Day 10 ADVENTure

Graham Wallas' 4 Steps of Creativity


By Chris Dunmire | Posted 11/24/23 | Updated 5/19/24

"The creative process is not controlled by a switch you can simply turn on or off; it's with you all the time." —Alvin Ailey


Creative OutletsWhen we look at creativity through the lens of "process", a common framework emerges as stages to research, develop, and implement ideas and solutions.

In 1926, social psychologist and educationalist Graham Wallas championed the concept of this four-stage model in his book The Art of Thought:

"The first in time I shall call Preparation, the stage during which the problem was 'investigated … in all directions'; the second is the stage during which he was not consciously thinking about the problem, which I shall call Incubation; the third, consisting of the appearance of the 'happy idea' together with the psychological events which immediately preceded and accompanied that appearance, I shall call Illumination. And I shall add a fourth stage, of Verification…"

Did you get that? Wallas' four steps of creativity are:

  1. Preparation: Investigating a problem.
  2. Incubation: Not consciously thinking about the problem.
  3. Illumination: A solution pops into existence to address the problem.
  4. Verification: Testing and evaluating the solution against the problem (implementation).

Once a "problem" (question, challenge, project prompts us into action, the creative process engages.

We'll learn more about each of the steps and play with the process in the coming days.

Observe the Creative Process at Play

Growing Awareness

Creative OutletsLet's grow our awareness around the natural emergence of the creative process during the course of the day.

Notice how you are frequently engaged in the process. Do you get shower thoughts? What happens during your commute as you are pelted with sensory stimulus along the way? Do you start weaving stories from overheard conversations? When overtaken by images of beauty, are you quick to frame a snapshot in your mind or on your phone? Do you routinely jot down thoughts and images to capture idea starts like butterflies?

If you're not on autopilot, how often are you brainstorming, composing, revising, retooling, or planning pieces to fall into place like Tetris shapes? That pile of clutter just might be a pile of prompts to sift you towards curious project tangents.

"Wow, I'm always doing these things!" you realize. Yes, we're regularly engaged somewhere in the steps, sometimes a linear 1-2-3-4, and other times like the Hokey Pokey with one foot in, one foot out. Go with your flow and turn yourself around … and that's what it's all about!


©2021-2023 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.