Business creativity is vital for individuals and organisations seeking to thrive in today’s dynamic and competitive landscape. It involves the ability to generate innovative solutions, think outside the box, and identify opportunities for improvement. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not limited to a select few; instead, it can be cultivated by adopting the right mindset and utilising practical tools and techniques.

In his influential book “Creativity,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi outlines a five-step process forming a compelling creative journey. These steps include preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, and elaboration. By understanding and applying these steps, individuals can harness and use their creative potential in various aspects of their professional lives.

This article will explore each creative process step and provide practical guidance on boosting your creativity in business. From identifying problems and gathering information to generating ideas, evaluating them, and finally implementing solutions, you will learn how to navigate the creative process and leverage your innovative thinking to drive positive change.


Table of Contents

Boosting Your Creativity Ability

In his well-respected book, “Creativity,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that an effective creative process usually consists of five steps. These are:

  1. Preparation – becoming immersed in interesting and exciting problems that arouse curiosity.
  2. Incubation – allowing ideas to turn around in your mind without thinking about them consciously.
  3. Insight – experiencing the moment when the problem makes sense, and you understand the fundamental issue.
  4. Evaluation – taking time to make sure that the insight provides sufficient value to outweigh the various costs involved in implementation.
  5. Elaboration – creating a plan to implement the solution and following through.

 We’ve mapped these five steps onto the process below. This provides a clear and practical way for you to think about creativity and use it in your everyday life at work;

1. Finding Problems (Preparation) 

Creative people don’t sit and allow problems to surface. Instead, they scan their environment for potential issues and see this as time well spent. Also, they’re excited by the opportunity to change things. They aren’t intimidated by change; they embrace it.

To develop your creative skills, you must adopt a positive attitude towards change, actively identify opportunities, and look for potential issues. To do this:

  • Challenge your business processes using Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, and look for bottlenecks in these processes.
  • Carry out SWOT and PEST analyses regularly.
  • Keep up-to-date with customer experiences and expectations, and try to spot problems from other people’s perspectives.

Also, engage in benchmarking to find out how well others are addressing similar issues and look at the point from a wide range of perspectives. Then, analyse your findings to ensure that a real problem does exist. This fact-finding activity can save you a lot of time later on and will help ensure you only act on the most relevant problems and issues.

Look first for problems and potential issues that interest you. You’ll be most motivated to pursue these things when learning to solve problems creatively. Then, as you become more confident, challenge yourself to investigate more complex issues.

2. Gathering and Reflecting on Information (Incubation)

Gather as much information as possible when you have a potential issue or problem. As part of this, investigate solutions that have been tried previously (both in your organisation and other areas), and identify ideas that might have surfaced but were never acted on.

At this stage, it’s also a good idea to step away from the problem for a while and allow new thoughts and ideas to enter your mind. Concentrating on one issue for too long tends to latch onto one or two ideas, which can block other good ideas. 

One of the benefits of being proactive in your problem-finding is that you have time to incubate ideas rather than being pressured to find an immediate solution to a problem.

3. Problem Exploration (Insight) 

Once you’ve identified and verified your problem, you can figure out what’s going on. Often, the initial issue you identified will become a symptom of a deeper problem. Therefore, identifying the root cause of the problem is extremely important.

When you do this, you’ll find that techniques like CATWOE, Drill Down, the 5 Whys, Cause and Effect Analysis, and Root Cause Analysis are all very effective. While creativity may invoke ideas of spontaneous insight and far-out inspiration, the truth is that being creative in the workplace is rooted in a practical understanding of the situation at hand.

Don’t, however, be so practical that you become negative. What often separates creative people from others is the ability to see past potential barriers and believe in their insights. For instance, you could easily dismiss a great understanding by saying, “Oh, that could never be the problem!” 

But you will only know if something contributes to a problem if you allow yourself to explore the possibility. That’s what creative problem exploration is all about – being open to all ideas and possibilities.

4. Generating and Evaluating Ideas (Evaluation)

When you have clear insight into the cause of the issue, you can move on to generating ideas for a solution. Here you want to look for many ways to inspire ideas. Brainstorming, Reverse Brainstorming and Starbursting are famous for this. 

