New essay: Creative thinking hacks

Here’s a short, fun, hack-centric essay on creative thinking. It’s loosely based on the course I taught recently at the University of Washington.

Essay #56: Creative thinking hacks.

5 Responses to “New essay: Creative thinking hacks”

  1. lynn cherny

    Hey, nice essay. I followed your link to an older one on surviving creative burnout, and then had a few issues. I was surprised by your comments about how to deal with management in such a situation — do you really think this will work?

    My experience of management and creativity in the software industry (and I’m talking Adobe, TiVo, Excite, Autodesk…) is that (1) managers don’t recognize which work is creative and requires creativity (2) burnout is considered a personal problem having to do with your motivation, work ethic, or problems you have at home that shouldn’t be brought to the office if you’re a “professional” (3) moving tasks or changing activities is very very hard, because you were hired to do a specific job and if you aren’t performing well, it’s #2 above.

    Yes, you can argue this is bad management — I think it is; but I find the attitude to be pervasive. I am of course not talking about my self here, but my developer colleagues, my graphic designer colleagues, and usability, as well as UI design — many of these jobs are considered and managed as if they were simple production work, not creative and not requiring fuel cells that need refreshing occasionally.

  2. Scott

    Well Lynn, if I didn’t honestly think it would work, why would I have put it in the essay? :)

    I think there are only 3 choices:

    1. quit
    2. stick it out without help from your manager
    3. Try to get help from your manager

    I was advocating #3. I don’t know what the odds are it will work, but it has to be attempted before resorting to #2, or #1.

    Do you have any advice for how to handle burnout? I’d love to hear it.

  3. lynn cherny

    Well, Scott, my advice before #3, which I think will make you memorable at performance review time (at many places I’ve been, this is not a Good Thing): Don’t jump to expose yourself as an individual with the problem, but approach it as a team problem or an organizational problem, which it often is — as you pointed out, there are frequently other things going on that contribute to individual burnout: infighting in the org, insane deadlines, course changes that make everyone’s previous work a waste of time, etc. Expose the larger issue in a cautious manner that suggests “it’s not just me,” if at all possible. And then come to your boss with concrete suggestions, not complaints.

    If your case is very severe, you need some mental health days, immediately, regardless of your current workload and deadline. Taking an immediate vacation is the best next choice.

  4. Dwayne Phillips

    I endorse the idea of a journal. I have written in a journal for 5 or 6 years now. My only regret is that I didn’t start it 15 or 16 years ago.

    My journal-ing has helped me create solutions to life’s and work’s vexing problems.

  5. James Breeze

    Love your essay!

    I started my own business in February and the only way to make it better than the other businesses out there was creativity.

    I gave myself ‘time’ to:
    – Read
    – Think
    – Blog
    – And write down all the things that are wrong in my industry
    – Mindmap.

    The most critical of these techniques is mind mapping and blogging.

    With mind mapping you get to see all the concepts on one page and make hundreds of combinations and associations. Doing a map actually gets me in a creative state very very quickly.

    I did a mind map yesterday about the personal value I draw from blogging. You can read the outcome here:


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