You can do creative thinking alone or with others. In either case, your goal is to bring something new into existence, such as an idea, an event, a plan, an object, or a process. Creative thinking consists of five stages. Knowing about these stages can help you improve your creative thinking.
Insight: Insight occurs when you realize you need to think creatively about something in your life that isn’t working right. You want or need to do something about it. Insight can come from within. For example, “My study skills improvement” or “My sociology paper is due next week”.
Preparation: Preparation refers to naming or identifying your specific problem and gathering information. Preparation time varies based on available resources.
Incubation: Incubation is the mulling-things-over stage. For example, you may have a researched a paper or project and are now thinking about how to organize all the information and present the topic. What are the main ideas? What important points should be included? What can be omitted?
For scientist, incubation is a period of puzzling over the meaning of new evidence gathered during the preparation stage that doesn’t fit previous explanations.
Incubation time varies from a few minutes or days to many years in some instances. “Sleep on it” is an incubation term. Often when you wake up, you have a solution or an inspiration.
Inspiration: Inspiration often comes in a quick flash of knowing. Suddenly you “see” a way to solve your problem. It’s frequently called the “Aha!” experience. Your inspiration makes you feel good because you realize you can solve your problem.
Inspiration doesn’t produce a sociology paper, nor does it complete a work project. Instead, inspiration tells you how to approach the paper (what the theme will be, what you should include, and the sequence of thought) and how to proceed on your project (calling those who can help, getting the boss’s support, researching additional information). The next step, actualization, actually gets the paper written and the project completed.
Actualization: Actualization is the heavy-duty work that makes your inspiration a reality. It can be very time-consuming and is often accomplished in long intensive hours of continuous work called massed practice. You get all your research together and work through the process. In school, writing marathons are often called “all-nighters.” At work, getting a project realized means hours of overtime.