ICEDIP and creative process

Is there a common process to creativity?

Geoff Petty thinks so. ICEDIP is Petty’s six-phase model of the creative process.

It divides the creative process into six phases:

INSPIRATION, where you explore, generate ideas, have visions, research similar projects, brainstorm and dream.

CLARIFICATION, where you discuss your aims, focus on your goals, research costs and assess risks.

EVALUATION, where you assess which ideas have best potential, and how to improve your work as it moves forwards.

DISTILLATION – the process of concentrating or boiling your ideas down into a single vision.

INCUBATION, or not thinking about your idea! This phase is about letting go and allowing new connections to happen naturally. You may have the occasional ponder.

PERSPIRATION, the hard work phase where you actually put plans into action, with determination.

Petty recommends you need use the six phases in any order you wish.

Personally I find this neatly labels a process we have all been using within creative projects for many years. However it is interesting to note Petty includes incubation, the idea of not working on a project, as a beneficial phase. My best work has included this phase but I have sometimes left this out with projects on a tight timescales.

Petty reminds me not to do this. He is right. There are parts of the creative process that will always be a mystery. We do not truly know where ideas come from, for instance. Incubation allows this mystery to remain, without seeking to grasp at it for definition. And as the Zen saying goes, he who grasps loses.

Can we learn the value of doing nothing?

Tools for provoking the imagination – 2

A shortlist of creative thinking tools must include the work of Edward de Bono.

Dr Edward de Bono has written many books on productive thinking. He is responsible for coining the term ‘lateral thinking’.

Lateral thinking allows your creativity to sidestep the impossible, into new realms of potential. One if his best known lateral thinking tools is PO, the provocation operation. Using a PO statement, the group imagine a scenario which sparks off ideas. In this sense, PO is a bit like ‘suppose’.

For example, ‘PO cars have square wheels’ sparked off a discussion about how to make this happen. This led to ideas about a self-adjusting suspension, which were actually developed on modern 4x4s.

Using metaphors has long been recognised as incredibly creative. A metaphor compares something (e.g. a clock) to something which it is not (e.g. a ticking timebomb). In this instance, the metaphor gives the user a powerful sense of urgency.

Another important feature of metaphor is its ability to make the mind of the user active. In order to truly understand the connection, you must imagine it. This ability to engage allows the user to participate, and therefore can be very memorable.

Think of Shakespeare. His plays are full of incredible metaphors and imagery, and somehow his work is remembered 500 years after it was written.

As a metaphor exercise, try asking a question such as “In what way is our project like an elephant?”. The answers given will unlock different perspectives on the subject and spark new ideas.

The Personal Ideas Pad or PIP from The Accidental Creative is worksheet which actually guides you through the productive thinking process. Here you list your challenge, its main subjects, and use brainstorming to generate as many related words as you can. Lines connect these new words and this network will inspire new ideas.

The Creative Whack Pack from creativethink.com is another easy-to-use tool for productive thinking. This is available in a card version or as an iPhone app. You select a card at random which suggests a creative thinking strategy, for example ‘See The Obvious’ or ‘Take the Second Right Answer’. Although a quick hit and a bit like using Tarot cards, they are another effective way to see a problem in a new light.

Like all productive thinking sessions, any negative statements, criticism, or the fact that the idea might be impossible are best put aside for now. Critical thinking has its place, but not during imaginative playtime for the mind. During these phases you want to leapfrog obstacles into new ideas. Being negative or analysing will close doors too early and prevent excitement from building. So let these sessions be free and enforce a strict ‘positive only’ rule.

There’s nothing worse to a creative than feeling stuck. Try these tools next time it happens. Your mind will enjoy being playful, and can quickly become a fertile soil on which to grow new ideas.

Tools for provoking the imagination – 1

Which are the best tools for provoking the imagination?

New creative links can be made by drawing new comparisons or building metaphors.

Random word pairs can be useful, especially if focused around project keywords. This can help refocus a project or even stimulate new ideas. Try writing a topic statement, e.g.
“We want to develop a reception space that promotes our values and is pleasing to customers.”

Keywords:
develop, reception, space, promotes, values, pleasing, customers

Random word pairs:
space-customers
develop-values
promotes-reception
develop-pleasing

From these random pairs, we can ruminate on their new meanings. “Space-customers” might spark a conversation about where customers sit, and how much space they have, for instance.

To get even more food for thought, try listing synonyms for keywords.

You could also choose verbs, nouns, prepositions and conjunctions that fit with your project.

Returning to the reception area idea, you might choose:

Relax, greet, inspire (verbs)
Around, in, between (prepositions)
Plants, colour, invention (nouns)

Random word selection from a text can also be useful. Ask a person to choose a book, without looking. Person 2 chooses the page number from a given range. Person 3 selects the paragraph or line of text. The facilitator chooses the first verb or noun from that line or paragraph, e.g. “waterfall”. Discussion then starts on how our topic (the reception area) is like a waterfall.

For these activities, you might want to set a time limit. You might also ask small groups to consider different analogies and then feed back to the group.

During this kind of thinking the sheer quantity of connections is more important than quality. We are seeking to be creative by accident in the hope that serendipity will guide us to new perspectives. Therefore, criticism and saying ‘no’ are not allowed during this phase. Evaluating ideas at this stage will close too many doors too soon. Instead, look to create, combine and improve ideas.

A separate phase for analysis of ideas can follow afterwards.

Try these techniques when you really want to open up the way forward. They are a great way to get everyone involved. Metaphorical thinking is limitless.

Meditation and creative thinking

What are the similarities between meditation and creative thinking?

Fundamentally, both meditation and creative thinking comprise two things: observing thinking and directing attention.

Observing thinking or ‘metacognition’ trains us to notice our thinking patterns. We can see how our minds responds to different events and highlight our cognitive habits and conditioned responses. This practice can be found in meditation and in thinking tools like mind mapping or Six Thinking Hats.

In meditation this is sometimes called ‘awareness’ or ‘mindfulness’.

This awareness is wider than ‘thinking’ as it also deals with observing feelings and unconscious instinct.

Meditation also teaches us to direct our attention – to the breath, a part of the body or maybe a single image or sound.

In a similar way, thinking tools like Edward de Bono’s PMI can direct our attention to offer different perceptions. In PMI, the user is required to consider an idea or object from three perspectives: Plus, Minus and Interesting.

By directing attention, we can choose a new angle of perception or even to ignore a thought.

Since many actions start as thoughts, awareness can prevent harmful actions by not engaging with harmful thinking.

We can engage only with useful impulses and choose which perception to follow. These practises can benefit the individual both in life and work.

Learning not to engage with an angry impulse can prevent arguments. Learning to examine our work from different perspectives can help us see something from the user’s point of view and take our work in new directions.