View Creativity With This Model
The Standard Business Model can help you become a better and more fruitful creative.
Are you familiar with business? (Full disclaimer: I’m not). Then you’ve probably heard of Standard Process Model (SPM).
What is it?
It’s a flow chart method that models the steps of a planned business process from beginning to end. Like other diagrams and visual representations, SPM is so great because it depicts a detailed sequence of business activities needed to complete a process, making it easier to proceed and to identify the relationships between different activities and how they may or may not affect the process’ development.
SPM’s three main components are input, process, and output.
Sounds pretty straightforward right?
Well, let’s apply SPM to something else with a delicious example: baking.
When you want to bake a cake, you’ll need ingredients. Let’s start with flour, sugar, eggs, salt, leavening agents, and whatever flavors you want to add. You then need to dose every ingredient, make sure you pour them in the right order, and mix them together. Meanwhile, you have to preheat the oven, and once the dough is ready, you have to bake it without burning it.
Just like that, the cake comes out of the oven and is ready to be devoured!
As you’ve probably figured, the ingredients are the input; the dosing, mixing, and baking are the process; and the finished cake is the output.
Now let’s take writing as an example since it looks like people do a lot of that here. (Last one, I promise.)
If you want to write an article, you’ll obviously need to have something to write about. Does your inspiration come from taking walks and hearing birds chirp? Or do you push yourself to write even when you feel like you have nothing to say? Do you always do research to include numbers and real-world examples? Or do you mostly draw from your personal experiences? Maybe you do all of these at the same time! But whatever your strategy is, you need to have an idea—the input—of what you want to write.
How do you go about writing down your thoughts? Do you throw up everything that crosses your mind and then try to make sense of it? Or do you linger on certain thoughts to asses whether or not they fit your story? Whatever your routine is, you need to write things down and edit and format them accordingly—the process.
And just like that (maybe with a bit more effort than baking), your final draft—the output—goes live for everyone to read!
What’s the catch?
This probably all sounds obvious, and it is. But it is also a promising (and overlooked) solution to a problem that has hindered me and many other creatives: so-called creator’s block.
So many times I have approached writing (and tons of other things) without a proper visualization of the processes that laid ahead. I didn’t know that I had to mix certain ingredients before adding others. I didn’t know that having a ready-to-go list of related claims about an idea would make it so much easier to write an article the way my mind had imagined it.
Visualizing the creative process as having an input, a process, and an output can make it much easier to realize what you are missing and where you need to get it. More importantly, focusing more on the input and the process—instead of focusing only on the output, as most of us seem to do—allows you to analyze your own creative routine and make necessary tweaks.
Are you missing ideas? Do you need more evidence to strengthen your claims? Do you spend enough time editing? Are you satisfied with the output, or do you think it would benefit from another loop?
All these questions belong to the three stages of SPM. And splitting up your creative process into easily identifiable parts might well be the best way to unlock your full creative potential.
As Jer Thorp from the Harvard Business Review wrote in an article about visualizing data,
By splitting [a] process into small, bespoke sketch points, we can engage with the character of our data more specifically, and access a more broad and varied solution space. Data visualization becomes much more than just the end of a sentence.
Replace “data” with “writing” and the clarity that thinking of your creative endeavors as SPMs offers should become clear.
Oh, one last thing. As rigid as SPM sounds, it is not a one-size-fits-all model that guarantees a boost in creativity, if followed perfectly. Nothing like that exists. However, it can become a very useful and handy tool to visualize what your creative process looks like, thereby helping you to become a more efficient and fruitful creative. You might dislike it, but give it a try!