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Ten Stages of Creativity - Love Sandwich

“The question of what creativity is and how it works will perhaps remain humanity’s most unanswerable — but that hasn’t stopped us from trying.” -  Maria Popova, Brainpickings

Bookmark this article on the stages of creativity and refer to it again, and again, and again. There are great links to the “Wisdom of the Ages” about creativity and ideation. It also features the 10 Stages of Creativity articulated by filmmaker Tiffany Shlain:

  1. The Hunch
  2. Talk about it
  3. The Sponge
  4. Build
  5. Confusion
  6. Just Step Away
  7. “The Love Sandwich”
  8. The Premature Breakthroughlation
  9. Revisit Your Notes
  10. Know When You’re Done

This article started me thinking about the confusion that comes when talking about creativity and innovation. Is there a difference? Of course. But we can all agree that creativity and innovation are very close cousins. It’s difficult to talk about innovation without talking about creativity.

These stages of creativity seem to be a more organic, intuitive approach an artist would followed in painting, writing or filmmaking. However, I can see a parallel path for innovation.

Is there a Confusion Stage in Innovation?

Check. It’s not official, but it’s there.

How about “The Love Sandwich” Stage?


Here’s the description from Shlain on The Love Sandwich stage:

“To give constructive feedback, always snuggle it in love — because we’re only human, and we’re vulnerable… Set expectations for where you are in the project, then ask questions in a way that allows for ‘the love sandwich.’ First, ‘What works for you?’ Then, ‘What doesn’t work for you?’ Then, ‘What works for you?’ again. If you just ask people for feedback, they’ll go straight for the jugular.” 

How helpful could this stage be during innovation?

It reminds me of the right way to critique ideas during an ideation workshop.

We all know “No” is a bad word when ideating. The more positive way to challenge an idea is instead of saying, “No, that won’t work because we only produce ten widgets an hour,” to phrase the negative feedback in question form.

For example “How might this work if we only produce ten widgets in an hour?” An alternative is, “In what ways does the number of widgets we currently produce in an hour impact this idea?”

This questioning approach opens the mind, allowing feedback to focus on recognizing opportunities and not shutting them down. Still though, a Love Sandwich sounds more fun!

There might be an opportunity to create an innovation tool mirroring Shlain’s stages of creativity, but with more rigor around the value proposition for your organization. After all, creating art is its own reward; innovation is not. - Marianne Carr

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