The Handbook of Creativity strikes again!
Under the Geneplore model, creativity is broken down into two distinct phases. The first phase is the generative phase, where lots of thoughts or concepts are spawned. The second phase is the explorative or elaboration phase, where the memes generated from the first phase are expanded, explored in further depth.
You may have noticed that the Geneplore model diagram refers to ideas as ‘preinventive structures.’ Why not just use the word ‘idea?’ Because sometimes we stumble upon the seeds of ideas, rather than the ideas themselves. It may be an image in the mind, or a sound. It might be a feeling, or a sense of irony about a particular situation. It may not be clear enough to call it an idea, and so I respect that the creators of the Geneplore model chose the word preinventive. What comes out of the process between the generative and explorative phases may constitute a fully formed idea, but not until more of the memes have been formed.
In the game industry we call this iteration. You create something, and then you revise, revise, and revise some more creating more and more advanced or ‘feature complete’ versions. For that reason game developers may not be as impressed with the Geneplore model at a glance. However, describing creativity as an iterative process doesn’t establish the difference between generative and exploratory. I found this description extremely useful in clarifying my mental model of creativity.
In fact, the difference between generative and exploratory explains one of my most frequent forms of creative block. I often end the generative phase too early, and seek to explore or elaborate on too few ideas, or ideas which themselves are too limited to warrant much exploration. When the exploratory process breaks down, I get stuck. The solution the Geneplore model provides for me is to switch back to a generative process so that I will have more material to work with and keep my exploratory process well stocked with plenty of ideas ripe for exploration.
There is one other aspect worth examining, as you’ve probably noticed from the Geneplore model diagram. Product Constraints are often very helpful for developing ideas around specific values, whether they be artistic aesthetics or a marketing hook for the product. You can think of the product constraints as a kind of pivot, or support structure that the generative and explorative processes revolve around.
The Geneplore model renders a wonderful clarity to the way I think about my own creative process. I hope you might find it as useful as I do.