The Creative Process

It sounds a little counter intuitive that there is a process to creativity.  When I sat down and started thinking about how a new game or activity comes to fruition, there is an actual process to making it happen.  The steps in the process are: 1)  need, 2) formation, 3) incubation, 4) elaboration and 5) verification.

Why? Creativity is essential for growth, for both our participants and ourselves.  If you think about it, who are some of your mentors and favorite teachers?  Are they individuals who made learning fun or challenged you in a way that no one else had done before?  That's a creative person.  We are more creative when we are exposed to creative people.  Our participants are more creative when they are exposed to a creative process or a facilitator that helps them think outside the box.

1)  Need. /nēd/ 1.  circumstances in which something is necessary, or that require some course of action; necessity.  2. a thing that is wanted or required.

The first part of the creative process is a need.  This derives from a desired change of behavior or action.  If you think about your most creative moments, most of them probably came from a place of need or desire.  A desire to help someone or something.  That someone could even be yourself!  When this happens, we start developing theories or technical skills necessary to satisfy this need.  Most creativity does not come during the hours when you are consciously preparing.  It happens when you allow yourself the opportunity for a good brainstorming process.  This looks different for each person.  For me, my creative juices for new activities start flowing when I am in creative places:  toy stores, teacher supply stores, hobby shops and one place very different from the others;the wilderness.  Each of these places allows me to go into a creative process and think outside the box.  What does your creative place look like?

A good facilitator has hybrid vigor.  Something that burns inside of you to get out!  Once you identify what that need it, you start figuring out your course of action to satisfy that need.  Sequencing a team development program starts with a need.  It's up to you to get creative to figure out the course of action that will satisfy that need.

2)  Formation. /fawr.mey.shun/ 1.  the act of giving or taking form, shape or existence.  2.  something that is formed.  3.  the manner in which something is formed or arranged.

The second part of the creative process is formation.  This is the time where you sit down and actually start creating the dots that are Point A and Point B. This is also the questioning phase:  What do you want the outcome to be? What is the desired length of time to complete the task?  What resources do you have to work with?

 The formation stage is focused on the birth, development and maturation of the need into a concrete idea. This is where ideas are built upon, torn down, combined, reshaped, modified, and upgraded.  The formation stage is also where the hard work is done, and this stage takes time.  Didactically stated, if you really want to be a creative facilitator, you can't limit your formation stage to the night before a program.  The formation stage is a process that begins with a need, leading to interactions around this need, and ending with something new.  It is this recurring process that leads to the formation of the innovative idea.

3)  Incubation. /in.kyuh.bey.shun/ 1.  to develop or cause to develop gradually.  2.  the act or process of incubating.

The third part of the creative process is incubation.  This is the time where you allow your ideas to sit in your head for awhile.  Depending on your style, you may surround yourself with your bag of tricks, visit a creative store or bounce the ideas off of a colleague.  Your mind needs time to take those ideas and move them around, perhaps changing bits and pieces, maybe adding something you hadn't consciously thought of.   When it's time to come back for final planning, the results will be better, more creative, than they would have been had you worked thorough your planning all at one time.

Think about the next program you are sequencing for a client.  You know what their desired outcomes are.  You might even have the basic outline of your sequence in your mind already.  Write it out and then let it sit for several days.  Let your formation slip to the back of your mind.  When you come back to put together your final plan, you may find that new ideas have come seemingly from nowhere.  You've allowed yourself time for that to happen.

Does this seem like a waste of time?  When you've got 50+ other things on your plate?  Let your ideas sit in your head and tumble around like clothes in a dryer and see what new ideas spark from it.  Try it for a month and see how creative your sequences end up being.

4)  Elaboration. /ih.lab.uh.rey.shun/ 1.  an act or instance of elaborating.  2.  an unconscious process of expanding or embellishing a detail.  3.  the process of working out in detail by labor and study.

The fourth part of the creative process is elaboration. This is the step where the process is fleshed out.  This is where you write out or plan out the complete idea.  But first, a caution:  Sometimes you can be so excited about an idea that you hold onto it too tightly.  A creative facilitator needs to develop a tolerance for ambiguity.  The idea should not be forced into a preconceived mold.  Something may happen that almost begs you to take your idea and run a different direction with it.

Once you get your idea fleshed out, it needs refinement and tweaking.  This phase generally takes longer than the other phases we have discussed.  During the Elaboration phase think about all of the variables you need for it to be successful.  In the second stage, Formation, you probably thought about the following questions:  Who is your intended audience? What is the desired outcome?  What is your time limit?  What are your space parameters?  How many people can be involved at one time?  What resources do you need?....  In the Elaboration phase, you need to revisit this list of questions and study each one to refine and/or elaborate your process.

5)  Verification. / 1.  an act of verifying.  2.  evidence that establishes or confirms the accuracy or truth of something.  3.  the processor research, examination, etc., required to prove or establish authenticity or validity.

The fifth and last part of the creative process is verification. This isthe testing phase.  You need to literally walk through the activity and make sure that it works.  Run through your directions, refine them so they make sense.  Get a group of colleagues together and have them do a test run of the activity with you. Does the activity accomplish the intended goals?  Did it make sense to your volunteer participants?  No matter how wonderful an idea is, if it won't meet the goals, it should be discarded or tweaked until it does.  This can be the hardest part!  It is easy to get attached to something new and fun that we do not look at it with the critical eye that it needs.  I recommend testing the activity with several different types of 'guinea pig' groups before using it with your clients.

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