Several managers at a Fortune-500 Corporation, wanted to develop new ideas to solve a long time, chronic company problem and asked me to lead a problem-solving Creativity & Innovation meeting.
In the planning of this meeting, I applied the “phases of the creative process (INNOVATION) at work,” which are:
• Preparation Phase: Laying the groundwork and learning the background. Fact finding. Learning how to be more creative.
• Concentration Phase: Total absorption in the problem. Trancing out.
• Incubation Phase: Time out. Seeking distractions. Working on other things. Vacationing. Jogging. Taking walks.
• Illumination Phase: The AHA insight appears.
• Implementation Phase: Solving the practical problems of implementation. Getting other people involved. The hard work of innovation!
During the Preparation Phase you fill your mind with new facts and elements to make creative connections later. This can last many years: in school, on-the-job training, reading, taking courses and workshops, traveling, etc. After all, you cannot be a creative marketer, or a creative manufacturer, or a creative manager unless you know marketing, manufacturing, or managing. You have to learn your profession first.
During the Concentration Phase, you focus on the problem and absorb yourself in it, allowing new creative ideas to enter your consciousness.
Frustration at not finding a solution leads to the Incubation Phase, during which you concentrate on other things while your mind takes a break and quietly makes creative connections. Then, if you are fortunate, the Illumination Phase occurs, the paradigm shifts, the AHA insight forms, and new ideas emerge.
This leads to the Implementation Phase, lasting a short time or a lifetime as the entire process cycles repeatedly to modify and implement the new ideas.
This theory implies that new ideas do not appear spontaneously out of the blue. They require preparation, concentration, incubation, and the appropriate creativity triggers to spark new creative connections.
I applied this theory to the creativity meeting in a hotel near Orlando, Florida, for 25 managers, supervisors, scientists, and engineers in R&D and manufacturing. The meeting started Sunday evening and lasted until the following Friday afternoon. We worked hard each morning from 8:00 AM until noon using advanced creativity triggers to define the problems, generate ideas, and develop creative proposals.
At 12:30 PM, a bus whisked participants off to spend the afternoon at Epcot Center, Sea World, or the Kennedy Space Center. Everyone had learned how to use metaphors to spark creative thought, and I asked people to find trigger-ideas and metaphors on these outings to help solve the problem.
The outcomes of this 6 day event were very positive. The manager told me that the new ideas generated by the participants for solving the problem were very useful and high quality. Almost everyone said they would use advanced creativity triggers back on the job.
This creativity meeting was successful partly because my design used the theory above: Everyone was highly knowledgeable and came with a prepared mind (Preparation Phase). Everyone focused intently on the problem each morning (Concentration Phase). Everyone went off to concentrate on other things during the afternoon and evenings (Incubation Phase). Every morning after was an opportunity for new insights (Illumination Phase). Everyone left the creativity meeting with committed action plans (the beginning of the Implementation Phase).
This creativity meeting benefitted the corporation by developing new approaches to a long-term chronic problem, by gaining new advanced creativity triggers within its work force, and by discovering how to enhance creativity in their people at work. Most creativity meetings are not so elaborate as this one; still, all such meetings use advanced creativity triggers to create new and unexpected useful ideas to solve an important company problem.
And for additional ways to solve problems creatively at work, check out my book: “CREATIVITY TRIGGERS ARE FOR EVERYONE:
How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.”
Edward Glassman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university.
He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.
He was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and has led numerous Creativity & Innovation Meetings and workshops for many companies, including IBM, DuPont, Amoco Chemical, Ciba-Geigy, Hoechst-Celanese, Texaco, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Milliken, Federal-Mogul, Thetford, Standard Products, and others.