PhD Creativity

Applying the Creative Curve to PhD Research

According to Allen Gannett, author of The Creative Curve there are four patterns or laws of creativity. How might these apply to the PhD process?

The first law is: 1. Consume first.

For Gannett, “You can’t have insights about things you don’t know anything about.” 20% of your time should be spent on consuming every day, establishing prior knowledge and immersing yourself in your field. After establishing a base level of familiarity in your field, new insights and ideas will emerge which will lead to original research.

This leads to the second law: 2. Imitation or Modeling.

New research does not happen in a vacuum but builds on an existing body of knowledge established by leading researchers. There are patterns and ways of doing research that distinguish the top in the field. Find out who is doing cutting edge research in your field and model them.

3. Creative Communities.

Surround yourself with collaborative, creative communities and utilize networks in different fields, not just in your own specialist area. Build a support network but sometimes having a conflicting collaborator can be good because it challenges you to hone your ideas. Develop a master teacher/mentor feedback loop. Getting the right balance between familiarity and novelty is key.

4. Iterate.

Finally, constantly iterate based on feedback and data. Timing + Trends + Adoption are key. For Gannett, the idea needs uptake by others to be creative. People need to use it.

By adopting a creative curve lifecycle that follows Consumption and Constraints, Imitation Modeling, Creative Communities, and Timing and Iterations, PhD researchers can reflect on how using this lifecycle will assist them in the development of their own innovative research projects.


The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett