Why is creativity so painful

The creative power of boredom

That said a lot about how much we literally electrify ourselves in order to keep turning the professional or private hamster wheel of our lives, and how difficult it is for us to stop purposefully. Even science is only slowly recognizing the creative potential of boredom, which it has long treated as the “dark energy” of our brains.

Bore-out and burn-out harm employees and companies alike

But as creative and stimulating it can be when we are bored at work for a short period of time, chronic boredom is dangerous[4], also called Bore-Out: Anyone who has the feeling of being permanently underchallenged is just as health endangered as an employee or manager who is constantly overworking and is about to burn out. With irritability, sleep disorders, cardiovascular running problems, high blood pressure and mental illnesses up to and including depression, both clinical pictures are similar.

The crux here: The burn-out of one is often the bore-out of the other. The economic damage for a company increases in both cases due to the falling productivity and the increasing number of sick days. In addition, an employee who is chronically bored is reluctant to admit this to his supervisor or boss, which makes the problem even worse.

Conversely, executives often feel flattered and particularly appreciated by the boss when they get more and more work on their shoulders and lose sight of who they could delegate tasks to. They often develop tunnel vision in which they only see their growing workload and at the same time do not want to admit that they are overwhelmed. This is often the beginning of a burnout. This is usually supported by a bonus promise from the boss or the company management.

So how can the right balance between bore-out and burn-out with a creative dose of boredom be integrated into everyday business life?

According to the 20 years of experience of Padberg Consulting in management consulting, training and coaching, this includes three core elements:

  1. Appreciation and trust
    are the most important prerequisites for creativity to arise in a company.
  2. Get in touch with each other
    So that appreciation and trust can grow and become an integral part of the corporate culture, employees need the opportunity to come into contact with one another and to get to know and exchange ideas across hierarchies. Spaces in the literal sense offer the best prerequisites for this.
  3. Creativity needs leeway
    Companies like Google have long understood this, and more and more companies are emulating it. They create spaces for creativity and relaxation, in which employees can do sports, play, meet and exchange ideas or simply relax. Companies that, on the other hand, leave their employees little or no “leeway” should not be surprised if, after a short period of time, their employees only “work according to regulations” and do not offer any creative solutions that are essential for the success of any company.
  4. Self-efficacy
    Employees and managers must be able to experience that their ideas and their work contribute to the success of the company. Nothing inspires people as much as one's own success and experiencing how one's own abilities contribute to the success of a larger whole.


“It cannot be ruled out that employees will be bored in any company. However, this can only lead to creative and innovative solutions if the employees have the confidence that their ideas will find a response in the company and that there is the necessary leeway for their implementation. And only in a trusting culture will they express themselves openly about how they perceive the current workload and where they would like new tasks or relief, ”summarizes Ekkehart Padberg, Managing Director of Padberg Consulting.

[1]See ZDF-Mediathek 05.12.2017, Wissen, Leschs Kosmos: The secret power of boredom. The mentioned experiment is also dealt with in detail in the article. www.zdf.de/wissen/leschs-kosmos/die-geheime-macht-der-langeweile-106.html


[3]See: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Default_Mode_Network
The Default Mode Network was discovered in 2001 when neuroscientists compared the activated areas of the brain in a supposedly resting state with closed eyes or calmly fixed on a point with those that were activated while solving specific tasks. They found areas that were more active at rest than at concentration. After ruling out misrepresentations, they realized that the brain shows background activity that is predominant when at rest but is shut down when concentrating on specific functions.

[4]Zeit online 11/06/2013, Tina, Groll: Boredom is a health risk