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everyone's model of creative transformation

4 stages of the creative process map

The four stages of creative projects are familiar to change-makers, discovery thinkers, and artists of all kinds:

SPARK sets us off with an idea or a disorienting problem that won’t let us go.

SEARCH orients us to what’s known, what’s been done, what’s considered possible, and what we really want to create from our idea or problem. This stage defines a period of discovery, definition, and setting a path forward.

SOLVE marks the stage that takes us into the unknown, because if we find our answers in SEARCH, we don’t need to go further. In a complex project, or one involving deeply unknown territory, this period of Solve usually requires a long slog. All kinds of problems need solving before we satisfy our curiosity, express that new idea, or win the change game.  Solve requires digging deep and stepping back. It is a time of victory and defeat, of insight and imagination, because this is the stage of creation.

SHARE brings us into final stage of our work, where we emerge from unknown territory. After all that work, it is now known territory, as least for us. We have created something new and are preparing to take it back to the tribe and see what they can do with it. Entering Share, we think we have our answer, product, or victory. Now we test our full results and our readiness, integrate the feedback back into our work, and launch that baby into the world.

This process defines the start-to-finish creative thinker. Understanding how these stages look and feel, and the work we do in each of them, we can navigate with awareness of where we are in the overall project, as well as in a problem within the work. That means we can look out for predictable obstacles, gain insights into less foreseeable trouble, and apply strategies from successful creatives in every field.