We like to think of creativity as something elusive. It’s either you have it or you don’t. But as we discussed in the past, creativity is not a special trait reserved for artists, musicians, and writers. Creativity is a vital for endeavors that involve communicating and connecting with others. Whether you’re working on a novel or pitching to investors, creativity is crucial for capturing the imagination. The creative process is considered elusive only because we don’t know how to navigate through it.
The science of creativity
The idea that creativity is black and white comes from the notion that the left and right sides of the brain are distinct. Those who use the left side of their brains are more logical, practical, organized, and analytical. On the other hand, “right-brained” thinkers are understood to be more creative, artistic, and emotional.
That means an entrepreneur who carefully plans his next step is left-brained, right? And a pianist practicing a sonata is obviously using the right side of her brain. Recent research prove that this is just a myth:
Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.
Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.
Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. In recent years, evidence has accumulated suggesting that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”
In truth, the creative process involves several steps that happen in different regions of the brain. As indicated in the quoted passage, the brain is actually a complicated network that operates as a whole. There is no divide between the creative and logical. While some are more inclined to either one of these traits, both can be true for a lot of people as well. The creative process doesn’t involve magic. It can happen for an artist, as well as an entrepreneur preparing for a presentation.
The creative process in four stages
The social psychologist Graham Wallas described the creative process as a series of steps. According to Wallas, the creative process has four stages that involve both conscious and unconscious thinking. If you feel like your presentations can use a bit more imagination, you don’t need to wait for the muse to come. Just take note of the following steps to help you get started:
Stage One: Preparation
The first stage involves laying down the ground work of your project. To prepare, you consult prior knowledge and experiences, as well as seek out other resources. In presentations, this is when you define the main purpose of your presentation. Upon figuring out your goals, do some research and seek out inspiration.
Stage Two: Incubation
After gathering inspiration comes a period of “unconscious processing.” Here, you let your brain piece together what you were able to gather. Wallas describes it as “voluntary abstention” from consciously thinking of the problem at hand. Instead of trying to find a specific solution, you take a step back and consider different possibilities. If you remember our previous discussion on creativity, this is similar to creating “psychological distance” between yourself and your work. At this point, instead of letting yourself be boxed inside a specific line of thinking, try to explore other solutions through brainstorming and mind mapping.
Stage Three: Illumination
As the name suggests, the third step of the creative process involves the moment when everything finally comes together. According to Wallas, this stage can’t be forced. It happens unconsciously, only after you were able to step back and consider different solutions. He describes illumination as the following:
[The] final “flash,” or “click” … is the culmination of a successful train of association, which may have lasted for an appreciable time, and which has probably been preceded by a series of tentative and unsuccessful trains. The series of unsuccessful trains of association may last for periods varying from a few seconds to several hours.
Stage Four: Verification
The last stage of the creative process involves carrying out your idea into the real thing. To ensure success, consult the goals and parameters you’ve determined in the preparation stage. For presentations, this involves finally building your PowerPoint deck, as well as the act of presenting in front of an audience.
Creativity doesn’t need to be magical and elusive. It can be accessible to those of who aren’t particularly inclined to artistic endeavors. Familiarize yourself with the different stages of the creative process and ensure that your presentations end successfully.
Kaufman, Scott Barry. “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity.” Scientific American. August 19, 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.
Popova, Maria. “The Art of Thought: A Pioneering 1926 Model of the Four Stages of Creativity.” Brain Pickings. 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.