A blank canvas, an empty sheet of paper or a blank screen on a word processor is the single biggest hurdle for professionals in creative fields such as advertising, publishing, arts or media.
The Italian sociologist of the 19th century Vilfredo Pareto defined a new idea as “a fresher combination of older elements”. And he further contended that the capacity to produce creative work consistently depends on the ability to clearly see the true relationships between the elements in question.
The kaleidoscope illustrates the principle at work fairly well. This simple optical device contains sparkly, colorful trinkets held together by mirrors and a prism. With the slightest touch or displacement, these bits rearrange themselves in beautiful, new designs. How clearly the observer sees the relationship between these bits determines how well he or she can glimpse the underlying principle of creativity. So, piecing elements together in new combinations in any business circumstance is the essence of generating creative ideas.
In 1940, an advertising executive James Webb Young published a book called ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ capturing a simple five step formula to confidently produce creative ideas. According to him, people always follow these steps in the chronological order, either consciously or unconsciously, to produce a final creative idea. He explains further that this habit of creativity is dependent on a receptive frame of mind seeking to learn the relationships of elements in a new light—a habit that can be cultivated.
Let’s explore these five steps for creative ideas: –
- Gathering Raw Materials
The greatest difficulty lies in the first step’s apparent simplicity. The depth of necessary raw materials (such as basic ideas, background information and the specific issues), our mismanagement of time, energy or other resources and our tendency to jump ahead to later steps obstructs the natural process of generating ideas.
The successful creative professional always invests time and other resources to collect both general and specific raw materials over the course of his or her career. Only by immersing deeply into the matter, he or she can confidently identify a unique relationship between two elements at hand. Though it’s not really easy, the process is rewarding often bearing fruit to new conceptions in the mind.
- A Mental Synthesis of the Raw Materials
Often, a difficult jigsaw puzzle, a Rubik’s cube, a tricky math problem or riddle can be solved only by trial and error. Similarly, the second step for producing a creative idea is exactly the same but takes place largely in the mind. There the artist or designer or writer must examine each aspect, fact or raw idea from a variety of new points-of-view, each time questioning its nature with an aim to understand its meaning.
Sometimes into this process with a clearer knowledge of the raw materials, partial ideas begin to take shape in the mind.
- Letting Go for Some Time
Once the above two steps are followed well, the creative artist must stop the draining pursuit of the final idea by choosing activities such as leisure, sleep, socializing, enjoying movies, literature or music or taking care of other matters. The creative process is then taken over by the unconscious mind working in the background.
- Thinking Constantly About it
After a period of adequate rest and constantly pondering over it in your mind, the idea will appear to you out of nowhere. It will come to you when you least expect it for instance, while you’re involved in mundane or monotonous routine activities.
- Nurturing and Supporting the Idea
Before your idea is received well by your superiors, peers, colleagues or friends, you must do your basic homework: Polish the idea and present it with an emphasis on its practical usefulness. Once you submit your idea, your recipients will introduce unexplored angles or new knowledge to the conversation through praise or criticism.