To educate yourself is to start to look at the world differently. Through the lenses of those that have gone before us – we are initiated into methods, theories and practices that we are unfamiliar with and that inspire us to make changes to the world around us.
We give ourselves time to think, act and do things differently than we have before. Taking a study guide and working through a structured programme designed to change the outlook of the student is a breakthrough experience and having to create an assignment and write and examination enables the individual to challenge themselves and build and develop the skills and learning that takes their inner world to a new level.
It is important that our education is broad, holistic and that it exposes us to various challenges and realities. To become too focused on one single dimension of a problem may be useful – but then it is also important to be able to draw on a rich set of experience and experiences to solve problems in new ways.
Creative thinking and creativity itself is defined as creating something that is new and surprisingly also something that is valuable. It is also defined as creating something that is useful and worthwhile. We often think that in the search for something new and different that we have to vary the method.
Some studies suggest that creativity depends on different creativity profiles and that you can be creative along different lines.
- Incubator: Creates long-term development of an idea or framework
- Imaginator: Creates breakthrough ideas
- Improver: Excels at small incremental adjustments and creates systemic change
- Investor: Sets, chases and achieves short-term goals that create value
This framework could be useful to ask yourself what type of creativity you have currently and what type of creativity would best suit your current situation.
Research also shows that it helps to be positive, to have positive intellectual habits such as openness, curiosity, some level of autonomy, expertise, exploratory behavior and to generally engage in ideation (thinking about stuff). Without these it is often harder to be creative and with these it is possible to be habitually creative.
Wallas proposed a model for innovation in the early 1920’s that is still quite useful in thinking about the creative process. He postulated that innovation follows 5 stages namely, preparation, incubation, intimation, illumination and verification. And adapted version of this is presented here.
Stage 1: preparation – preparatory work on a problem that focuses the individual’s mind on the problem and explores the problem’s dimensions. The problem is understood on a conscious and cognitive level. Your mind is still trying to convince itself that it is a problem.
Stage 2: incubation – the problem is internalised into the unconscious mind and nothing appears externally to be happening. It is similar to mulling it over or getting into the idea. Modern research suggests that you are forming synapses and collecting historical information about same or similar process in this process. Thinking patterns are invoked around the problem.
Stage 3: Intimation. The creative person gets a “feeling” that a solution is on its way or externalises all or some parts of the solutions through discussions, debates and information gathering. Theory formation and grounded development of understanding during this stage is important.
Stage 4: Illumination/Insight/Breakthrough. Once the unconscious mind has formed its theory the creative idea bursts forth from its preconscious processing into conscious awareness and is expressed.
Stage 5: Verification. The idea is consciously verified, elaborated, and then applied.
Stage 6: Externalisation. The idea moves from internal to external verification, elaboration and application leading to further development of the idea
Once you can see the world differently, you will start shaping your actions differently.
The formal theory of creativity postulates that we all want the world to be a better place and that creativity gets applied to areas and situations in which creativity is required.
This highlights the importance of understanding why you want to change things. By knowing why you want to change something – it drives your purposeful behaviour and shapes the drive and commitment to the solution finding that is required.
Research also shows that creativity requires us to have the limits of the problem well understood as part of the preparation stage. This opens ups the possibility that you can start creating a process for being creative and making breakthroughs in your own thinking.
A suggested process would look something like this:
- Write down the areas that you really want to change.
- Determine why you want to change them
- Determine if it is a short, medium or long term change.
- If possible – determine what you want to change them to.
- Think about what is currently limiting the change.
- Investigate the limits. Is everything that is limiting the change true – do you understand the real impact of these limits on the problem and can you look at different or other ways to think about this?
- Incubate the idea a bit
- Start discussing your thoughts with others and see if there are other perspectives in literature, other areas.
- Put together your thoughts. Writing it down, drawing it, discussing it with others all form part of this process.
- Start putting together a theory of how this works and what can be done differently.
- Test it.
- If it does not work look at if it confirms a limit, or if a limit that was not expected is introduced. See if there is a work-around to this.
- Test it again and repeat until complete.
To change the world and to make it a better place it is important to engage in creativity. You can be more creative by understanding your own goals, and the limits and constraints in front of you and starting to want to improve it. This is true in business and in life. By putting your energy towards creating long term, short term and goal oriented changes you are engaging in the creative process and will in time wake up to a new reality that is very different from where you started.