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|| Why have a model? ||
|| Review of creativity models in the literature ||
|| Walk-through of the DirectedCreativity cycle ||

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Why Have a Model?

In contrast to heuristic statements that provide a focused gem of wise advice, models strive to capture the whole of something in a overall, integrated fashion. Models also show sequence, interconnection, pattern, flow, and organization. Models are critically important to mental functioning because they allow us to anticipate future actions, needs, and steps.

A Review of Creative Thinking Models in the Literature

topThere are many models proposed in the creativity literature for the process of creative thinking. Arieti (1976) cataloged eight such models that were proposed during the period 1908 to 1964. There have been several additional models proposed since. Analysis of these various models reveals some consistent patterns. (Click here for a working paper that reviews several creativity models and illustrates these patterns.)

  • The creative process involves purposeful analysis, imaginative idea generation, and critical evaluation -- the total creative process is a balance of imagination and analysis.
  • Older models tend to imply that creative ideas result from subconscious processes, largely outside the control of the thinker. Modern models tend to imply purposeful generation of new ideas, under the direct control of the thinker.
  • The total creative process requires a drive to action and the implementation of ideas. We must do more than simply imagine new things, we must work to make them concrete realities.

These insights from a review of the many models of creative thinking should be encouraging to us. Serious business people often have strong skills in practical, scientific, concrete, and analytical thinking. Contrary to popular belief, the modern theory of creativity does not require that we discard these skills. What we do need to do, however, is to supplement these with some new thinking skills to support the generation of novel insights and ideas.

The DirectedCreativity Cycle: A synthesis model of the creative process

topThe graphic presents our synthesis model -- The DirectedCreativity Cycle -- based on the concepts behind the various models proposed in the literature over the last 80 years.

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Let's walk through it, beginning at the 9:00 position on the circle. We live everyday in the same world as everyone else, but creative thinking begins with careful observation of that world coupled with thoughtful analysis of how things work and fail. These mental processes create a store of concepts in our memories. Using this store, we generate novel ideas to meet specific needs by actively searching for associations among concepts. Seeking the balance between satisficing and premature judgment, we then harvest and further enhance our ideas before we subject them to a final, practical evaluation. But, it is not enough just to have creative thoughts; ideas have no value until we put in the work to implement them. Every new idea that is put into practice (that is, every innovation) changes the world we live in, which re-starts the cycle of observation and analysis.

Directed creativity simply means that we make purposeful mental movements to avoid the pitfalls associated with our cognitive mechanisms at each step of this process.

For purposes of explanation, we can further divide this model into the four phases shown. We will use these four phases of Preparation, Imagination, Development, and Action to organize the tools of directed creativity.

topNote that this model continues in the tradition of others in asserting that creativity is a balance of imagination and analysis. The model also purposefully avoids taking a stand on the controversy of whether imagination is a conscious or subconscious mental ability. While I personally believe that imagination is a conscious, non-magical mental action, the activity of "generation" in the model welcomes creative ideas regardless of their source. Finally, notice that this model clearly supports the notion that innovation is a step beyond the simple generation of creative ideas; the Action phase of the model makes it clear that creative ideas have value only when they are implemented in the real world.

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© 1997 Paul E. Plsek & Associates, Inc.
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