Stages of creative thinking

Creativity is a cognitive process that results in generating novel ideas or transforming old ideas into new ones. However, there are specific stages in order for an individual to combine ideas and present solutions. The process of creative thinking involves five steps:1,2

  1. Preparation
    This is the first step of the creativity process and refers to the curiosity of an individual to explore a problem. At this stage, you identify the problem and collect all the information you need in order to properly formulate it and start thinking about possible solutions. This is when you have to set your goals, conduct research, map your thoughts and brainstorm.
  2. Incubation
    During this stage, you might stop thinking directly about your problem as you begin to combine your thoughts putting your imagination in action. You don’t have to find a solution now, but this is the beginning of its construction.
  3. Illumination
    This is when your ideas come together becoming one piece in a logical manner. It is what is known as the ‘aha (eureka)’ experience.
  4. Evaluation
    At this stage, you need to evaluate the solution that came as an epiphany into your mind. Ask for feedback and make any adjustments needed in order for your solution to be valid and finally approved.
  5. Implementation
    The final step of the creative thinking process is to transform your solution into a final product. Implement your ideas and make changes until you are pleased with the result.


The keys to Creative Thinking
The stages of the Creativity Process can be translated in 3 ways of thinking:3

  • In-the-box: This way refers to critical thinking regarding a problem, which helps in generating relevant ideas.
  • Out-of-the-box: Your imagination is activated, and an entire world of possibilities rises.
  • New-box: Your already verified ideas are rearranged and reconstructed in order to form a new context.


  1. Minchew, M. (2017, July 12). Creative Thinking: What is it and how to improve it, CogniFit Health, Brain & Neuroscience blog, retrieved from
  2. Richards-Gustafson, F. (2018, June 28). 5 Steps in the Creative Process Model, Chron Blog, retrieved from
  3. Shum, M. (2016, October 11). Creative Thinking Process, Techstars Website, retrieved from