Managing your personal hype-cycle

A hype cycle is a “graphic representation of the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies”. The term was coined by Gartner in 1995 and typically shown as in this diagram.

I was reminded of this cycle whilst reading Imagine – How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. Lehrer cites as an example of how the creative process works  Bob Dylan who, in the mid-sixties, having had his initial ‘creative trigger’ (equivalent to the ‘technology trigger’ in the hype-cycle) became so sick of the constant touring and being questioned about the meaning of his lyrics he almost quit the music business. Instead, mainly prompted by a bout of severe food poisoning, he took off to upstate New York where he stayed in a log cabin with nothing but a notebook and pencil (not even a guitar) telling his manager he was going to start work on a novel. Here Dylan found that once the pressure of writing songs was off and his “creative burden” was lifted he suddenly found that, out of nowhere, he had an uncontrollable rush of creative insight. A creative insight that led to not just one of Dylan’s greatest songs but, according to Rolling Stone magazine the greatest song ever – Like a Rolling Stone.

It seems that sometimes in order to reach new levels of creativity we need to go through a “peak of inflated expectations” (Dylan as cult poet of his generation), through a “trough of disillusionment” (Dylan is burnt out and wants to give up music) before we suddenly hit a “slope of enlightenment” (takes a break and writes Like a Rolling Stone) and finally reach a “plateau of productivity” (the rest of Dylan’s career).

The trick, of course, is to figure out how to heave yourself up from that trough of disillusionment. For Dylan it was taking a complete break to do something else, then finding he had a sudden surge of creativity in the very thing he was thinking of giving up. As discussed here sometimes we get too bogged down in the daily humdrum of existence to give our inner creative selves the room we need to break out and reach new slopes of enlightenment. Sometimes all we need to do is take a break from that humdrum and see what creative insight we might get.

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One Comment on “Managing your personal hype-cycle”

  1. […] rather than a quiet country cottage with views out over fields and pastures (though see this post for a counter-argument). Cities, with their eclectic mix of industry, culture, art, […]


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