Creativity Author: Anna Melnichenko, Maximilian Katzmann
The process of how someone solves a creative task can be broken
down into several steps. While we explain these steps one-by-one
in the following, it is important to note that this should not be
seen as a step-by-step guide. It is meant to raise awareness
about each individual step. When solving a creative task you
might need to do several steps repeatedly, skip some, or mix and
match them however necessary.
Go into the World Open-mindedly
Solving a creative task often requires you to get rid of
preconceptions and to try to look at the things with fresh eyes.
This is useful when trying to find a creative task to solve or
when trying to find ways to solve one.
Two important aspects to consider here are the following.
Question what you believe to know about certain things!
It is important to not take everything for granted. Questioning
certain aspects about a topic can help in finding open
Do not interpret things prematurely!
When collecting ideas, for example when looking for a new research
topic or when trying to find a solution to a problem, do not dismiss
ideas early. If you interpret your approaches too quickly, you tend to
miss details and maybe discard a valid solution before actually
thinking about it.
Clarify your Goals
Once you have determined the creative task you want to solve, it
is important to clarify what you are actually trying to accomplish.
This includes finding out what a solution to your problem should look
like, e.g. specifying what properties your solution should have.
If you do not know what your solution is supposed to look like, how
will you recognize it when you find it?
When you have defined the problem you are trying to solve and are
clear about what a solution should look like, it is important to
gather information about your problem. Usually an idea about a
solution for a problem does not come out of nowhere, but instead it is
based on things you already know. An interesting TED Talk about this
topic was given by Vittorio Loreto: Need
a new idea? Start at the edge of what is known.
Gathering information can be done in several ways. In the
following we present two of them.
A Mind Map is a tool for fixing the process of thinking, most
similar to how thoughts and ideas are born and develop in our
Ideas grow and develop nonlinearly. One thought gives rise to a
number of others, more narrow and related to some particular aspect of
the problem being solved. And suddenly you realize that your
conclusions lead to a new idea from a completely different category.
Our thinking is radiant. We can develop any idea almost infinitely in
various directions. Mental maps allow you to cope with such an
A mind map is a diagram in which the main subject is located in
the center, and all the generated ideas are branches of a more general
Mind Map Guideline (See Mind Map on
Wikipedia for more.)
- Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at
least 3 colors.
- Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your
- Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
- Each word/image is best alone and sitting on its own line.
- The lines should be connected, starting from the central
image. The lines become thinner as they radiate out from the
- Make the lines the same length as the word/image they
- Use multiple colors throughout the mind map, for visual
stimulation and also for encoding or grouping.
- Develop your own personal style of mind mapping.
- Use emphasis and show associations in your mind map.
- Keep the mind map clear by using radial hierarchy or outlines
to embrace your branches.
More information about mind maps can be found here.
The CORE-principle consists of four steps that you can go through
when gathering information about a topic.
- Collect everything you know about the topic.
- Order your findings into different areas and give them
- Rate your findings according to how
relevant they are to your problem.
- Extend each area with more details.
At this point it is again important to Go into the World
Open-mindedly. Do not discard things early because you think
that they are irrelevant.
Get some Distance to the Problem
Take a walk. Listen to some music. Get into a conversation. Get
Taking breaks helps in being more open-minded. It forces you to
stop focussing on a particular aspect of your problem, which makes it
easier to consider new approaches instead. (Actually, your brain
unconsciously starts to process the information you gathered.)
Using the information you gathered about your problem, you start
thinking of solutions. How can the information you obtained
contribute to a solution? Think of analogies: Are there problems that
are similar to yours? How were they solved? Can you transfer this
solution to your situation?
Evaluate and Select Ideas
In this step you check which of your ideas are actually valid: Do
they fulfill the criteria you set for a solution when clarifying
your goal? If not, can you adapt the approach to fit your needs?
Maybe you learned in the process that you need to adapt criteria for
what you characterize as a valid solution? Evaluate which idea is the
Throughout the entire process collaboration can be very helpful.
Whether it is a discussion about possible questions that need to be
answered, clarifying goals, gathering information, developing ideas,
or evaluating ideas, all of them can benefit from a nice conversation.
Again, we want to remind you that this is not a step-by-step
guide. Being aware of which step you are currently dealing with can
help you get a more structured look on what you might need to do
next. Additionally, each step might need a different way of thinking.
This is captured in a tool called Six Thinking Hats.
However, the order in which these steps are taken is totally
dependent on your needs during the process: When you are gathring
information you need to be open-minded. Maybe, while gathering
information you learned that you need to reformulate what you think is
necessary for a valid solution. As a result, you might need to gather
We want to thank the whole group for their thoughtful discussion
during our meeting about creativity.