Brainstorming – How Ideas Are Formed

A portion of what I teach in my Goosing Your Muse creativity workshops is “How Ideas Are Formed.”

If you slow down the process of how ideas are formed, and look at each step, it helps to establish some vocabulary useful to creative people who collaborate on projects. This makes it easier to identify more clearly which phase you’re working in at which time.

Example: one of you might still be coming up with ideas, (First Insight) while your partner already has made a big leap to the Verification (Will It Work) phase. This could be very annoying as one of you says repeatedly, “What if?” or “We could do…” and the other says, repeatedly, “Nah, that won’t work, that won’t work.”

Another example is when one of you is in the Incubation phase, sleeping on an idea overnight, or taking a walk, or simply staring off into space. Others in your project group might see you as not working at all. Frustrating for everyone.

And naturally, it is totally possible that one person can have several ideas cooking at once, each one in a different phase of development.

Here’s a simplified version of the classic 5-step model for How Ideas Are Formed:

1 – First Insight: Identifying the problem/goal at hand
2 – Saturation: Pooling all the research that you can about the subject
3 – Incubation: Pausing to let the ideas take shape
4 – Illumiation (Aha!): When the idea or solution arrives
5 – Verification: Will it work

The article by Paul E. Plsek, Working Paper: Models for the Creative Process explores other models which are used successfully in brainstorming.

Remember, these are guides for a useful vocabulary, not recipes!


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