. To find something new, you must continually immerse yourself in new and interesting ideas.

Don't skimp on the preparation period. Immerse yourself in your problem, defining it clearly and gathering ideas from a wide range of sources.