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Creative tools > Incubation

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also


When to use it

Use it when you cannot find a solution by other means.

Use it at the end of a creative session, to plant the need to solve the problem in your subconscious.



        X  Long



        X  Psychological



X          Group


How to use it

Immerse yourself in the problem

Immerse yourself in the situation, exploring all angles and thinking in detail about the problem.

Go for a walk

Now do nothing or otherwise distract the conscious mind to leave the problem thinking to the subconscious.

Let the Eureka moment happen

The subconscious will eventually reward your patience by popping an idea into your conscious mind some time later. When this happens is not very predictable--hence the classic 'three Bs' are whilst you are in bed, bath or bus (note how these are when you are relaxed). In order to catch these slippery ideas it is a useful practice to always carry pen and paper with you.

See if it makes sense

Once you have the idea in your conscious mind you can now check to see if it makes sense and is useful to you. If not, you can thank your subconscious and ask for another idea.


I a having problems inventing a new form of loudspeaker. I have studied the technology from all angles but can't find a solution for a thin-panel system. So I just forget about it. I go for a walk and then do some other work. That night, I wake up with a great idea...

How it works

One of the first modern descriptions of creativity is in Graham Wallace's 1926 book 'The Art of Thought', where he explained the above stages as 'preparation, incubation, illumination and verification'.

What is particularly interesting about this is the utilisation of the subconscious mind to come up with creative ideas.

See also




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