We are all born creative. Making time for creativity, especially in the workplace, is the challenge.
I’m a product designer at Evernote, leading design for the Android platform. My workdays involve designing user flows, new features, and layouts. While I do spend time finding creative solutions for projects, a lot of my work is analytical rather than playful, and I spend hours in front of a computer and sitting in meetings.
When is there time for the art of play, and how can I bring my whole self to work?
According to a recent survey from Brit+Co, a media company that embraces creativity, “77% of adults feel they’ve lost their creativity.” Creativity is a muscle. The more you flex it, the stronger it grows. The good news is there are many ways to workout, from learning how to oil paint to mastering the art of Thai cooking. There’s no set way to be creative. It starts with making the time and trying the unfamiliar.
The nouveau way to work — Evernote Academy
At Evernote, I’ve become more creative by taking and teaching classes through Evernote Academy. Any employee who is passionate about something, professional or personal, can teach a new skill during or after work. Topics range from lock picking to cocktail mixology, and the classes foster connections and creativity across the Evernote community. I’ve led classes in DIY hand-tied bouquets, vertical succulent garden boxes, wreath design, abstract painting, and more. I just love how it nurtures creativity in myself and others. After two years of volunteering, I’ve taught over 12 courses.
My students have all sorts of professional roles from engineering, to legal, to facilities. Folks learn hands-on skills, make one-of-a-kind projects, share their work with others, and often keep creating on their own after the class. There’s a sense of accomplishment in a short period of time — each class is about an hour and a half including a presentation, demo, and workshop time.
“The ‘Paint and Wine’ class was just what I needed after being glued to the screen all day. Something about moving a brush around on a canvas rests and resets my mind. Work and home life don’t leave me with much leftover time to do fun things like paint, learn how to use power tools, and join book clubs.”
— SiNing Chan, Senior Technical Writer
“I work with people every day to build things using software. It’s nice to be able to create something physical with my hands. It’s a great way to relieve stress and solve different problems than I’m used to in a typical day at work.”
— Justin Street, Product Manager, Android
People are conditioned to think that work life and personal life are separate entities. Teaching through Evernote Academy has taught me how to bridge my design thinking skills with my personal side projects. For example, when comparing my current work projects to floral arrangement, both practices capture the principles and elements of design. Each requires meticulous attention to detail and presents new challenges.
Embrace the beginner’s mindset
Beginner’s mindset is a tenet of design thinking and another aspect of creativity. Being open to new challenges and embracing creative practices like painting, gives you a fresh perspective on problems and helps you empathize with others. This was really apparent in a recent painting class I taught. As soon as students started to dab their brushes around you could hear phrases like “I suck at this” or “this is the worst painting anyone has ever made” mumbled throughout the room.
“Some of the engineers couldn’t stop talking about how bad they were. Bringing together different people who do different things results in a sort of re-leveling. Engineers have a specialized skill set that a designer might be intimidated by, and it’s good to see them struggle with something that comes easier to you.”
— Jesse Day, Senior UX Content Strategist
Being unfamiliar with something and pushing through it is a very powerful experience. Beginner’s mindset leads to growth mindset. I was afraid to teach my first class. What if they didn’t like it? What if I failed? Looking back, stepping into this fear has not only helped me grow creatively, but also professionally through public speaking, ideation, storytelling and contributing to a positive work culture. The face-to-face interaction with others has been great too. At this point I know almost everyone in the entire company.
Get out of your rut
What kind of practices will make you more creative? