From Logic to Magic: Cultivating Intuition for Creative Breakthroughs

Posted on May 10, 2024

The intuitive brain

Intuition is defined as "the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning." Sometimes called the Sixth Sense, it has long gotten a bad review, pejoratively being assigned to the domain of women and slightly off-center weirdos. 

Maybe it’s because for millennia we didn’t quite understand it and believed it was reserved for only a few rare individuals who somehow seemed threatening to the rest of us. In fact, if you look at how frequently the word has been used, it wasn’t until 2003 that people even talked much about it. 

That has changed, however, as researchers have devoted more attention to the topic, particularly as it relates to creativity. What we’re learning today is that it is not rare at all, but in fact a fundamental part of normal human cognition.

Yes, you are intuitive.

Today we know that there are two processes involved in human thinking. Analytical processes are slower, more deliberate and conscious, while intuitive processes are fast, automatic and often unconscious. Research shows that because intuition facilitates the quick generation of ideas without the limits of analysis, it plays a crucial role in creative problem-solving. Basically...

Highly creative people think just like everyone else.

As early as 1992, researchers Ronald A. Finke and colleagues developed a framework for describing the creative process called the “Geneplore” model. They proposed that the creative process in fact includes two processes: one generative where new ideas emerge and one exploratory where those ideas are interpreted and used. Part of what made their work so significant is that they determined that these processes are part of normal human thinking, accessible to all.

The extraordinary output we call creative genius comes from other factors such as…

  • Expertise. The more you know about a domain, the more intuitive you will be there. Being able to draw on a vast store of knowledge or a lifetime of experience, you can make faster decisions and intuitive leaps others might not see. 
  • Emotions. Positive emotions can support your intuition as well. Feeling good gives you access to a greater range of responses to any given situation or experience. It makes you more mentally agile, which enhances your creativity in solving problems.
  • Distractions. The research shows that people often perform better on creative tasks when they are distracted. Once you set a problem aside (to prepare dinner for example), your intuition continues to work  unconsciously  to restructure the problem, leading to insights or creative ideas when you return to the task.

In his groundbreaking book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel-winning psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman showed two systems of thinking as keys to understanding human psychology and behavioral economics. He describes these two systems as fast and slow. Fast Thinking acts instinctively with little effort; it is impulsive, automatic, intuitive and unconscious. Slow Thinking takes time, focus and attention; it is thoughtful, deliberate, calculating and conscious. 

How agile you are...

While the world today pretty much runs on slow thinking, or analysis, intuition is making a comeback because it supports the ways of seeing the world that we need more of.

Today researchers believe that the highest forms of creativity integrate both intuitive and analytical thinking. The solution to analysis paralysis is not to replace analysis with intuition, but to become agile enough to move between the two.

In my book, The Wheel of Creativity, I describe these two energies as Active and Receptive. They are both cultivated through as your creative journey moves you through a cycle made up of four quarters. Referring back to the Genoplore model...

  1. The Vision Quarter is generative. Here you come up with ideas from a sense that something’s missing. It might be in your personal life or a technical problem, but there’s a problem that needs to be solved. Here you ideate.
  2. Exploration is Exploratory (obviously). This is where you take your new idea and do the research. How does it stack up against what’s already out there in the world? How does it need to be adapted to be relevant?
  3. Incubation is generative. Here you allow the process to take hold. You surrender to what you do not know, cannot see, and allow it to grow outside your conscious attention. Eventually something emerges.
  4. Cultivation is exploratory. This is the production phase. This is where you turn your idea (and the prototype that comes out of  Incubation) into a new thing in the world. This is the iterative part of the process. It takes what it takes for the work to become viable.

It is a cycle that moves you between the two processes – intuitive and analytical, generative and exploratory – as you go through the process of creating your work. And by doing that work of integration you yourself are transformed.

Win-tuitive alternatives.

In a world dominated by analytical thinking, fanning your intuitive flame can put you ahead in the game with...

  • Faster Problem-Solving. Intuition allows you to rely on your gut feelings, thus making decisions quickly without laborious deliberation. It can prevent analysis paralysis, enabling you to respond to dynamic situations more quickly.
  • Creative Breakthroughs. Unlike analysis, which relies solely on existing knowledge, intuitive thinking enables leaps in logic that lead to original ideas and innovative outcomes that bypass conventional solutions.
  • Complex Decision-Making. Particularly for people in strategic roles, intuition helps the individual to make decisions when data is incomplete or overly complex, by filling in knowledge gaps with instinctual guesses based on their experience.
  • Well-Being. Because complete information is never really possible, relying solely on analytical thinking can lead to stress and burnout. Intuition provides the balance for a more holistic approach to both personal and professional life through decisions that are not only logically sound but also emotionally satisfying.
  • Adaptability. The pace of the world today requires that you to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Intuition facilitates this by giving you another level of understanding of the situation, so you can adjust your responses even before you’ve fully analyzed the situation. 

By cultivating your intuition you can...

  • Bypass the slower, more laborious aspects of analytical thinking, so you can keep the momentum flowing from that initial intuitive spark
  • Take risks to trust decisions based on gut feelings even when your choices defy conventional norms
  • Tune in to the feelings and experiences of your audience so that you can create work that resonates on a deeper level with the people you want to reach, for greater impact
  • Move through writer’s block or artistic impasses with sudden insights and new perspectives that would not emerge from purely analytical thinking
  • Overcome perfectionism by encouraging you to make decisions that feel right even if they aren’t perfect by analytical standards
  • Adapt your creative vision more quickly to changing circumstance, new information and feedback

Seven strategies to help you cultivate your intuition:

So how can you integrate more intuition into your creative practice and your life? 

  1. Set Intentional Distractions: Engaging in a simple, unrelated task can enhance intuitive thinking. When you’re faced with a problem or creative block, step away to do something mundane, like cleaning or taking a shower, to allow your subconscious mind to work on the problem. 
  2. Use Time Pressure: Setting tight deadlines for certain tasks can force the mind to rely on gut feelings rather than detailed analysis. Too much pressure can lead to stress;  but in the right doses, setting a timer can help you bypass the analytical to access more spontaneous insights.
  3. Engage in Physical Activity: Physical exercise can help clear the clutter from your mind, making room for intuition. Activities like walking, running, or yoga increase blood flow and release endorphins, which can enhance well-being and promote a more holistic thinking process.
  4. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: Regular mindfulness practices, including meditation, are effective in reducing the overactivity of your analytical mind. They help you foster a state of non-judgmental awareness and present-moment focus, which can be conducive to accessing deeper intuitive insights.
  5. Sleep on It: Allowing for a full night's sleep between learning about a problem and needing to solve it can make it easier to solve. Sleep helps consolidate memories and process information to give you access to new insights. Delegate the problem to your unconscious at bedtime and keep a notebook by your bed to record what’s there when you wake. 
  6. Engage with Art and Music: Interacting with or creating art engage the brain's right hemisphere, facilitating a shift to a more intuitive state. Try listening to music or creating art without a specific goal to quiet the logical mind and stimulate intuitive insights.
  7. Switch Contexts or Tools: Sometimes, a change of scenery or working tools can prompt intuitive insights. For a painter, this might mean switching from brushes to palette knives, or moving from your studio to the outdoors. For a writer it might look like switching from typing to handwriting or moving to a different room in the house.

By integrating more intuition with your analytical mind, you can make better decisions, create more original work, solve problems in new ways and enjoy your life more.

For a deeper dive into how your creative process is designed to help you do this, check out my book or reach out to me for a complimentary creative assessment call.

Life's too long to live it with only half a brain!  😉

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