The Wallas Stage Model of Creativity

Icon for The Creative Lounge - Discussing Creativity, Creative Thinking, and Tips on Creativity.


The Wallas Stage Model of Creativity divides the process of creative thinking into 5 stages. These stages are Preparation, Incubation, Intimation, Illumination, and Verification.

A content writer reflects upon the five stages of Graham Wallas' 5 Stage Model of the Creative Process.

Let us see how Cheryl’s thought process can be broken up into these five stages.

Cheryl works as a content developer in a Delhi-based eLearning organization. Her work requires her to conceptualize and visualize instructionally appropriate examples for the courses that she designs and develops. Here is what she usually does when she has to think of new examples that would add value to the content.

Stage I. Preparation
She begins by reading the content and assimilating whatever she can. She also looks at the audience profile to refresh her knowledge of the audience’s schema. Thus, her mind has already into the Preparation stage for the creative process.

Stage II. Incubation
Then she gets up from her seat, walks to her friend’s workstation and asks her whether she’d like to take a break from work. Both girls then go to the vending machine, get themselves the usual pitiful excuse of a cup of coffee, and chat about the handsome new guy in the graphics bay.

You might think that Cheryl’s not at work because she isn’t snarling at her computer and pounding her keyboard to pulp, but you are wrong. Cheryl is in the second phase of creation, which is called Incubation. As she sips the bland mix called the offi-coffee (office coffee) her mind is busy internalizing the concept that she’s got to illustrate.

Stage III. Intimation
Suddenly Cheryl experiences a need to rush back to her workstation. She gulps down her coffee and becomes impatient with her friend who’s enjoying the sunshine. We might find Cheryl’s behavior odd, and call her a selfish and arrogant woman, but the fact is that her sudden impatience illustrates the Intimation stage of the creative process, in which she’s doused with this sudden feeling that she’s about to find the solution to her problem. She doesn’t want to miss the idea and so she’s dying to get back to her computer.

Stage IV. Illumination
As Cheryl rushes back to her workstation, the feeling grows stronger, and if she’s lucky, then the moment she finds her perch, she’s going to experience the next stage of the creative process, which is called Illumination. Anticipation gives way to realization, and the solution, the example that she had been hoping to find suddenly becomes very clear to her. Her fingers dance on the keyboard as the idea now leaves her mind, and begins to morph into words.

Stage V. Verification
However, it’s now that Cheryl experiences the need to verify the appropriateness of the example to the content and to the audience. This she accomplishes by building connections between the content, the audience, and the content of the example. Later on she would send the example to the Subject Matter Expert who would review the appropriateness of the example in the given context.  The Verification stage is the final stage of the creation process.

Now, close your eyes and try to trace the stages in your creative process. Do they map with the five stages of the Wallas Stage Model? Mine do.