How to Understand the Creative Process - #5 Elaboration

Last year, I read the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. This book revealed many insights into the mind and habits of one of the definitive creative leaders of the past few decades - some that were good and worth emulating, and others that were unethical and worth avoiding.

One of the most striking aspects of the story for me was the relationship between Steve and Steve Wozniak, Job's friend and fellow founder of Apple Computers. Although my generalisation is simplifying to the extreme, as Apple grew into the massive corporation it is now, Job's took on much more of a "thinker" role, whereas Wozniak was more comfortable in the "doer" role.

In the duo's early days as phone phreaks (hacking into phone networks), it appears as though Wozniak was doing the majority of the circuity work and design, whilst Jobs was dreaming about where this idea could go and develop.

Even in the later years, Isaacson's narrative describes Wozniak as being involved (and content) with circuitry and design of the Apple range, whereas Jobs was dreaming up new products that the world did not know it wanted.

The function of this team having a strong thinker/doer relationship was one of the many factors that led to Apple's overwhelming success.

If the two Steve's did not have the skills and resources to implement their ideas, nothing would have happened. Similarly, if they had excellent programming and development skills, but had not learnt to dream up creative new ideas - Apple would not be in existence.

People are rarely as dichotomised as personality tests would have them believe; everyone has the ability to both think and to do. We do, however, have an inherit bias towards one of these two poles, which shapes most of our thought processes and daily activities.

Do you love to day-dream? Do you have an ever curious nature? Do you love to continually develop ideas in your head, improving existing ideas and rarely being satisfied with them? Do you start your sentences with, "Imagine if..."? If so, chances are you're more geared towards creative thinking.

On the other hand, do you love to fix broken things? Do you start your sentences with, "Let's do..."? Do you enjoy learning new techniques and up-skilling your current abilities? Are you good at making things happen? If so, chances are you're more of a creative doer.

Each of these two roles in imperative for the final - and often most time consuming - part of the creative process - Elaboration. It is in the Elaborative stage that you begin to turn the creative idea into a creative reality, moving it from the intangible to the tangible and discovering how you can add value with your new creative idea.

This is the stage where most creative thinkers get bogged down. The reality of action can paralyse them, as they face a mass of emails, designers, producers, marketers, patents - and a wealth of other steps. Even within an organisation, this is the stage where the creative idea must become an innovative presentation that is 'bought into' by other members, to help make it a reality.

Frans Johansson - innovator, thinker and writer of The Medici Effect - popularised the idea of "Intersections" - the importance of people from different fields meeting together to allow new ideas to intersect and develop. This idea can be extended to the Creative Process to encourage deliberate intersections of people geared with different creative abilities - not just to help the Immersion/Illumination stage, but also to help Elaborate the idea into reality.

Often, creative thinkers tend to group with other creative thinkers - and vice versa for the creative doers. This is understandable, but leads to a severe reduction at the vital final stage of the Creative Process. To Elaborate and eventually implement your ideas, it is important that you learn to engage in this Creative Process co-operatively with someone with different skills to you.

This is the nuts and bolts end of the Creative Process, and is where most ideas fall down. Instead of lamenting your lack of action or lack of ideas, why not try something radical and new for your next project. Deliberately partner with someone different to you, who is known as a dreamer, or a doer. Complement your weaknesses with their strengths, and see if you can form a duo to help improve your creative success rate.