Is There A Creative Process?

Is there one, definitive creative process? I don’t think so, however, I believe individuals and groups can utilize a process. For example, Salvador Dali would use the hypnotic state the occurs right after you wake up to generate creative ideas. He would nap in a chair, spoon in hand, and after he fell asleep and dropped the spoon, it would clang on a metal plate and wake him up. This wouldn’t work for me, as I really don’t work well just waking up, but it worked for him.

While researching creative processes I discovered several elements that were repeated; essentially ingredients to the recipe of creativity. I think of this like cooking – you can give five people the same ingredients and end up with five very different outcomes. The way those elements are put together determines the end result.

I think one of the mistakes we’ve made in talking about creativity is we’ve assumed it’s a single verb — that when people are creative they’re just doing one particular kind of thinking. But looking at creativity from the perspective of the brain, we can see that creativity is actually a bundle of distinct mental processes. – Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works

I completely agree with this sentiment.


People favor conventional ideas, and creative people have to become resilient to rejection and choose to live creatively, even if it means being that “weird” person.

If you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty, even when it’s uncomfortable, and have the capability to recover when your organization takes a big risk and fails. – Ed Catmull


Being creative is scary because it involves risk of judgment and rejection. A team needs to have trust among them in order to be truly creative. A team that works well together will create great things.

If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up; if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something that works. – Ed Catmull


Experiencing new cultures is a proven way to increase creativity. This can come through traveling to new places, or simply mixing with people from a different culture or even department within the same company. When planning the Pixar building, Steve Jobs insisted on one, big, open space with a single set of bathrooms in the middle. The purpose was to force people to talk to each other. By bringing together people from different departments every day, they had the opportunity to learn from and feed off of one another.


Creativity is, perhaps arguably, the ability to make connections where no one else sees them.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. – Steve Jobs

Having the insight to find those connections is important.


I think this is one of the most important pieces of creativity. When the options are so broad they become overwhelming, it is difficult to think freely. Ironically, the addition of constraints allows the brain to be freer and explore within a defined topic. These can include topical and time constraints.

You have to create boundaries of space and then you have to create boundaries of time. – John Cleese

Mix those up and see what you get!

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