The 4 Stages of Creativity

At the core of every innovator leader is a drive for creativity. Creativity is the ability to produce novel and useful ideas. These ideas are different from what has been done before but they must also be useful to solve a problem or create new opportunities.

Some people mistakenly believe that only certain gifted people are born with creativity. But the truth is that creativity is a process that can be learned and perfected. Innovative leaders embrace the four stages of the creative process to help move their dreams to reality. Creative ideas will not implement themselves, so here are four steps you can walk through during your creative journey.

  1. Problem Formulation: Creativity starts with solving a problem. In the problem formulation stage of creativity, innovators identify a problem that needs to be solved or a timely opportunity to capture.
  2. Information Gathering: In order to solve the problem or create the opportunity, you have to learn some things about how things work. The information gathering stage is when possible solutions incubate in the innovator’s mind. This is when you need to think outside of the box, get out of your usual routine, and see things from new perspectives. Think about the problem and how it developed. Discuss how things work with team members, and embrace new ways of seeing how the pieces interact as part of the larger whole.
  3. Idea Generation: You have identified the problem or the opportunity, you have learned how things work and gathered relevant information, now it is time to turn your knowledge into workable ideas. The idea generation stage is where you develop possible solutions based upon what you have learned. This is where you think about connecting the dots. This is where you visualize how the components of the solution will fit together. This is where you run through all the different scenarios with other innovators in a collaborative process to identify as many possible solutions to the problem.
  4. Idea Evaluation: Now it is time to choose from the ideas you have generated. The idea evaluation process is where you consider the potential solutions you have identified and choose the best one. What are the strengths and weakness of each idea? What are the costs and benefits to implement each solution? What are the risks and rewards for choosing a certain course of action? Make your choice and move on to plan implementation. Make sure that your plan is flexible enough to pivot, as things will most certainly change.

Walking through the four stages of creativity will help you maximize the creative process and become a more innovative leader.

Keep dreaming the future.

Brent Daub is a Senior Partner at Gilson Daub, Inc.

References: Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T.A. (2016). Essentials of organizational behavior, 13th edition. Boston, MA: Pearson.