However, these can be undermined by problems with group dynamics. Techniques like Brainwriting, Round-Robin Brainstorming and the Charette Procedure can help you circumvent common issues.

You can also enrich your ideas using tools like the Six Thinking Hats, Random Input, the Reframing Matrix and Metaphorical Thinking to look at problems from different perspectives.

Not all of the ideas you have will be practical or possible. So, as part of this step in the creative process, you need to decide which criteria you’ll use to evaluate your ideas. With a solid evaluation process, you can choose a more cautious solution.

There is a wide range of tools you can use for the evaluation, including:

  • Risk Analysis: This helps you explore where things could go wrong.
  • Impact Analysis: This gives you a framework for analysing the full consequences of your decision.
  • Force Field Analysis: This helps you analyse the pressures for and against change.
  • Decision Tree Analysis: This shows you how to evaluate different options from a financial perspective.
  • Paired Comparison Analysis: This helps you determine the relative importance of various factors.
  • Decision Matrix Analysis: This allows you to weigh many financial and non-financial factors.

5. Implementation (Elaboration)

A common misconception is that creative people spend all their time thinking of new and exciting ideas. Truly creative people recognise a good idea and run with it.

For this final step, you need to be committed to taking your ideas and making them happen and be confident that you can propose innovative ideas and inspire change.

To implement your ideas successfully, develop a solid plan, using action plans for simple projects and more formal project management techniques for larger, more complex projects. You’ll also need to be able to sell your idea to others in your organisation. 

If your idea is likely to affect others, you’ll want to develop strong change management skills so that the people around you accept and use the products of your creativity. Once you bring one idea through to successful implementation, you’ll be motivated and inspired to repeat the process again and again!

Finally, creativity is not solely about ideation but also about implementation. Bringing ideas to life requires a solid plan and effective project management skills. 

Additionally, communicating and selling your ideas to others is crucial for garnering support and ensuring successful implementation. By developing change management skills and inspiring others with your innovative vision, you can drive transformative change within your organisation.

Following these steps and adopting a systematic approach to business creativity can unlock your creative potential, overcome challenges, and propel your organisation forward. Embracing a culture of innovation and continual improvement will enhance your capabilities and position your organisation for long-term success in an ever-evolving business landscape.


Creativity is not limited to a select few individuals. While some people may have a natural inclination towards creative thinking, anyone can cultivate and enhance their creative abilities through the right mindset, practice, and effective tools and techniques.

During incubation, gather as much information as possible about the problem or opportunity—previous research solutions within your organisation and in other contexts. Additionally, take breaks from consciously thinking about the problem to allow new thoughts and ideas to enter your mind. This mental incubation can help you overcome fixation and explore new possibilities.

Ideas can be generated through brainstorming, brainwriting, and starbursting. Encourage diverse perspectives and use tools like the Six Thinking Hats and the Reframing Matrix to explore different angles.

However, not all ideas will be practical or feasible. Evaluate ideas using risk analysis, impact analysis, force field analysis, decision tree analysis, paired comparison analysis, and decision matrix analysis.

Cultivating a creative mindset involves embracing curiosity, embracing change, seeking new experiences, and continuously challenging yourself. Practice techniques like observing from different perspectives, asking "why" and "what if" questions, and being open to alternative viewpoints. Surround yourself with diverse influences and engage in activities that foster creativity, such as reading, brainstorming sessions, and creative hobbies.

Common barriers to creativity include fear of failure, self-doubt, rigid thinking, and resistance to change. To overcome these barriers, foster a supportive environment encouraging risk-taking and learning from failures.

Embrace a growth mindset that views challenges as opportunities for growth. Practice mindfulness and self-reflection to identify and challenge your own limiting beliefs. Surround yourself with supportive colleagues who encourage and value creativity.

Creativity can be applied to all types of businesses and industries. While the specific manifestations of creativity may vary, the underlying principles of problem-solving, innovation, and seeking opportunities for improvement are applicable across various contexts.

In technology, finance, healthcare, or any other field, embracing creativity can lead to fresh perspectives, enhanced productivity, and a competitive edge.

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