Notes on Creative Process

How Creativity can sometimes happen
Create: To bring into being or form out of nothing, bestow existence on; cause, bring about; produce or make something new or original.
Creation: The act or process of creating; thing created; universe; original invention, production.
Over 2000 years ago Philosophers and theologians argued the creation was impossible even for God. They concluded and claimed that the Universe  was made not only by God but also necessarily out of God.

2. Inspirational View:                                       Romantic View:
Creativity is inspired by divine power                Creativity is an exceptional gift that others do not have
Mozart and his contemporary Salieri. Salieri was skilled and artful musician with full knowledge of music but he achieved only human competence.
Mozart Had all that plus Divine inspiration. He was composing from the age of 4 yrs. Old.
Romantic View:
Leanardo, Galilio Michael Angelo etc were all gifted.
This gift could not be acquired or thought but it could be squandered.

3. Psychological Creativity:
P. Creativity is individual or to many others individually.
People who are considered brilliant / exceptionally creative by those who know them but who never leave any accomplishment or trace of their existence.

More recent studies by Margaret Boden propose two forms of creativity,
P. Creativity: Local genius, exceptional shortbread, apple pies. Knows everything about car engines or computers etc.

Historical Creativity:
H. Creativity is fundamentally novel (New) with respect to the whole of humanity.
People who have the greatest impact on history by the accomplishments they leave behind.

H. Creativity: People who have the greatest impact on history who do not show any originality or brilliance in their behaviour, except for the accomplishments they leave behind. Internet, Aeroplane, Penicillin, TV, etc

What makes the difference between an outstandingly creative person and a less creative person?
It is not a special power or divine inspiration.
It is the intense interest and motivation to acquire a full/greater knowledge and expertise in their chosen Domain; to develop an appetite for exploration and risk and to use it.

5. What is a Domain and what is the Field?

Domain: A body of knowledge consisting of a set of symbolic rules and procedures
For example:  Mathematics, Economics, music, Visual Arts, Architecture, Physics.
Field: Consists of all the members of a Domain who act as gate-keepers of the domain it is their job to decide whether a new idea, product/procedure should be included in the domain. For example; Visual Arts field consists of Artists, Art Teachers, Curators of Museums & Galleries, Art Collectors and Critics, Foundation Administrators and Cultural Agencies of Government.

6. Why enter a Domain?

·       To make a living! Follow a parent! More travel! Vocation! More fun!

·       Some people chose certain Domains with passionate intention, a powerful
calling, a burning curiosity, interest and appetite for exploration and risk in
their chosen domain.

·       Creative people are usually in this group.

7. In a Domain

For success in a chosen domain the rules, symbols and procedures must be learnt in great depth.

The rules and constraints of a domain are not the antithesis of creativity.

Constraints map out the territory of structural possibilities which can be explored and when satisfied, perhaps lead to the transformation of the territory.

Discoveries would be inconceivable without prior knowledge.

·       On Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. Louis Pasteur is reported as commenting; “Fortune favours the prepared mind
·       Without his breath of knowledge and experience in bacteriology, Alexander Fleming would not have recognised his discovery of penicillin.
·       A dish of agar-jelly (used to culture bacteria) had been left uncovered on an open window sill. This allowed penicillium spores to enter, settle on the jelly and grow. Fleming noticed and realised the significance of the clear (bacteria free) area surrounding the green colony of mould.
·       The development of modern antibiotics had begun.

8. Learning

·                 To learn the rules, symbols and procedures of a chosen domain in great                                                                depth requires attention.

·                 We must pay attention to the information to be learned.

·                 Attention is a limited resource and there is a limit to the amount of information    
          we can process at any given time.

·                 Surplus attention is a pre-requisite to achieving creativity.

          All available energy focused on the domain

After Renaissance man, it became impossible to learn enough about arts & Science than to become expert in a fraction of such domains.
As culture evolved specialised knowledge became favoured over generalised knowledge.
Creativity generally involves crossing the boundaries of domains which are sometimes connected by adjacent areas of knowledge.

9. The 4 Phases of Creativity

Graham Wallis ‘The Art of Thought, 1926 London, Jonathon Cape. Proposes one of the first models on the creative process
1.       Preparation
2.       Incubation
3.       Illumination (inspiration)
4.       Verification

10. Preparation:

·       Having recognised that there is a problem, or identified an area to explore.
·       Preparation requires full familiarisation with the problem to be solved, the idea to be explored, the question to be answered (why, what if).
·       This involves exploring the problem space. Through trial & error analysis, testing alternative hypotheses in exploring the problem space we can develop a conceptual space.
·       Such constraints will emerge that all effort at this stage will appear fruitless and leading nowhere. 

