#BeyondtheBox 2 : 5 tips on how creativity can help you build your own innovative path

Original Post

How do you build a career path that does not seem to exist?

With technology, science, and open data advancement, a lot of our day to day decision making and information sharing in the office has changed. This directly impacts the type of jobs and skill sets organizations look for in employees as well as what kind of a career path one can build. The  careers most popular 20 years ago are not the most popular ones today. It will be no surprise if that list changes again in 10 to 20 years. This explains why more organizations are urgently looking for leaders who are creative thinkers and problem solvers who can digest complex materials to make wise decisions.

But how can one build a creative mindset?

On July 21, 2016, InnovatorsBox and WeWork co-hosted the second in the Beyond the Box, speaker series to answer that question and debunk people’s perceptions about real estate and physical space. Our goal for #BeyondTheBox is to demystify people’s perceptions about innovation in five industries, learn from local innovators about how they affected change and innovation, and empower participants to embrace creativity and celebrate small milestones to bring greater change.

I’m excited to share 5 key tips that will help you build that creative mindset. 

#2 Creative Spaces, July 21, 2016

As children we were taught not to talk to strangers, get in their cars, party at their beach houses, or spend a weekend with strangers. This was all unthinkable until startups like Airbnb and Uber took the lead in reshaping  our outlook on the powerful value of shared economy. Now it is common for a location to serve several purposes. A home can also be a concert venue, book club gathering, vacation for a stranger, an art exhibition, and a cafe. We surely have gotten creative with the way we see spaces. In addition to the increasing demand for coworking spaces, there have been increasing trends for coliving.

The high cost of real estate is a common complaint for renters and buyers particularly in large cities. There is a stigma that real estate is slow to accept change due to all the legal regulations. As a traveler and Washingtonian myself, I too, have been in numerous conversations and email threads on housing. So when I learned that there are many innovators in the greater DC area working in this industry to bring new change for the community, I wanted to learn how and what they did to build a creative real estate community in DC:

  • Chris Maier is a creative writer and community builder with a big vision to build a creative ecosystem to support creatives and celebrate and share their artistic talents with one another more easily under the Made by Little initiatives such as Little SalonLittle Academy, and Little Magazine.
  • Gui Talarico is a Brazilian architect integrating his entrepreneurial insights and technology to build creative community spaces at WeWork as the Project Integrator as WeWork opens up more office spaces in Washington, DC.

While each speaker worked within real estate differently, they all valued persistence, creativity, connection, community, and time management. Their stories not only inspired me and the other participants to understand what paths they took to create their unique career path but also provided wisdom on how we can build a creative mindset.

This is what I learned: 

 

  • Use your constraints to your advantage

We all have constraints. What separates innovators from others is that they use constraints to push their visions forward and seek solutions instead of complaining. That’s right, instead of complaining about the lack of money, time, resources and knowledge, as soon as they recognize their limits, they use that as a stepping stone to maximize their impact in other avenues.

For instance, with a full-time job as an architect, Gui knew that he didn’t have enough time to satisfy his craving for creativity. So he spent every hour he could outside of work building, learning, and spending time at places where he is inspired to be creative. He not only found himself to be more effective at work but also more energized as he found a way to utilize time better as a result of limited free time. Is money your constraint? Stephanie was there too when she was working on her business in San Francisco. She had a limited budget but flexible time, industry knowledge, and an invaluable network. To maximize her end results, she set measurable goals, examined her budget and investments creatively and took calculated risks.

Most entrepreneurs fear that their enterprises will fail. That’s ok. Richard has been their numerous times. Because of this fear he knew that the way to push forward was to have something to look forward to. Do not look down, he said. The moment you start looking down the bridge and  fear falling down, you increase your chance of falling. Most entrepreneurs will agree that their greatest learning experiences were the result of pushing forward in the face of challenges. There are certain lines that are hard to face but knowing and pushing our boundaries help us grow.

 

  • Be strategic with your time management

One thing that we all share equally is time. How you use it and treat it will determine what impact any given hour can make. Spending two hours on Facebook without intention is just spending two hours on Facebook. When meeting other people, make it clear what your intention is and ask others to be clear about why they want to meet you as well.  Being clear and intentional reduces wasted meeting hours. Resting and unplugging is equally important if not more than executing. As Chris highlighted, when he makes time to unplug, with nature or exercise, he is able to manage the rest of his work hours better. Others who like more structure should consider Richard’s advice on categorizing the days into three separate types: Rest, Buffer, and Focus. This permits you to manage your time better and be more productive by being in one type of flow instead of letting your mind jump from one pattern to another. Your full-time job doesn’t permit you to stay in one flow? Take Stephanie’s approach. She blocks certain weekends or evenings as a full meeting day or solo day. The key is for you to determine what is the best way you want to manage your time and be mindful of the time you share with others.

  

  • Never stop learning

1950s creative researcher Ruth Noller explained in her creativity equation how knowledge is equally as important as imagination. This sentiment was shared among the speakers as well. When we are looking at the world with a hunger to learn, we are more likely to find new possibilities and ideas. For instance, Gui spends a vast amount of time programming and building websites outside of his work as an architect at WeWork to learn new skillsets. Our boredom is often rooted when we master a skillset and fall into a mundane routine. When we seek new skills and improve on existing ones we are seldom bored. It’s important to note that learning is not always technical. For Richard, it means  improving surfing skills and exploring outdoor activities. For Chris, it means taking a walk down a new avenue to explore the space by observing the landscape details. By looking at the nuances, he discovers new details and insights on how and why the creator  may have created particular intricacies leading Chris to ask ‘why’ and ‘why not’ more in his own work. The key is having a learner mindset and always look for opportunities to learn.

 

  • Find your outlet to unplug and be creative

While being hungry to learn, it is equally important to make time to pause, unplug, and rest. In the midst of the diverse career path the aforementioned, what made their journeys possible was prioritizing self-care, alone time, and periods of being offline. Ask yourself, what is your way of unplugging? When would you like to do it and how can you make it a routine? Is it spending time with nature, outdoors, alone, or with friends? Asking these questions and reflecting on them will help you be more aware of how you can best benefit from unplugging.

  

  • Remember you can’t control anything else other than, hopefully, yourself.

Creating a new value, product, community, and company out of nothing is hard. It’s natural to panic a bit knowing how uncertain the future can be. In fact, the only thing you may be certain is that things will always work out differently than you thought. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But you can at least save yourself a lot of extra stress by letting go of the expectation that you have to control everything or relying on others’ decisions to determine your happiness, your success, and your future. You can’t control how your manager would think of you nor what your friends will say next in that heated argument about the election. You can’t even control the weather and yet so many of us rely on the weather to determine our mood of the day. But you can control how you react, what time you wake up, who you talk to, how much time you spend offline versus online, and how you express your gratitude to others. These are small steps but crucial in building bridges and grounding yourself as an individual decision maker. Remembering this perspective has surely helped all our speakers be persistent about their vision to create this new career path.

Do these 5 approaches regularly, and you will start to see your career in a new light. Ask yourself these questions to rethink what your career path could be. We are grateful to have great innovators like our panelists who are proactively initiating change.

And you can proactively initiate change too.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to your thoughts.

I look forward to seeing you at the next Beyond The Box the evening of August 4. We will meet four innovators from legal affairs and explore how they used entrepreneurship, technology, international affairs, and government affairs to practice law in new ways. Tickets are free, but you must RSVP to participate.

P.S. For those looking to build a creative mindset, check out our creative bootcamp for professionals the Creative Jump on August 20-21, 2016 in Washington, DC. Early bird ticket sales end July 29, 2016.