Creativity: the theory and pillars of creative processes that can help your agency

Preparation, incubation, lighting and verification: learn about the steps of creative processes that help your agency develop better work

Many Marketing and Advertising professionals believe that creativity is a gift. But the truth is that we are all creative, and as we will show in this post, the creative process can be developed and touched upon when you are aware of how it happens. Check out!

How many catchphrases and jargon have you heard about the creative process? 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration? Do ideas only come when we’re not looking for them? Is creative leisure a necessary evil? Are children more creative than adults?

After all: is creativity really intelligence having fun?

There are people who think that the person is born with talent. In particular, we believe that creativity is something you learn, but also let go, let go. Being creative is a process of releasing the fear of not being accepted, of not being worth it. Mainly, the fear of making mistakes.

If you’re working on something really new, taking risks is inevitable. After all, the new is never guaranteed. It cannot exist, yet. He needs to be born. But… from where?

What is creativity?

For Marcio Ballas, professional clown and master of improvisation, creativity is nothing more than a tool for solving problems. And we all have problems, so we can and should try to develop our own. Everyone really, not just professionals normally connected to her.

In his past RD Summit talks, Ballas listed three mistakes we often make in relation to creativity. They are as follows:

  1. We associate creativity with specific areas, such as art and advertising;
  2. We think we are less creative than we really are;
  3. We don’t believe that all people are creative.

Ballas cited his impromptu show and a television show he hosted, in which everything was also created on the spot. He commented that people were suspicious and asked him if, in fact, it wasn’t all rehearsed before.

He guarantees that he doesn’t and explains that, as contradictory as this may sound, excellence in improvisation is the result of much study, practice and dedication. Even so, the speaker says that we can all improvise. That we can all be creative.

The Art of Thought: the theory behind the creative process

In 1926, the English social psychologist at the London School of Economics, 68-year-old Graham Wallas, launched a theory called the Art of Thought. This theory defined, for the first time, the creative process in four stages.

Based on his observations and statements by famous inventors and mathematicians at the time, the book did not survive, but the model, now called the “4-stage model”, was immortalized in several later works.

Wallas talks about the four stages of the creative process— preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification —as a delicate osmotic dance between conscious and unconscious work. Below we explain each of them.

Stage 1: Preparation

This is the phase in which the problem is investigated in all its variables and explored to the full. It is a fully conscious stage, in which the brain absorbs all the information and puts it in the “boxes” determined by the mind. The important thing here is to ask the right questions, and to drink from the best sources, in order to open up the possibilities.

Stage 2: Incubation

The next period is one of unconscious processing, in which the creative mind works without direct effort. Many artists refer to this phase as “creative idleness”. That is, that stage where you are not deliberately looking for a solution to the problem, but your mind is actually unconsciously and involuntarily looking for new connections, based on the preparation you have done earlier.

There are those who play sports, go to the movies or take a shower. There are also those who alternate attention with another problem or project, to buy time on it, while letting the unconscious mind work on it.

It is at this stage that some notable creatives—filmmaker David Lynch, to name one—advocate meditation as a way to enhance the work of the unconscious in the search for the deepest creative solution.

Stage 3: Lighting

This is the moment of the “A-HA Moment”, of Eureka, of creative insight. Illumination happens after the unconscious work and the transition back to the click of the new idea, formed by the unprecedented association of two elements repertoire by the creative mind.

Enlightenment is not a fully conscious process—it depends on the previous stages. It also cannot be forced. It can come in seconds or hours, but believe me: it will always come.

Stage 4: Verification

This is the last, and certainly the most painful stage: the one where the creative has to put his idea into practice and to the test. It is known that Enlightenment itself does not produce creative work : it only lights the flame that leads to the path.

Verification, therefore, is not simply testing the idea with other people, but checking whether it is able to fit reality. In the words of Wallas, “ideas require discipline, will and, above all, effort, to become reality”.

Important considerations

The four stages of the creative process aren’t linear, nor as well defined as in this text—or did you really think your mind only works in little boxes?

Many creative processes, for example artistic ones, may not start from a problem to be incubated, but from a feeling, an experience, a memory. This is where the application of theory diverges between the creative professions and pure art.

The 5 Pillars of Creativity

Once you understand how the creative process works, you might ask yourself:  but how do I encourage this process? 

For Ballas, there are 5 pillars that help creativity flourish:

#1: Acceptance

Ballas argues that it is very important to accept the other, understand that the other is different – ​​and that this is good for the creative process.

When you’re in a brainstorming process, for example, it’s important to welcome all the ideas that come up. And they can drive new creations.

It’s very important to get rid of the judgment, that voice in the head that is judging the other and ourselves.

The presenter also believes in the importance of constantly adapting to the contexts in which we are inserted. “If the agency’s budget is low, invent on top of it.”

#2: Cover SIMation

Ballas believes that we are born creative, but that we are often pruned during life with social filters or judgments. This causes us to block some ideas quickly. For him, the “no” must be taken out of the creative process.

He makes an analogy with the improvisation game. Imagine the following situation:

Person 1:  It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other?

Person 2:  We saw each other yesterday.

Person 1:  What are you taking?

Person 2:  Nothing.

Blocking is when the second person doesn’t play. Therefore, the “no” stops and prevents the creative process from happening.

#3: The yes and the error

Just as in theater it can happen that the actor forgets to speak and have to improvise, in the universe of agencies it is also necessary to learn to deal with unexpected results, disapproval of plays, mistakes. It is important to know how to incorporate the new situation and “continue the show” in a good way.

#4: Improve

For Ballas, improvisation is combining things that already exist in a different way.

We are adaptable human beings and we can adapt to new situations. We increasingly have to be prepared for this, react to our experiments

The presenter argues that improvisation also requires planning. This planning can help in the cycle: experiment, adapt to the obtained results and experiment again. This is a way to bring solutions that really make a difference and bring innovation.

#5: Co-creation

Co-creating means creating together. And Ballas bets that the interaction between people with different backgrounds can be very potentiating in the search for innovative solutions. For him, teamwork like the team of Skymarketing , only works when everyone is focused and together for real.

To be creative you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just look at things in a different light

Currently, we are so immersed in the digital world that our eyes are “addicted”, often unable to help us exercise our creativity. That’s what writer and screenwriter Rosana Hermann spoke about, in her lecture also given at RD Summit.

The change is such that our culture has become a digital culture: human relationships are mediated by technology, and changes occur at an ever-increasing speed. Our language has also changed: we have even gone back to using symbols to represent reactions in our texts, as in the case of emojis – a word that was even elected the term of the year 2015 by the Oxford dictionary.

But what do all these changes mean?

They mean that we must “conform” to them; but not in the sense of accepting them in any and all ways, but rather that we receive them profitably and adapt to them as productively as possible.

If the digital world is there, why not make the best use of it, to exercise our creativity?

It’s a cycle: we must accept this new world in order to exercise our creativity, and our creativity will be exercised when we mold ourselves to this new world. It is made up of flows, increasingly liquid, and that is how we should try to be as well, always thinking “outside the box”.

But, as pointed out by Rosana, the “box” does not exist. We are the ones who create it in our heads, always limiting our creativity to the obvious. And creativity will only come when we see things from another angle, and we always question.

Continuous questioning, by the way, is what Rosana advocates as a way of becoming creative: if you always question yourself, you will find the problems and possible solutions to the problems that arise. In other words: if something doesn’t make sense for you in this new world, get to know processes. Behind the new techniques and tools, there is also a new way of looking at the world. As long as you are fixated on an idea, you will lose the possibility of seeing other solutions to your problem.