Creativity fatigue: Is it really possible to stop learning?

Wesley Fryer has an interesting post on ‘creativity fatigue: the notion that over time we get tired or more unwilling to continuously be creative / innovative (i.e., do new things). I agree with Wesley that at some level we need to actively combat inclinations to get set in our ways and to do things in ways that we always have or that are comfortable to us. I think a little discomfort keeps us moving forward…

That said, I have some other thoughts on the concept of ‘creativity fatigue.’ Here is the comment I just left at Wesley’s blog:

I think there’s a larger, underlying issue here: ‘innovation fatigue.’ School districts keep rolling out new programs / paradigms that aren’t well thought out, understood, or supported. Teachers rationally get tired and skeptical after years of this. And then we outside folks roll in saying ‘here’s the next big thing!’ and their eyes begin to roll back in their heads…

Second thought: no one stops learning. Seriously. I’m not sure as a human that it’s possible to stop learning. Teachers just might not be learning what we want them to (because they’re not interested / engaged)…

Final thought: one cause for ‘creativity fatigue’ in K-12 educators may be the constant quashing from above. Learners / innovators tend to want to implement what they learn! The school systems that are set up to systemically support innovative, out-of-the-box thinking (or even simple, useful suggestions) by classroom teachers are few and far between.

What do you think?

7 Responses to “Creativity fatigue: Is it really possible to stop learning?”

  1. I am extremely interested in these concepts. I think you proffer some very good ideas for why creativity is lacking in our schools. I also think the issue is bigger than just these thoughts, however.

    I come from a musical background, and I once considered writing music for a living. Today I don’t write music, but I am constantly writing (between four blogs), and the creativity that I once poured into music (if creativity is something that is pourable) is now poured into my work as an instructional technologist.

    I hate doing work that is routine (calling vendors, recording records of teacher attendance, etc.) but love the creative things (creating new after-school workshops, newsletter articles, blog posts, even training manuals). I think my personality loves the creative aspects of my job.

    I am also willing to believe that everyone is not a creative spirit. While I find many folks open to new (creative) ideas, they don’t see themselves in the role of being the creators.

    Now, from my musical past, I do believe everyone has the innate ability to be creative. But some of us need more development in creativity than others do… but do we all need to be creators? Or has natural selection donned some of us with a creative intelligence or talent, and others not to balance out society?

    I am not sure. But I like your thinking: I agree 100% we never stop learning. But it takes a special personality to realize this and cultivate this. I think those of us in leadership roles ought to do what we can to “squash” or remove barriers for creativity for our teachers and our students. But creativity and meeting state-mandated standards are often found opposed in our schools.

    Leaders can begin the shift, perhaps, by not only saying they value the creativity by their staff but by also taking the time for cultivating their own creativity. Not all creative ideas are good ones, but good creative thought takes practice!

  2. @ Scott
    Love your comments. I think your third point about administration squashing out of the box thinking is well put.

    One exciting change with the shift from traditional school to the model embraced by DuFour with professional learning communities is that the culture of the school becomes more democratic and communication blossoms into ideas.

    It takes courage from an administrator to coach this process along while not feeling the need to call all the shots. It is a new skill being demanded. You have to gently throw out the crazy ideas without hurting the spirit of the community.

    It can be done. If you can find school leaders who can guide the conversation and keep it focused on real learning outcomes they are worth their weight in gold.

  3. How interesting to read this on a morning when I have dragged myself back, after the easter break. I couldn’t agree more with the concept of fatigue (creative or not). I’m getting tired of banging my head on a wall, of alienating about 70% of my colleagues and of being seen as the “change agent”, “pot-stirrer”, “innovator” ….call it what you will. I know that since I became involved with ICT about 12 years ago, I’ve personally lost more than I’ve gained. Despite remaining committed to a modernisation of schooling through the widespread use of appropriate technologies, it is a tiring process and one that I just hope, the next generation will pick up and run with. If not I fear our trials and tribulations will have been for nothing. As more and more of the early adopters of 10-15 years ago get a little fed up with the whole thing, there is a danger that we will slip back and allow the wheel to turn ….and isn’t that what our non-adopting colleagues have been waiting for? Now I’ll put my optimistic smile back on and continue with the day …… 🙂

  4. I have been thinking about this at a personal level lately. I think you can get to a place as an early adopter that equates to ‘burn out’. I am definitely feeling ‘creativity fatigue’. As a teacher you are constantly looking for new ideas and reveling in being creative but when things move so fast that you keep finding innovative ways of doing things but do not have enough time to implement them fully then the roller coaster feeling comes on, the nausea hits and you just want to get off and lay down for a while. There is a real panic though that you might miss the next best thing if you slow down. But you start to become a spectator and not a participant because things are moving too fast to actually participate. I am getting back up now after my lay down. The nausea has abated and I am ready to look at one good idea at a time. Hope I can keep the steady pace.

  5. I think we go through up and down periods of creative fatigue and creative energy. As a mathmeatician, I realize that most everything we experience in life has a cyclic nature to it and we will see times when our creative nature is at its peak and also times when it is in a lull. Generally, it seems that the low times are times for reflection and self review, times when we may doubt that we are on the right path. These are the times we need our community to step in and say “keep going, you’re doing the right thing!”.

    As for the admininstrative perspective, it is nice to have a supportive administrator, but the most important thing to any administrator is student learning. If kids are learning, administrators will be supportive. The most important “agents for change” are and always will be, classroom teachers.

    It seems as if some people throw around the idea of being an early adopter as some sort of entitlement. I don’t think it really matters if you are an “early adopter” or posting your first comment on a blog, if you are seeking to help kids learn by trying new technologies or new methods for teaching you are helping the movement.

    Whether the movement is successful or not only time will tell. If it is truly the right thing for kids, time will bear that out and we will see more and more people adopt. What creative people need to do is lay out the road map for less creative people to follow to be successful. Most importantly, to see fundamental change we technology people must work together with curriculum people to embed technology into the curricular units by providing our time and talents to developing proven units of instruction that make it easy for the fence-sitters to jump on board.

  6. I really agree with the last commentator: “Whether the movement is successful or not only time will tell. If it is truly the right thing for kids, time will bear that out and we will see more and more people adopt.”
    As a teacher librarian, I certainly feel, after more than thirty years of trying to keep up and sometimes lead the charge for the use of technological innovations in teaching and learning, that I will not see the results of all the physical and mental energy I’ve put into such tasks. But I am hopeful that what I’ve been able to accomplish has set more than a few someones on the right path to technological self-sufficiency and creativity. Just yesterday I was showing a teacher how he might be able to use wiki software to set up an interactive website for his kids to discuss drug abuse issues. That feels very good.

  7. Funny to see you doing exactly what I discussed in the comment I just left on your last post 🙂

Leave a Reply