Creativity is a process

REBECCA-25_pp-198x300Whenever I’m out there in corporate land training or coaching, I always come across people who tell me with a great deal of confidence that they are not at all creative and that they don’t have an imagination.

The first question I ask them, is “how do you know?”

This usually stops them in their tracks and gives me an opportunity to ask a few questions, show them the “creativity model” and then get them thinking creatively. This is not just for my entertainment. I want to help them understand that they have plenty of creativity because it’s a very useful skill to have in business.

One director I was working with was having a few problems, trying to think of new markets to develop and of new clients to sell to and since he believed that he wasn’t creative, he was struggling.

I explained to him, that like all human behaviour, creativity is simply something that has a process, just like a maths problem or an engineering problem. He got this straight away because he was in the building industry.

There was a chap called Jules Henri Pincare whom, I am guessing, was French and he came up with the process for creativity, which goes like this:

1. Preparation
2. Incubation
3. Illumination
4. Execution

Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense.

So, Mr Director and I ran a little exercise (you can have a go too). I asked him to draw an abstract picture of some emotions, such as happiness, anger, energy, peace, sadness etc. He thought I was mad, but played along to humour me. He wasn’t allowed to draw symbols, pictures, letters or numbers, just abstract forms to illustrate the emotions. He struggled at first (preparation), then got into the flow of things (incubation) and once he’d got the hang of it, he was pretty good.

So, then I asked him to draw an abstract picture of the biggest problem in his business, which he duly did without hesitation.

I then asked him to draw an abstract picture of his business without this problem. Again, something he did with ease.

Finally, I asked him to look at the difference between the two pictures and identify the differences that would make the difference.

He answered straight away (illumination).

He then proceeded to create a mind map of the types of clients he wanted, the specific names of organisations he wanted to approach, the markets he wanted the business to operate in. He then made a list of precisely how he was going to tackle this new work.

Mr rufty, tufty, construction industry director who claimed not to have a creative bone in his body, had just “created” new, exciting and rather lucrative markets for his business by following a process. Since I keep in touch with my clients, I know for a fact he has just won a £1m contract with one of those clients he identified over a year ago.

Like any skill in business, creativity is not something that you leave to other people to tackle, it’s something that is essential to all. So, don’t leave it to marketing or sales to come up with your ideas, follow the simple process and get creating ideas for yourself and your team There’s bound to be a £1m contract in there somewhere.

My client, of course had to complete the last stage of the process, which was execution. He had to actually go out there, phone people, chase leads, register on tender sites and complete tenders, do presentations and win people over. His creative thinking got him so far and his practical; “I can do anything” mindset completed the picture.

To be creative in the greatest way, you must execute your ideas. Damien Hurst would still be an impoverished artist with a grade D in A’Level Art (this is true) without having actually placed a dead shark in formaldehyde and phoned up a gallery to ask them to display it.

I’m wondering what ideas you can come up with today for your business and then how you’ll execute those ideas.

For help with thinking differently and achieving much more than you ever imagined, contact Rebecca Bonnington on 07734 934084 or

Rebecca runs NLP Practitioner Courses in Edinburgh, design and delivery in-house training courses for corporates, as well as being a leadership coach.

1 Comment on Creativity is a process

  1. Anne Casey // March 5, 2013 at 2:51 pm // Reply

    I found this useful Rebecca. I did not expect to get practical help on how to be more creative, but this feels like an approach that I could make use of.

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