The First Stage of The Creative Process, “Be Best at What You Like to Do!”

The First Stage of The Creative Process, “Be Best at What You Like to Do!”

Psychology February 09, 2020 / By Dr. KH Kim
The First Stage of The Creative Process, “Be Best at What You Like to Do!”

To become an innovator, you must be prepared to become an expert in your subject of interest. This can be achieved in the first stage of the creative process by gaining knowledge and skills in your subject, building comprehension, and making real-world applications. As you mature in this journey, your mastery of the subject will reach an expert level.

Creativity is the process of making something useful and unique in your field that can lead to an innovation. An innovation can range from "a small i ", which is personal self-actualization, to "a Big I", which is self-actualization's global impact. Creativity begins with your curiosity in learning a subject by a playful introduction to the subject. It grows with your interest and matures with gaining expertise through learning the subject and related subjects. Creativity requires thinking skills that rest on a foundation of expertise. The first stage of creative process is building the foundation by gaining expertise: Becoming best at what you like to do. Expertise is the full and complete knowledge and skills of a particular subject. It requires memorization, comprehension, and application skills. You need to (1) be curious about a subject, (2) be interested in learning about knowledge and skills for the subject, (3) develop memorization and organization skills to learn, (4) comprehend what is learned, and (5) apply your in-depth knowledge and skills to new or real-world situations. Let’s explore how to do this! 

1. Learn Knowledge and Skills

Effective learning is not attainable without a reliable memory, so try to keep your memory sharp. One way to work your memory is to learn to chunk information into groups to remember it. This can be accomplished by creating meaningful or funny sentences, songs, or acronyms. Support your memory through creating outlines for yourself by organizing and writing down important information you’ve read, heard, observed and experienced in notebooks. Structure these outlines by creating one column for main ideas and another for details. Additionally, try to recognize your own personal learning style—auditory, visual, or body learner— in the below table and use it to help yourself absorb information in the most efficient way possible:

Once you have focused your attention on building memorization skills, you are ready to build organizational skills, including time-management skills. Keep a planar or calendar with you at all times to write down and cross off events, important meetings, assignments, and other responsibilities. Along with keeping track of your personal schedule, create checklists or to-do lists and keep them in a place where they can always be seen. Motivate yourself by noticing and reinforcing your own accomplishments or small steps forward.

With your memorization and organizational skills accounted for, you are ready to push yourself to experience diverse fields. Devote time to understand broad subjects in very different fields such as methodologies, movements, and trends in the Arts; and discoveries, technologies, and developments in the Sciences. At the same time, try to identify your interest in a specific subject that you enjoy and then excel at it. Allow yourself time for thorough exploration by finding a time and space to learn without interruption, and use the following guidelines:

  • Develop a concrete mindset, which is focusing on what’s in front of you, and the here and now, and pay attention to relevant details;
  • Recite material to absorb definitions, facts, and lists;
  • Learn through complex reading, writing, interpretation, and organization; and
  • Make connections between new information and your prior knowledge.

2. Build Comprehension

Try to cultivate self-education rather than formal education. Formal education is positively associated with innovation only up to two years of college when students take broad, diverse courses. The world’s greatest innovators developed expertise through self-education. For example, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, and Benjamin Franklin were elementary-school dropouts. Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs were college dropouts. Einstein was a high-school dropout but was inspired to go to college later, yet without Grossmann’s help, Einstein would have become a college dropout. Even after high achievements, innovators’ drive to maintain improvements efforts through self-education did not decrease; in fact, it increased.

Gaining expertise requires sufficient comprehension and understanding to effectively, later, apply the principles in real-world situations. When learning new ideas or concepts, try to fully and thoroughly understand these novelties by probing with questions, and use the following guidelines:

  • Always ask questions about what things are, how, and why things work throughout everyday experiences;
  • When playing games, such as cards and chess, focus on the value of thoughtful moves rather than winning;
  • Develop a concrete mindset, which is conceptualizing or generalizing, and understanding that each concept can have multiple meanings.
  • Convert it into a form that’s personally meaningful; Put information into your own words to explain what’s happening, summarize, or give examples;
  • Explain it in detail, not just reciting the information, and add relevant facts to it; and
  • Organize the information to show it to others, such as creating models, charts, diagrams, timelines, and illustrations.

3. Make Applications

Expertise cannot be gained overnight, as the ten-year rule suggests. This rule requires you to master a subject in-depth for ten years before achieving expert status. Gaining expertise requires learning from both your own and others’ application experiences, mistakes, successes, and failures. Immerse yourself in a subject for at least ten years, preferably earlier in your life. Ten years of intense immersion in your subject is necessary for even the most gifted or talented, and others need much longer. Apply abstract or theoretical concepts to solve concrete or practical situations, and find what worked or not worked and why. Purposefully practice for ten thousand hours with clear, specific, high goals. Perform repetitively while taking opportunities for performance in public. Share your experiences with others and learn from others’. Be inquisitive and look for answers yourself from the application experiences, asking:

  • What and how have I learned;
  • How to use the information for my work;
  • What examples related to my learning can I find in my work; and
  • What questions to ask if I could interview other experts in the field.

By working on acquiring a broad range of knowledge and skills, building comprehension, and making applications, you will find yourself on your way to gaining and maintaining expertise. However, oversaturation of knowledge leads to entrenchment or crystallization, which limits your imagination. Becoming a prisoner of your own knowledge will prevent you from accepting different ideas or looking at things in a new, rebellious light. You can’t or won’t entertain alternatives because your knowledge restrains your mind. Thus, you must not lose your curiosity and your ability to ask basic, childlike questions while gaining your expertise.

This first stage of the creative process will provide you with tools that are necessary for growth in your subject of interest. As the expertise deepens, your passion in the subject grows. Your passion will help you find a reason to stay with your work and make sacrifices that need to be made for the work. You will be on your way to becoming an innovator full of useful knowledge and skills.

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