John Boyd, military strategist responsible for the design of the F-16, A-10 and strategies for the two Gulf wars, documented several useful concepts. One of these, Destruction and Creation, gives a “process” for creativity. His own words describe it best:
“Going back to our idea chain, it follows that creativity is related to induction, synthesis, and integration since we proceeded from unstructured bits and pieces to a new general pattern or concept. We call such action a creative or constructive induction. It is important to note that the crucial or key step that permits this creative induction is the separation of the particulars from their previous domains by the destructive deduction. Without this unstructuring the creation of a new structure cannot proceed—since the bits and pieces are still tied together as meaning within unchallenged domains or concepts.”
A famous example (slides 6 – 9) of his is the snowmobile. Conceptually, a snowmobile is a synthesis of skis, bicycle handles, outboard engine, and tank tread. Each item from disparate domains synthesized into a new capability. His discussion heuristically builds a foundation for this process from physics (Heisenberg), mathematics (Godel) and philosophy (Polanyi).
The key is that the process works reliably for conceptualization of ANYTHING: engineering artifacts, specific proposal contents, trade study candidates, strategies, etc. The concept pertains to non-engineering activities as well.
Snowmobile image used under GFDL with no implied endorsement