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The five stages of the creative process


Staff member
Jan 19, 2024
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Creativity is often seen as something innate, something only extremely talented people possess, rather than something that can be learned and developed with concerted effort and practice. We are all born creative. While growing up, however, abiding by rules and regulations, we are often left with very little room to experiment. Some people require more creativity than others in their daily lives, and the techniques that best work vary for every individual.

Consciously or not, everybody goes through the same stages of the creative process. No matter how much creativity is necessary for a specific task or project, keeping these phases in mind will allow you to structure your creative endeavors and let your ideas flow effortlessly. What we know as the creative process today was first outlined in The Art of Thought by Graham Wallas and extended later on with an additional 5th stage by James Webb Young in his book A Technique for Producing Ideas.

Let’s dive into the different stages!

Stage 1: Preparation

In the first phase of the creative process, you conduct your research, gather materials, and outline your primary ideas. You combine your knowledge with new findings to build up the base necessary for what you are working on. Be sure to gather as much information as possible to spark exciting ideas. In this stage a series of techniques can help: brainstorming, trying to get rid of distractions, going for a walk, writing down your ideas or recording thoughts.

Stage 2: Incubation

At this stage, you have gathered an extensive amount of information. It is time to mull it over in your mind and let it all settle. Your mind needs time to be able to adapt to new directions, which may not necessarily mean conscious work. Some of the most creative people, like Salvador Dalí, for example, firmly believed in the creative power of sleep. One of the most famous Beatles songs, Yesterday, came to Paul McCartney in his sleep. You typically will not know how long this stage will last. All you need to remember is that your mind needs this time to incubate new ideas to move to the next phase.

Stage 3: Illumination

Also known as the “insight stage,” this part of the creative process when you have that “Aha moment,” a sudden feeling of clarity that allows you to connect the dots. Anyone unfamiliar with the creative process might think that this is the only stage of the creative journey. An idea might strike when you least expect it, sometimes while doing something completely unrelated that excites and energizes you. This might be the fastest of all five stages, yet one of the most important ones as it gives you the answers to your creative quests.

Stage 4: Evaluation

To many, this is the most challenging of all stages. It makes you question the plausibility of your idea. At this stage, many people struggle with self-criticism while comparing their ideas to alternatives. During this phase, business professionals might conduct more market research or ask a friend or colleague for a second opinion. Collaboration and sharing with others often help develop new ideas and differentiate them from already existing ones.

Stage 5: Implementation

Although not part of the original creative process by Wallas, this part is of the essence. Also called the “verification stage,” this is where you put all the pieces together and test your idea in the real world. This stage might require as much time as the previous stages, whatever you might be working on: a book, a song, or a marketing campaign.

There’s a variety of techniques that you can use to train your brain to support the creative process. Connecting with people with different backgrounds helps for inspiration. Meditation allows you to clear your mind and create space for self-reflection, improving focus and the decision-making process. Last but not least, using new tech tools can also be beneficial to broaden horizons and look at different perspectives.

Voice recording and speech-to-text is much faster than typing or writing down notes and allows you to think on your feet. Business professionals need to capture notes and share them quickly, such as getting feedback and collaborating with others. A solution like Philips SpeechLive can help from idea generation to implementation.

Zsuzsanna Hegedüs

Zsuzsanna Hegedüs
Zsuzsanna Hegedüs completed her Master’s degree in International Communications and Development in London and has gained several years of experience in marketing with a focus on social media marketing & communication. As a marketing manager at Philips Speech, the global market leader for professional speech-to-text solutions based in Vienna, she is responsible for the DACH and international regions.

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