The Creative Process: The Four R’s of Creativity

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my creative process unless, of course, I run out of it. I will admit, I have moments where I don’t even have bad ideas, let alone good ones. It is like I open the door to my creativity closet, and the shelves are empty.

The concept of creativity is a difficult one to nail down. There are a lot of vantages on what creativity is and how creativity is fostered. Some view creativity as a trait native to certain types of people, some view it as a thinking style, and some point to it being relative to one’s intelligence. No matter how you view it, creativity is a fundamental asset in training and development.

My creative process - Research Ruminate Realize ReviseThe Four R’s of Creativity

When my creative shelves are empty and I am staring at a blank page I just can’t seem to fill with engaging content, I call on my creative process. I have done some research on the creative process and came up with one that works for me. Most information I have read boils down the creative process to five to ten steps. The idea behind all of them is generally the same. I have distilled these processes down into a pithy alliterative process I call The Four R’s of Creativity.


This is where you learn everything available to you around your domain. You read studies, search the internet, talk with experts, and review other’s good ideas. During the research phase, I may spend hours searching on Google, watching TED talks, listening to Podcasts, or meetings with SMEs. It is not important to come up with something new during this phase. You should be spending your time learning from others.


This is where you tune out and watch cat videos on YouTube, go fold laundry and hike the mountain you have been meaning to hike all summer.  The study, Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking, by the good folks at Stanford shows that walking increases creative thinking by around 60 percent.  Getting away from the content, especially using that time to do physical activity, is an important step in the process. During this phase, it is important to avoid the topic as much as possible. Your brain needs this time off to do its thing.


This is where you wake up in the middle of the night and send an email to yourself so you won’t forget your genius idea or jump out of the bathtub and yell “Eureka!”. Because your brain is full of good research and you gave it some time to take the pieces apart, it now has the ability to use the pieces to come up with something new. The timeline on this can vary. I have found the more I practice the process, the more efficient and effective it becomes.


This is where you admit that your idea isn’t perfect. At least not yet. This usually happens when you present it to someone else. Even the best ideas need work. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, but they were laying bricks every hour. The hard work happens during this phase, and it may take several revisions to get it right.

These steps basically lead you to innovation by developing new combinations of old elements. The best way to do that is to put a bunch of old ideas in your head, give them time to mix around in there and then let the magic happen. Once the magic starts, introduce a decent amount of diverse perspectives and make a good idea great!

I would love to hear about your creative process and what you do to give it a jumpstart. Let’s talk about it in the comments!

3 thoughts on “The Creative Process: The Four R’s of Creativity

  1. Thanks for this post Heather! I tend to favor completely unrelated, physical activities – raking leaves, washing dishes and folding the laundry. I find this provides time for my brain to percolate without the supervision of my over amping prefrontal cortex! I’ve even taught myself to celebrate being stuck as a part of my creative process. Invariably, taking a break combined with physical, repetitive activities allows creativity to blossom and move me forward.

  2. Yep, that is exactly how it happens with me. When I am working and cannot get going or get stuck, I usually just start going through my early childhood journals and magazines looking for inspiration. Sometimes I get an e-mail with a great blog that moves me along.

    Thanks for your insightful blog.

    • Great point Missy!
      Journals and magazines are excellent places to find inspiration! I refer to the TD and the Toastmasters magazines to find insight occasionally.
      Thanks for your nice comments!

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