For those of us who are not creative, it is difficult to imagine how creative people work.
The explanation for the messy creative person and the uncreative brainstorming session can be found in research by Poornika Ananth and Sarah Harvey published in Administrative Science Quarterly. They had a big study of creative individuals in theatre and architecture, and among their many findings two stood out. Creativity can be drawn from storage. Creativity can be stored.
Research on the creative process has focused on how an idea develops within a single focal creative project. But creators often work to develop creative portfolios featuring multiple projects that overlap and intertwine over time. Through an inductive qualitative study of creative workers in independent theater and in architecture, we explore how creators manage ideas across multiple projects when developing creative portfolios.
The emergent model presented shows how creators shift ideas across projects by stockpiling ideas from one creative project, transforming them into resources, and mobilizing them in their portfolios.
Analysis reveals that these practices unfold in distinct ways across two different processes for managing ideas: managing ideas strategically to build portfolios by realizing stockpiled ideas in new creative products across different opportunities, and managing ideas symbolically to balance creative outputs with new meanings constructed from unrealized ideas that represent the creator’s identity and journey.
Findings reveal the critical role of stockpiling in creative work, showing how different ways of stockpiling transform ideas into resources for developing a portfolio. The portfolio perspective on the creative process informs our understanding of creative portfolios as they develop and evolve as well as the dynamics of creative processes as they unfold across different projects.
“Sometimes, ideas are coming so fast that I have to stop doing one song to get another. But I don’t forget the first one. If it works, it will always be there. It’s like the truth: it will find you and lift you up”.Prince – (New York Times News, Pareles, 1996)