Original post on LinkedIn.
Most people have heard it.
Innovation and creativity are critical to our personal and professional growth as well as our economy.
Research has consistently validated this since the 1950s. However, over 75% of U.S. professionals feel stuck or lack a creative outlet. This is a higher percentage than those who feel disengaged at work which is 55%, the number most HR staff would worry about. That’s a huge percentage of unhappy workers. Isn’t it odd that while we talk about how important critical creative thinking is, most employees say creativity is “not really for them” or that “they are not creative enough.”
If you have ever felt this way and want to learn how to resolve this, keep reading.
If you have found the answer to this mystery without reading further, let’s talk. I want to know about your wisdom.
The truth is, integrating creative thinking as an employee working in a traditionally non-creative sector (an organization or a job title that is not art or design related) isreally, really hard. This is particularly the case for entry-level and mid-level employees working in environments that are highly hierarchical.
I have faced this challenge myself.
I worked and studied public policy for over 6 years and worked exclusively in the nuclear nonproliferation industry for 3 years. I loved my work, the field, and the people I met. I am still passionate about the work and am looking forward to the future work I will do in this space. However, it is also true that doing anything out of the norm was very hard for me, especially at the start of my career. Thinking differently or trying a new approach to challenge the status quo or routine was discouraged. I didn’t feel comfortable speaking up and questioned whether my ideas would be well received. I generally appreciate the structure that following protocol provides. As a former government employee, I do respect bureaucracy and understand why certain procedures must be followed. Some may be outdated, but blatantly criticizing that it's all wrong is also being disrespectful with misinformation.
Still, I gradually noticed a change in the way how I saw the world due to society's pressure and expectation.
I became risk-aversive, doubtful, and uncertain. While everyone saw a confident woman, I felt insecure and found security by patterning my career after others based on their title and organization. Many of my respected colleagues followed the same path, so I figured that was the right way. I mean, isn't that how society teaches you how to network? It wasn't until recently I truly understand the difference of what it means to be alive, be living, and be a being.
On March 2014, I made a decision that changed my life.
For the first time in a long time, I decided to experiment. I knew something was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what. I had a well-respected job in a competitive field, great friends, and an apartment in one of the best neighborhoods in DC. Why should I feel down?
One afternoon that spring, I had a strong desire to draw. I went to the art store, purchased supplies and sat at the Georgetown Watergate. Despite my poor sketching, I noticed a couple kids with googlie eyes looking at me. “Are you an artist?” they asked. I sketched a portrait for one of the girls who had a 20-minute conversation with me about her life. She was thrilled. She ran across the street yelling, “I got a gift from an artist!” and proudly showcased the work to her parents who smiled back.
I never forgot that day.
At that moment, I was reminded of how powerful genuine creation can be. The fact that I could sketch just because I wanted to was a great joy. I had double the joy because my creation could bring a smile to a stranger.
I was hooked.
Since then I have embarked on a journey of experimenting, experiencing, reading and learning as much as I can about creativity and innovation. I've read books, studied various creators, attended conferences, workshops, meetups, and taken online courses.
I was surprised at what I found.
Also, I realized more people can benefit from these insights.
- Creative thinking is truly a mindset and lifestyle. When you integrate it into your personal space, it impacts your professional space. So, if you are lacking creativity in either of those spaces, it would have an impact on the other.
- Despite the notion that the best “creative thinkers are not the experts but those who are coming from a different angle,” there were not enough creative leaders that I could relate to that came from a traditionally non-creative sector.
- The gap between the creative and non-creative industry still exists because most creative workshops are taught by artists, psychologists, scientists, and researchers. If creativity is truly for everyone, as science has shown, why don’t we have traditionally non-creatives teaching creative insight and how that makes sense in their industry?
- Those in my inner circle made a big difference in what I thought was possible in creativity. The more I immersed myself in the entrepreneurial and startup spaces, where failure and new approaches are welcomed, the more I was encouraged to try something new.
- Creative thinking is a mental muscle that needs regular exercise to get better.We spend so much time going to the gym, but so little time for our minds to flow. It’s about time we change that.
- Everyone can be creative. However, most of us were taught early on that conforming to the status quo is the path to success.
- When I choose to be creative, I am most alive.
The list goes on...
The key is that there is a way for the 75% of unhappy professionals to be happier and become better employees and the secret is creativity.
What is missing is a community space for professionals to tap into their creativity; A curriculum that is built from a non-creative expert perspective that is relatable; A program where one can practice these skill-sets by experiencing them instead of being lectured.
This is why I am working to debunk assumptions about creativity throughInnovatorsBox. By hosting monthly workshops, annual boot camps for mid-careers employees and those in legal affairs, and community projects with partners, I am changing one perception and planting one glimpse of hope at a time.
This is why I am proud to be part of the Nation of Makers’ White House initiative to support our country’s future makers growth. Our 2016 goal as an early education startup is to host 50 workshops in 10 cities for 1,000 individuals. (See page 14.)
This is why I wake up early each morning and stay up late every night.
This is why I will continue to hustle.
I want to see what the world can be when those 75% of professionals feel alive and excited for Monday.