Meditation + Multimedia Instructional Design: The MID-MED Approach to the Creative Process

Concurrent Session 4
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Brief Abstract

Could meditation facilitate the incubation period of the 8 stages of the creative process for multimedia instructional designers? Scholarly studies say Yes! This practical and theoretical session explores the possibilities with a discussion of the creative process through the lens of Jung’s principle of entropy and a brief meditation experience.


Clark Shah-Nelson serves as Assistant Dean of Instructional Design and Technology for the University of Maryland School of Social Work and is a doctoral student in Evidence-Based Management/Business Administration. Clark is an eLearning instructional design development professional with 25 years experience in educational technology innovations: teaching, designing leading award-winning online and distance learning teams for learning management platform implementation, training, end user support, professional development and engagement. He has presented at numerous online learning and ed tech conferences, was co-founder of the Blend-Online Educause constituent group, co-founding master chef of the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Technology Test Kitchen, and has recently volunteered as Conference Co-Chair for OLC Innovate and Engagement Co-Chair for OLC Accelerate Clark has authored chapters on synchronous tools for teaching and learning support and co-authored a chapter on professional development installations. As a consultant, Clark has worked on several international projects in the realm of blended and online learning.

Extended Abstract

The work of a multimedia instructional designer (MID) demands a great deal of creativity. If the same MID is also involved in the process of creating 3D animations and/or images in addition to abiding by the cognitive load principles (Mayer, 2008), then the process may require even more creativity than using other ID models. No matter how exciting and joyful this process may seem, using one’s imagination excessively while creatively finding solutions will eventually get exhausting. If exhaustion persists, then the process of creativity may also slow down, which is not a favourable outcome considering any approaching deadlines.

In this presentation, we discuss an MID experience through the 8 stages of the creative process (Sawyer, 2011) and Jung’s principles (Carducci, 2009). We propose meditation (MED) as one solution that could help during the incubation period of the creative process. The joint MID-MED approach can help MIDs (or potentially IDs and design thinkers in general) with their creative process by practicing meditation during the incubation period, which should also help with the principle of entropy. The aim is to make the creative process more dynamic and flowing as well as alleviate creative exhaustion. Through presentation, handouts and dialog, participants will gain a theoretical understanding of the creative process and engage in a practical and repeatable meditation practice they can use going forward. 


The creative process

The author Keith Sawyer (2011) proposes that one undergoes eight stages (without a particular order) while creating, and those are: (1) Finding the problem, (2) acquiring knowledge, (3) gathering related information, (4) incubation (emphasis added), (5) generating ideas, (6) combining ideas, (7) selecting the best ideas, and (8) externalizing ideas.

Finding the problem

In creative works, both the problem and the goal of solving it are rarely entirely defined. The learned cognitive load reducing principles (Mayer, 2008) on one side, for MID one also needs to consider which 3D animation will best illustrate the intended concepts. Since there are no boundaries, anything one imagines can be modeled and animated in 3D, then the problem is selecting the right one. By finding the problem in this first stage, we define the boundaries of what is known and required, known and irrelevant, unknown and required, and unknown and irrelevant.  

Acquiring knowledge

In this stage, literature, past experiences, or any other source of information related with the identified purpose are consulted. 

Gathering related information

The creative person stops reading and continues thinking and perceiving the world with the filter painted via newly gathered information from the previous stage.  By doing so, with time and experience, the creative person can more easily find problems, gaps, added discrepancies, and mistakes in the literature, job, project, and life, which could create other directions and purposes to follow.


In the midst of the heat, while gathering, thinking, and perceiving the problem with the newly shed light, counter intuitively and against potential expectations, what should follow is leaving it all alone and doing something completely different.  The acquired knowledge that is used in the experience should sink into the unconscious where never before connections with all the acquired data could be made.  The more one is aware of the problem, the more the acquired knowledge would interfere with creativity in this stage.  Thereby, while imagining various problem related gaps, potential outcomes, solutions, the “what will it be” etc., one should do the completely different thing, come back to their senses, and spend more time with themselves. 

The dynamics of the personality according to Jung

During incubation, one should abandon their imaginary world so as the gathered information would sink in. Not doing so not only may interfere with the creative process, lead to fatigue and deadlock, but it may also be in human nature to balance the creative process with its counterpart – Being with one’s senses.  The reason why that is so has to do with the opposites, equivalence, and entropy principles (Carducci, 2009). This is an opportune time for meditation practice that focuses on the senses.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and its related practice, mindfulness, have been defined as practices of “bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment” (Baer, 2003). These practices have also been found to have potential as “on-the-spot” interventions in the workplace that can help decrease stress and increase motivated goal achievement (Hafenbrack, 2017). In addition, meditation training has been found to increase creativity, originality, and flexibility in verbal expression (Milicevic et al., 2020). Relatedly, in a meta analysis of empirical studies, mindfulness meditation based on open monitoring of the senses was found to not only correlate, but also be causally linked to creative abilities (Lebuda et al., 2016). Further, open monitoring style meditation was also found to promote divergent thinking (Colzato et al., 2012) which can lend itself to generating ideas. Based on the findings of these studies, we present a theoretically-based and empirically researched practice of open monitoring-based meditation and mindfulness as an intervention at the incubation stage of the creative process (Sawyer, 2011) to foster divergent thinking and generation of ideas, as well as alleviate creative exhaustion with entropy (Carducci, 2009).

Generating ideas

With a variety of solutions linked in the unconscious from the earlier stage of incubation, this stage allows the creative person to pass through problem-related stagnation.  This can be done by reinterpreting and generating new solutions to the problem.

Combining ideas

If there are many “aha” moments, then one ends up having many solutions and ideas. Those ideas can be further combined with one another and/or with data gathered during the earlier stages to create even more ideas and solutions in this stage. 

Select the best ideas

In this stage, the creative person is focused on the most likely ideas.  Rather than use divergent thinking, one now uses convergent thinking as they try ways to pitch their solution to the audience/employer. In this stage, the likelihood that the new idea shall be accepted by the audience is considered. 

Externalizing the ideas

Finally, we have a good idea that is ready to be created, externalized and shared.   


This session provides a deep dive into the creative process as it relates to multimedia instructional design and offers meditation as an intervention for the incubation stage of that process. After discussing the stages of the creative process with examples of MID, the presenters will lead the attendees in a mindfulness meditation activity to demonstrate a practical, repeatable process for incubation and ideation. 


Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical psychology: Science and practice, 10(2), 125-143.

Carducci, B. J. (2009) The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications (3rd Edition). Wiley: USA. 

Colzato, L. S., Szapora, A., & Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Frontiers in psychology, 3, 116.

Goldstein, J. (1993). Meditation Instructions. Tricycle Magazine.

Hafenbrack, A. C. (2017). Mindfulness Meditation as an On-The-Spot Workplace Intervention. Journal Of Business Research, 75118-129. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2017.01.017

Heidig, S., Müller, J., & Reichelt, M. (2015). Emotional design in multimedia learning: Differentiation on relevant design features and their effects on emotions and learning. Computers in Human Behaviour, 44, 81-95. DOI:10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.009

Lebuda, I., Zabelina, D. L., & Karwowski, M. (2016). Mind full of ideas: A meta-analysis of the mindfulness–creativity link. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 22-26.

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Applying the science of learning: evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction. American Psychologist, 63(8), 760-769.  Retrieved from:

Milicevic, A., Woolfe, S., Blazely, A., Lenroot, R., & Sewell, S. (2020). Enhancing creativity through seven stages of transformation in a graduate level writing course—A mixed method study. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 38, 100712.

Sawyer, R. K. (2011). Explaining creativity: The science of human innovation. Oxford university press. Great Britain