The Four Stages of Creative Thinking
Swami Mukundananda reveals why only a few get into the involved process of thinking deep and how we can develop this faculty
Our biggest and most reliable investment is our ability to think. This treasure chest of thoughts is, in fact, the most accessible because it exists right between our ears. Yet, the paradox is that so few people discover and utilise it.
Why isn’t every other person a thought leader, a creative writer, or a visionary? Why are so few people enriching themselves with their thoughts? The reason is that purposeful thinking is difficult. One of the best thinkers in Western history, Albert Einstein, put it very well: “Thinking is hard work; that’s why so few do it.”
Focussed creative thinking requires tremendous intellectual effort. So, let us learn how to think better.
It implies digging deeper for related information and knowledge. Rather than assuming that we know, we adopt a beginner’s mindset. This means getting rid of the I-already-know attitude.
An interesting episode highlighting the need for an investigative attitude is about the sale of the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Corporation by its parent company, Vickers PLC.
The two customers were Volkswagen and BMW. Volkswagen won the bid to purchase the luxury car company for $780 million. However, after the deal was complete, the buyers made a shocking discovery. The rights to the use of the name ‘Rolls-Royce’ belonged to another company, Rolls-Royce PLC. The name was synonymous with luxury cars around the world. Without it, the purchase of the manufacturing facility, etc., was not helpful.
Even worse, the company that owned the name ‘Rolls-Royce’ had ties with BMW. Now, who do you think got to use the brand name? It was BMW, not Volkswagen.
This was a case of poor investigation. The investigative attitude means to be inquisitive like a child and open-minded. We never know where a good idea might germinate from. This stage in creative thinking is like research, where you accumulate the intellectual resources out of which you hope to construct new ideas.
After gathering the facts, do not expect your mind to come up with creative new ideas right away. Instead, let them simmer in the cooker of your mind for a while. This is the incubation stage.
Incubation is a subconscious process which is essential to creativity. It means letting the conscious mind take rest and allowing the subconscious mind to get to work on the jigsaw puzzle. Overthinking with the conscious mind serves as a roadblock. Repeated experiments have proved that a short break does wonders for the creative process.
Incubation can be done through a variety of activities, like doing household chores, shaving, sipping a beverage, mowing the lawn, and so on. Author Harper Lee did much of her creative thinking while golfing.
Sleeping over it is another great way to incubate. Recent advances in neuroscience are providing evidence of how our brain consolidates waking experiences into memory while we sleep.
After incubation, bam! An idea will strike you in a flash of insight. This is the Eureka moment, when an intuitive realisation happens, and you suddenly realise you know the answer.
What better example of it than the person who made ‘Eureka’ famous, Archimedes himself? He is remembered in history as the scientist who was sitting in his bathtub, when suddenly, the moment of epiphany happened. He was so euphoric that he shouted “Eureka (I know it)!” and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse in his excitement.
Never skip incubation. Spend hours working on a problem, then switch off and let go. Hand it over to the subconscious, so that the Universe can step in for you.
Your intuition tells you the solution is found. But we must not rashly accept it without verifying it. The reason is that our intuition is not yet perfect and could be wrong as well. Hence, this is the stage when you take on the role of a scientist and validate the results. If found unsatisfactory, the thinker must then repeat the process from the beginning.
This stage also involves putting the inspiration into words, the vision into paint, and the idea into a business plan. Or simply, announcing it to the world.
This four-step process to creative thinking along with many transformative pearls of wisdom are revealed by best-selling author, Swami Mukundananda, in his latest book, The Power of Thoughts, released by Penguin Ananda.
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