Tag: creative thinking

Creative Thinking Process

The Creative Thinking Process

Many people think creativity starts with an idea, but the reality is most creative ideas do not just pop into your head. If you want to come up with creative ideas, you need to establish the circumstances for it to happen. You cannot just hope for inspiration to strike, you have to plan and prepare for creativity.



Four Stages of the Creative Thinking Process

Graham Wallas theorizes the creative process in his book, The Art of Thought. In this book, Wallas asserts the creative process comes in four stages of creative thinking.

The four stages are:

  1. Preparation
  2. Incubation
  3. Illumination
  4. Verification



Stage One: Preparation

In the first stage of the creative thinking process, you define the problem, need, or desire, and then collect any information regarding the topic or problem. Your goal is to acquire as much knowledge as you can about the topic or problem.

After you gather the information, you read, sort, evaluate, organize, and outline it. You do anything that can help you move towards finding a solution. You want to immerse yourself in the topic or problem. In this stage, you are trying to absorb as much information as possible to allow this information to go into your subconscious.



Stage Two: Incubation

Incubation involves mentally processing the information you collected in stage one. The information will begin to churn in the back of your mind.  Your conscious and subconscious minds both work on the idea. Your begin making new connections, separating out unnecessary information, and cultivating new thoughts.

As you move through the incubation stage, you want to slowly step back from the topic or problem and let your mind contemplate and work through potential solutions or ideas.  Letting your mind wander leads to greater creativity.

The unconscious thought process involved in creative thinking is at work during this stage. Therefore, you what to stop consciously thinking of the topic or problem and turn your attention to something else. You may go for a walk, go for a jog, or do some gardening. Basically, anything that can give your conscious mind a rest. You want to give your unconscious mind time to digest all the material you gathered in the preparation stage.

All the information that you gathered slowly starts to take a subconscious effect. You stop consciously thinking about the problem you are trying to solve. After a period of incubation, the creative ideas often occur unexpectedly.

The incubation stage can last minutes, weeks, or even years.



Stage Three: Illumination

This is the stage where the idea, which has been incubating, suddenly takes shape. This is the “Aha Moment,” or the “light bulb” or “Eureka” moment. This usually comes when you are not actively thinking of a solution or creative idea. You are often doing something else like exercising, taking a shower, driving, or just resting.

You will typically have an emotional reaction of joy, knowing you have found the idea or solution for which you have been searching. This is the feeling you get when you have been struggling with your thoughts and cannot quite put your finger on what is missing. Suddenly, the ambiguous becomes clear. The idea appears suddenly and comes with a feeling of certainty. This is when all the pieces to the puzzle seem to fit together. Your overwhelming impulse is to get the ideas down on paper or other recording instrument.

Unlike the other stages, illumination is often very brief, involving a tremendous rush of insight within a short period of time.



Stage Four: Verification

After you come up with a creative idea, you want to determine if it will work or not. Therefore, in the final stage of the creative thinking process, you want to evaluate, test, and hopefully verify the idea that came to you in the illumination stage.

You need to use your analytical and critical thinking skills to vet your idea. If the idea or solution is not going to work, you may have to go back through the creative process from the beginning. However, if it is acceptable or if you just need some minor modifications, the creative process is complete.



Related Links

Creative Thinking Process

Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Analytical Thinking

Lateral Thinking

Lateral Thinking Techniques


Types of Thinking


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Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking

Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking


Creative thinking is a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective to conceive of something new or original.

Critical thinking is the logical, sequential disciplined process of rationalizing, analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting information to make informed judgments and/or decisions.


Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking – Key Differences

  1. Creative thinking tries to create something new, while critical thinking seeks to assess worth or validity of something that already exists.
  2. Creative thinking is generative, while critical thinking is analytical.
  3. Creative thinking is divergent, while critical thinking is convergent.
  4. Creative thinking is focused on possibilities, while critical thinking is focused on probability.
  5. Creative thinking is accomplished by disregarding accepted principles, while critical thinking is accomplished by applying accepted principles.





About Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is a process utilized to generate lists of new, varied and unique ideas or possibilities. Creative thinking brings a fresh perspective and sometimes unconventional solution to solve a problem or address a challenge.  When you are thinking creatively, you are focused on exploring ideas, generating possibilities, and/or developing various theories.

Creative thinking can be performed both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, or by a structured process such as lateral thinking.

Brainstorming is the process for generating unique ideas and solutions through spontaneous and freewheeling group discussion. Participants are encouraged to think aloud and suggest as many ideas as they can, no matter how outlandish it may seem.

Lateral thinking uses a systematic process that leads to logical conclusions. However, it involves changing a standard thinking sequence and arriving at a solution from completely different angles.

No matter what process you chose, the ultimate goal is to generate ideas that are unique, useful and worthy of further elaboration. Often times, critical thinking is performed after creative thinking has generated various possibilities. Critical thinking is used to vet those ideas to determine if they are practical.


Creative Thinking Skills

  • Open-mindedness
  • Flexibility
  • Imagination
  • Adaptability
  • Risk-taking
  • Originality
  • Elaboration
  • Brainstorming
  • Imagery



Critical Thinking header

About Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the process of actively analyzing, interpreting, synthesizing, evaluating information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to make informed judgments and/or decisions.

Critical thinking involves the ability to:

  • question
  • use logic
  • remain objective
  • examine
  • analyze
  • interpret
  • evaluate
  • reason
  • reflect


In general, critical thinking is used to make logical well-formed decisions after analyzing and evaluating information and/or an array of ideas.

On a daily basis, it can be used for a variety of reasons including:

  1. to form an argument
  2. to articulate and justify a position or point of view
  3. to reduce possibilities to convergent toward a single answer
  4. to vet creative ideas to determine if they are practical
  5. to judge an assumption
  6. to solve a problem
  7. to reach a conclusion


Critical Thinking Skills

  • Interpreting
  • Analyzing
  • Connecting
  • Integrating
  • Evaluating
  • Inferring
  • Comparing
  • Contrasting
  • Classifying
  • Sequencing
  • Patterning
  • Reasoning
  • Forecasting
  • Hypothesizing
  • Critiquing


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