4 Stages of the Creative Process

4 Stages of the Creative Process

Turah Ryan Maheswara
January 24, 2021

How do innovators come up with their brilliant ideas? And how are they able to bring those ideas to life?


Science tells us that creative people are complex and often contradictory, making it a herculean task to formulate the seemingly inherently chaotic. There will never be a perfect formula for creativity and innovation. We know the process that goes into creativity and how we can develop our creativity. 


A book written by British psychologist Graham Wallis, The Art of Thought, shows a theory based on many years of research about the creative process and creative individuals at work. 


The Four Stages of the Creative Process: 

Stage 1: Preparation

The first stage is often an internal (Think profoundly to create and engage with ideas) and external process (finding data, resources and expertise). It requires us to consume information and materials, identify the source of inspiration, and understand the project or problem at hand. 


Stage 2: Incubation 

After doing all the research in stage one, our mind needs to rest. This is where our ideas deepen, and new correlations are made. During this period, take the focus off the problem and let the mind calms down. While the conscious mind focused on something else, the unconscious engages in "combinatory play": The process of taking diverse and unrelated ideas and putting them together.  


Stage 3: Illumination

After a period of rest, illumination formed in the unconscious breaking through conscious awareness. The surprising Eureka! occurs unpredictably of what you are currently doing. Out of nowhere, innovative solutions are clear before you. 


Stage 4: Verification

Following the aha moment, the idea needs to be written down before being forgotten. Now you can develop a business plan, which needs to be verified and presented to others. 


How to Optimize Your Creative Process for Ultimate Success

Though we can develop something new for others to experience, it also allows us to discover something new within us through the creative process. Innovators take something that exists within their mind (inspiration) and birthing it into concrete, tangible form (generation).

However, these stages do not always progress linearly. The theory created by Graham Wallis has its limitations; nonetheless, it offers guidance, on where we are at our creative processes what to do next, and how to get there.

How does this help us in our own innovative process as entrepreneurs? The more we master this balance, the more we enhance our creative potential. We tend to prefer one side of the other, though we can optimize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses by creating awareness of our tendency. 


More idea-generating types excel in stages 2 and 3: getting inspired and coming up with brilliant ideas. Risking of getting stuck in their heads and failing to materialize their ideas in the world. These dreamers often need to bring more time and focus on stages 1 and 4 to keep their creative process on track. Balance inspiration with generation by creating the necessary structures to help you commit to action and make it happen—or work with a doer who you can outsource your ideas too!


Doer types, on the other hand, shine in stages 1 and 4. They get things done, but they risk putting all their focus on productivity at the expense of looking at the big-picture thinking that helps produce truly inspired work. Pushing ahead with half-baked ideas before it's fully matured. When we bypass the critical work in the incubation stage, we miss out on our original ideas. If you're a doer, you can improve your creative process by clearing out space in your mind and your schedule to imagine and reflect.


By seeking a balance, we can bring some order to the chaotic creative process. And as we become dreamers who do and doers who dream, we drive ourselves to share more of our creative gifts with the world.


Gregoire, C. (2019, October 18). wework.  Retrieved from Understanding the four stages of the creative process:  https://www.wework.com/ideas/worklife/understanding-the-four-stages-of-the-creative-process


Posted on:

January 24, 2021


Turah Ryan Maheswara