11. Incubation:

·       Anecdotal evidence shows that at this stage if the problem is set aside and left alone that later at some unguarded moment the solution pops into ones head.
·       During this period the sub-conscious/unconscious allows the free entry of elements from different domains.
·       This period of unconscious work must be preceded by a period of conscious work (Preparation).
·       Creative, Insightful, analogical thinking tends to involve breaking free of current representations and seeing things in a new light.
·       Periods of incubation can vary in length.

In everyday life we have heard the expression to sleep on a problem, or of not taking a decision until morning.
Koestler: “The most fertile region seems to be the marshy shore, the borderline between sleep and full waking, where the matrices of disciplined thought are already operating but have not yet sufficiently hardened to obstruct the dream like fluidity of imagination”
During this period elements (thoughts) from different domains form new associations and patterns, most will be frivolous junk but some will be useful and the rare one very pertinent.
In these relaxed, unguarded moments ideas continually combine with a freedom denied in waking rational thought.

12. Illumination/Inspiration:

Again anecdotal evidence shows that people were dozing, getting into a bath, drawing, writing, travelling on a bus, sitting by the fire, etc. when the answer to a problem dawned on them.
They were in a relaxed mood, not consciously thinking of the problem, an unguarded moment when illumination/inspiration happened

Example, 1
Samuel Coleridge: prior to falling into an opium-induced reverie Coleridge had been reading the following lines in Samuel Purchas's Pilgrimage. " In Xamdu did Cublai Can built a statley Palace, encompassing sixteene miles of plain ground with a wall, wherein are fertile Meddowes, pleasant springs, delightful Streames, and all sorts of beasts of chase and game, and in the middest thereof a sumptuous house of pleasure, which may be removed from place to place".

In the opium-induced reverie he formulates the lines of Kubla Khan.

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless see.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Example 2

Archimedes had been pondering for some days on how to measure the volume of an irregularly shaped object, a gold crown.
When having a bath he observed the rise and fall of the waterline caused by the displacement of water by his own body and immediately sees the solution to the problem.

Friedrich August Von Kekulé a Chemist, while on a bus daydreamed of dancing atoms and molecules let to his theory on the internal structure of molecules and subsequently suggested that organic molecules were based on strings of carbon atoms. Seven years later while dozing imagined an Ouroboros (snake seizing its own tail) which lead to visualising the ring shape structure of the Benzene Molecule

Example 3

Astronomer Vera Rubin's interest in observing detail activities in galaxies led her to notice differences between two spectra taken a year apart (1989-1990) of a galaxy in the Virgo Cluster. At first she did not understand what was interesting and different until deciding that some stars appeared to be going clockwise while others were going counter clockwise. Her doubts and uncertainties caused her to book a main telescope for spring (1992) to get a third spectrum for comparison.  Meantime one evening she made sketches from the existing spectra and in doing so it became exquisitely clear and understandable to her. The third spectrum confirmed her hypothesis, which in 1993 she included in a lecture at Harvard. Within days other astronomers who had spectra of this galaxy but had not analysed them in detail confirmed her discovery.

13. Verification:

Conscious thinking (deliberate problem solving) now takes over the process.

The insights must be verified or as in the case of the Arts, evaluated.

The individual must evidence the proof of their hypothesis and present, publish or display the evidence to the Field.
The discovery is only considered valuable when it has passed social evaluation and is included in the cultural domain to which it belongs.

Creativity does not happen in isolation inside people’s heads, but in the interaction between a person’s thoughts and a socio-cultural context.

Occasionally creativity involves establishing a new domain,
Galileo: Experimental Physics.
Max Planck / Albert Einstein: Quantum Theory/Physics
Albert Einstein: Theory of General Relativity.
Alan Turing: Computer Science.


Rossetti, William M. The Poetical Works of Samuel T. Coleridge London Moxon & Son 1900 approx

Boden, Margaret The Creative Mind London Abacus 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly Creativity New York HarperCollins 1997

De Bono, Edward Lateral Thinking London Penguin 1970

Koestler, Arthur. The Act of Creation London Picador 1964 1975

Robertson, Ian Types of Thinking London/New York Routledge 1999

Judkins, Rod The Art of Creative Thinking, Sceptre, London 2015

Ashton, Kevin. How to Fly a Horse, William Heinmann London, 2015

Ries, Eric. The Lean Startup, Penguin 2015

No comments:

Post a comment