Creativity in the Workplace

By Ande Jacobson

Many professionals have a number of skills and talents that go well beyond their job description. One of the challenges they often face is how to be creative in their day-to-day activities in the office. While not immediately obvious, it’s often possible to engage in creative activities in many situations.

Consider what might constitute a creative outlet. In my many years of experience as a software engineer in the aerospace world, I’ve been able to apply various skills gained through artistic endeavors in numerous work-related situations. Outside of engineering, I’m also a writer and a performer, primarily as a musician, but I’ve also had a bit of stage time as an actor. I’ve been able to leverage many of these varied skills numerous times to both enhance my career, and make my job more fun along the way.

As a software engineer, there are myriad ways to enjoy doing a bit of writing on the job beyond the standard documentation requirements that are often a direct job responsibility. The most ubiquitous is through the company email. Email communication is often the life’s blood in a corporation (large or small), and a well-written email can have a significant impact, whether answering a colleague’s technical question, informing a team of an upcoming event or technical status, delivering presentation materials, or providing myriad other types of information. A creative approach to these missives will help them stand out, often for the better.

Employees can also flex their writing muscles by submitting articles for internal employee newsletters. These can have a very positive effect on visibility which in turn can greatly increase job satisfaction and success. I’ve seen this in action by writing a few columns for a division-wide, online newsletter. My articles sparked a good deal of conversation in the comments and also brought greater understanding of some problem solving techniques related to the Lean/Six Sigma methodology used by our company at the time.

Creative writing techniques (as long as they use factual data) can also be used come performance review time. Rather than looking toward writing self-assessments and stakeholder inputs with dread, I treated those assignments as opportunities to use my persuasive writing skills to formulate strong inputs for the tasks at hand.

Creating presentation materials can also be a very nice outlet. To some that might sound like a prison sentence, but to others it’s an opportunity not only to write, but to exercise their aesthetic sense, and either draw or capture various pictures and artwork to literally illustrate their point. Sometimes, animation is also used, and this can be a lot of fun.

Another creative aspect many professionals lose sight of is that delivering presentations are performances, but they have a different audience and content than a theatrical performance. Still, some aspects are similar, the most important of which is to captivate the audience at hand. A strong performance can improve one’s career enjoyment and success.

Finally, music can sometimes be applied to the workplace, and I’ve been fortunate to find opportunities to incorporate my skills as a musician at work. I’ve played with a company band at a few company functions, and I’ve written some new lyrics and musical arrangements to use at the end of a training class and at various celebrations. These were primarily for entertainment purposes, but even that has its place from time to time.

There’s really nothing better than being able to incorporate your creative passion into your work.

Note: I first published this article on the ConsideredThoughtfully, Inc. founder’s blog when I was Creative Director. The company is no longer in business, so the article has been republished here for posterity.

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