Putting Creativity to Work

In the interview process for my current employer, the hiring manager said to me: “Tess, you understand this isn’t a creative role.”

She was worried that my creativity wouldn’t be fulfilled, that without creative expression at work, I would lose interest in the job.

My answer? “I can make anything creative.”

Cartoon:

Steph: Tess, you understand this isn't a creative role...

Tess: I make any role creative!

To be honest, I’m not sure that I fully believed that at the time. But it did send me on a journey of self-exploration about what creativity meant in my life. And what I’ve learned is this: You don’t need a “creative role” to be creative at work.

What do I mean by creativity?

The way I see it, creativity is about filtering what’s happening around you—inputs—through who you are (your point of view, your experience, your identity, and your skills). Then, forming that into an output that you share back with the world.

This requires knowing yourself, and honouring yourself authentically. It means showing up in the world as your full self, with vulnerability and without apologies.

My 8-year-old has definite opinions about who is creative:

But of course, there are no limits on creativity.

What creativity means to me

Eventually, I figured out that creativity is my oxygen. If I can honour that creativity on a regular basis, be sure I’m “breathing” enough of it, I’m at peace.

What creativity gives us

Creativity has many benefits, not only for the creative person but also for their colleagues and workplace:

Authenticity

Creativity requires knowing yourself deeply, and connecting to that true self. It’s the ultimate antidote to imposter syndrome, because when you’re accessing your true self, it’s impossible to compare that to anyone else. And if you’re being authentic, you can’t fake you.

Diversity

If creativity comes from each individual authentically, then it’s inherently diverse, since no two people are the same.

Fulfilment

If you’re a creative person, you need to be creative to feel whole. Even creativity for the sake of creativity can be very satisfying.

Lateral thinking

Creativity encourages us to think laterally at work, solving problems using a broad range of inputs, our own experiences and point of view.

Communication

Creativity enhances work communication, making it more engaging and therefore, more effective. The way you do something shows a lot about who you are.

You don't need a "creative role" to be creative at work

Ways to be creative at work

Here are some ways you can be creative at work, with examples of my own creative work for inspiration.

Get the job you want

Throughout the hiring process, be yourself. People know what they’re getting, and you’ll be hired not only because you have the skills to do the job, but also because you are you.

For example, my application to work at Automattic was in the form of a comic book:

A comic book style application for my role at Automattic

Be fulfilled

Enhance your internal communication, make relationships, and have fun at any opportunity in work. For example, I made this strip for an internal “Inbox Zero” learnup:

For a flash talk several years ago, I took the opportunity to learn and practice a new style of lettering:

The flash talk was about my experience on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Stay valued

Whenever I have the opportunity to give an external presentation, I like to give it special creative flair. For this talk on Content Marketing for Small Teams, I made lettering and set up small scenes out of Lego, which I then photographed:

I also like drawing diagrams and charts:

In 2019, I gave a lightning talk at Write the Docs, about using comics in docs. My slide presentation flipped through the pages of a comic book I made on the topic:

I also made a comic all about P2, the tool we use for internal communication at Automattic:

In conclusion

Creativity has many benefits, on both a personal and work level. There are really no limits to how you can bring creativity to work, no matter your role. So go out there and get creative!


3 responses to “Putting Creativity to Work”

  1. Your comics always brought me joy – I don’t always consider myself a creative, but I love the energy and creativity you brought to a sometimes-seemingly-boring set of tasks!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: