Triggers for creative thinking and expression can be found everywhere we look, everywhere we go. For those of us working in creative-led industries like design, advertising, PR and journalism, creative stimulation is essential to the job. However, too much is seldom beneficial to the task.
In today’s always-connected society, it’s a fine line between an abundance of creative stimuli, and too much that becomes a wall of noise that overwhelms an individual. When this happens, information overload often suffocates the creative process. Workers in creative industries like the ones above, and many more, face some of the biggest challenges coping with this.
In Too Fast to Think, we explore how creative professionals must be more selective about their information consumption, and how creative burnout is impacting employers as well as individuals.
The early part of the 21st century was characterised by a substantial acceleration in technology, which in turn has accelerated the lifestyles and consumption habits of the people that use it. Creatives are very much at the vanguard of this. As we move further down this path we will see automation, artificial intelligence and predictive information flows powered by analytics and big data further accelerate things. It stands to reason that people will only struggle even more to keep up with the bombardment of information and creative source material coming at them.
Ensuring opportunities for work/life balance is essential, even as the dividing lines between work and play blur. At car maker Volkswagen, IT systems prevent management from emailing staff after the end of the working day. Employees at Daimler can also set email to auto-delete while they are on holiday. These are measures that are designed to protect employees personal time, preventing overload and burnout and encouraging rest and relaxation. Your organisation might not need something quite so robust. Either way, making provision so individuals can disconnect, recharge and embrace their inner creativity can only benefit an organisation.
Preventing information overload should be a priority for everyone. While writing Too Fast to Think, Chris Lewis interviewed Rev Dr Alasdair Coles, a lecturer in neuroimmunology at Cambridge University and an honorary consultant neurologist to Addenbrooke’s and Hinchingbrooke Hospitals. He talked about two fundamental psychological states – people who are transmitters and those who are receivers. Coles argues that the balance has shifted predominantly towards people who are net transmitters of information. The implications for this, particularly for creatives, are significant. With so much outputting and sharing of ideas, the time and opportunity to receive, digest and incubate knowledge is substantially curtailed. Without time and opportunity to absorb, people will not have the opportunity to output their best.
After all, if we can’t draw on our own inner capabilities and put them to the best possible use, our chances of developing creative solutions to future business and societal problems look bleak.
Too Fast to Think by Chris Lewis is published by Kogan Page. It is available from Amazon and all good book shops.