Read the following blog post What 100 Years Have Taught Us About How to Be Creative (5 minutes) and below the description of the creative process by Wallace including elements from the problem solving process, and answer to your journal, on one page, on the questions of each phase of them.
First, one needs to prepare for the issue or for the problem in hand, to find and define it. Sometimes the problem of the issue is already known, or it might be a leading idea, or it needs to be identified from an unclear and undefined situation. The problem may also change or new problems may be found during the problem finding stage. At this stage one searches, absorbs, processes and analyses as much information on the topic or other topics related to it as possible. This helps to identify, understand the problem better and what influences on it, and therefore define it better. Expanding to new and unexpected areas and sectors only increases creativity. This is what is done in highly creative sectors and for radical ideas. Information, ideas and inspiration are looked at from different sectors, including those which seem to have nothing to do with the original issue. Little by little, one starts forming a clearer picture and guides the process as new information is scaffolded on the existing information. At some point the process saturates and one moves on to the phase 2, incubation.
The preparation varies by its duration and extent. At simplest it may be just a quick exchange of ideas with someone, but it can also be a long and complex process, like finding information for writing a book or for a business idea. The original idea or problem may also turn into something else.
It is important to keep an open and explorative mind, combine things freely and not to judge any source of information. Children are exceptionally good at combining unusual elements and a parent can encourage them on this by suggesting new areas to explore and simply making it a play where unexpected things are combined whatever the result might be.
Question 1 | How do you search information for a problem or an issue to solve?
Question 2 | How do your children search for information for a problem or an issue to solve?
Question 3 | How could you help your children in this?
Once everything has been gathered the information collected is left aside allowing some time for reflection rather than rushing or forcing an idea. Focusing on something else helps to take perspective and combine pieces of information. Eventually the solution will come to your mind. This is the same phenomenon as having a new look on something after a good night’s sleep. Each person uses their own methods to brew ideas. The duration of the incubation phase can be anything between a few minutes up to weeks or even months.
Question 1 | What do you do when taking distance for a problem?
Question 2 | What do your children do when taking distance for a problem?
Question 3 | What could you learn from them?
Getting an insight, illumination of the idea or ideas, can be compared to a Heureka moment. After the incubation phase, the idea crystallises in mind. The solution can be the final one as such or an overall idea which will still require research to be finalised into the final idea.
Once an idea of the problem has been defined, it is time to start creating potential solutions for it. During the idea generation phase one should keep an open mind and not be critical towards any ideas. The problem and findings about it create specifications (a set of defining reference points) which model this phase. There are no wrong or right answers, only plenty of different ideas to choose from. The more unusual, diverse and well-elaborated ideas, the more successful an idea generation session is. Allow children the freedom and autonomy to explore their ideas and do what they want, without being too bossy. There are plenty of idea generation methods, brainstorming being among the most commonly known ones. Having an open mind, thinking outside the box and approaching the issue from new angles leads to more and better ideas.
It is also to remember, that this stage is not only about voicing an idea, but also about visualising or otherwise showcasing the idea to others in an understandable form. Idea generation can be fostered for instance by showing examples to give a sense of and inspire what is possible and to provide ideas on how to get started. Of course, there is a risk that children will simply mimic or copy the examples that they see and thus they should be encouraged to change or modify the examples. Children should also be provided with a wide variety of materials they need for creative expression and encouraged to start messing around with materials. Different children are interested in different types of doing, such as drawing, building, crafting or writing a poem. Help children find the type of making that resonates with them and encourage them to engage in multiple types of doing and using their imagination.
Question 1 | How do you generate ideas and solutions?
Question 2 | How does your child generate ideas and solutions?
Question 3 | What could you learn from them?
After getting the idea (or ideas) this will be evaluated using criteria which answer to the selected problem or issue. The idea might be rejected, in which case the process returns to an earlier phase, it might still need some elaboration or it might be directly developed in the next phase. More than one idea might also come up. In case of many ideas, they too will be evaluated. A restricted number of them might also be elaborated further to better see their potential, and finally one idea will be selected.
It is important to be neutral and self-critical at this stage, see your own work with external eyes, and not to fall in love with your own ideas. One should also ask others’ opinions of the idea, preferably of those who are connected to the problem. One should also be able to justify their own opinion on evaluation. This stage might be difficult for children as the younger ones might choose what they like while the older ones might be too self-critical. Both may choose what they think should be chosen. One way to unlock this is to apply empathy in the process and let them think, for instance, how would someone use it and why, what would it mean to them, and creating stories and scenarios where the idea is used, from where to spot development issues.
After having the intangible idea, concepts can be created. Normally 3-5 concepts of the solution are created. These are presented to those who will profit from them. One will be selected and a prototype can be created of it. A prototype is a rough presentation, a raw model, of the solution and they concretise the idea and make understand how it looks and works. Prototypes can be made, for instance, of cardboard boxes, legos or plasticine and they can be role played. Ideas can be presented also through drawings or other creative ways. These enable living the solution and identifying with what works, what does not and what should be developed further. These kinds of engaging methods provide an opportunity for play and experimentation. Children’s natural tendency to play is very useful at this stage. The final idea to develop will be selected based on the evaluation.
Question 1 | How do you evaluate ideas? What kinds of methods do you use?
Question 2 | How do your children evaluate ideas?
Question 3 | What is different between your and your children’s idea evaluation style? In your opinion, why?
Once the final idea or solution has been selected, it is time to start putting it into practice and concretising it. This phase is little creative as it is about purely putting the idea into practice and finalising it into the final product or other outcome. Plenty of perseverance is required during this phase and it is painstaking and may include many failures. Something does not work, something needs to be changed or one may need to return back to the preparation phase to find out more information. For some, it might be hard to stay motivated.
Question 1 | What are your strong points and weak points in finalising something? How do you motivate yourself?
Question 2 | How do your children finalise something? What happens during the finalisation process?
Question 3 | How could you support your children to stay motivated while finalising something?