This article throws light upon the four main stages involved in the process of creative thinking. The stages are: 1. Observations 2. Incubation 3. Illumination 4. Verification.
Stage # 1. Observations:
The basic process involved is observation, the foundation of any act of creativity. The creative individual is a more keen observer. He or she observes events and experiences in greater detail and more carefully. Not only this, he or she is a more intense observer. What strikes a common individual, as a trifling event very often attracts the attention of a creative person. Thus a creative person is more extensive and intensive in his observation. Further, he is more selective in his observations.
Stage # 2. Incubation:
While most of us gloss over an object that we have observed, a creative person goes thinking, examining, analysing, interpreting and re-interpreting what he observed. Thus a lot of ‘cerebral’ activity goes on, to a large extent unconsciously. Perhaps we may use the term “unconscious cerebration”. This stage is referred to as incubation. In this process of incubation, a considerable amount of ‘trial and error’ learning also goes on. In fact, the person is often restless during this stage. Perhaps when Edison remarked that “genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” he was referring to this stage.
Stage # 3. Illumination:
As this process of unconscious activity (sometimes also conscious) goes on, suddenly, the individual finds a right answer to his problems, doubts and questions. This sudden understanding or insight very often occurs, when the person is sleeping or doing something which is totally different and far removed from the main problem or issue. Thus Archimedes found an answer to his question, in his bath-tub, the “Eureka” experience.
The answer or solution appears to come suddenly and is therefore referred to as illumination or the appearance of light and dispelling of darkness. The student may have seen a similarity to the “aha” experience of the chimpanzee in Kohler’s experiment on insight learning.
Stage # 4. Verification:
A creative person, who experiences illumination does not accept the solution or knowledge unconditionally when an illumination occurs. The individual tries to verify, whether the solution is correct, valid and reliable in terms of the existing knowledge or facts. Very often after the process of verification, the solution or answer is rejected and the person goes for more observation, and also incubation.
It is this process of verification which differentiates scientific creative thinking from unscientific creative thinking. If we compare a scientist and a philosopher, the latter often stops at the point of illumination and does not go through the stage of verification.
The process of verification is continuous and very often we find that creative individuals, revise, modify or change their ideas. It is here that some personality factors enter the picture, viz. flexibility or rigidity, involvement, motivational processes, open-mindedness, etc.