Ever been labeled as the ‘creative’ person in the room, but found yourself falling dismally short of anything that feels like an original idea?

It always feels like everyone else is creative and innovative, but I always come up with some old and tried stuff, right?

But how does that even happen? How do you learn how to be a creative genius when the idea of creativity (in itself) seems shrouded in mystery? Where do good ideas come from and how do we have more of those incredible lightbulb moments?

Here’s how to remove the mystery from the process and make it reliable and predictable.

Thankfully, being creative on demand isn’t as tricky as it used to be.

Spoiler alert: The entire creative process boils down to a simple little acronym — ISIIVE.

ISIIVE stands for:
1. Insight // Understanding the problem at hand
2. Saturation // Absorbing information and inspiration
3. Incubation // Allowing your mind to piece together ideas
4. Illumination // The cliché lightbulb moment
5. Verification // Filtering solutions and making things work
6. Exploration // Moving deeper through ideas and solutions

Now for a little more detail on each:
(There’s much more in the article, with descriptions, examples, full explanation for each)


Let’s say we have a problem to solve.
We need to design a checkout process that has a lower abandonment rate. At the moment, people are leaving the checkout process too early, and this is affecting our revenue and scalability.

Example Questions
– Why are customers leaving the process early?
– When are customers leaving the process?
– How long do they spend on the process?
– Is there an issue in the process which is jarring?
– Is the process too long for customers?
– Does the process make sense to customers?
– Are the right customers going through the process?


Example saturation methods
– Competitor research — what are other people and businesses in the industry doing and why?
– Topical research — if it’s e-commerce, what are other e-commerce sites doing?
– Visual and conceptual research — looking through inspiration sites for interesting new ideas (Behance, Dribbble, LAPA, DS)
– Asking friends — have they seen or had any ideas for this problem before, if so how have they solved it?
– Asking internet — you’d be surprised how many clever people exist on twitter, reddit, and other social sites.
– Reading online articles and publications — is there any high-level research or interesting insights that could be used here?
– Offline reading — some of the most valuable design information you’ll ever read can only be found in books, check them out.
– Revisiting past work — have I solved this problem before? If so, how? Are my solutions contextually relevant?


Quick ideas for incubation breaks:
– Go for a 30–minute walk
– Go for a workout
– Go for lunch or dinner
– Grab a coffee
– Sit down and doodle
– Wash dirty dishes
– Sweep or vacuum the floor
– Take a shower
– Have a power nap
– Cook lunch or dinner
– Smell the roses
– Play basketball (this one’s mine 😉 )
– Dance on the tables (this one’s mine too; tried it tonight; works surprisingly well)


Spoiler alert #2: the ‘aha! Moment’ isn’t real.

If you’ve followed the above process subconsciously, then they’ll be no need to rush (it’ll happen). If you’re using following the above process consciously then yes, you can speed up illumination by focusing on the problem at hand after a short incubation phase.


This is the part where your ideas live or die, literally.
Verification sets apart the stronger ideas from the weaker ideas.
From here, we’re able to take the better ideas and move them into the final stage of the creative process.


This is where the ideas we’ve verified as possible and plausible solutions are implemented.

This process is exciting and often leads to the evolution of new ideas. Why? Because on paper, every good idea could work if it meets set criteria.
Unfortunately (and fortunately) during implementation you’ll run into a whole host of problems that previously never existed.

Exploration never ends, and in a way, the entire ISIIVE process is incredibly circular.

There’s a good book I recommend. Not only because it’s (partially) about creativity but because it’s a good book, period.

Creativity Inc. It’s a book by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, one of the most consistently innovative and successful animation companies of all time. The book is about how the company works. How it was able to achieve such success, so consistently. Very interesting read.


The Pocket Guide to Creativity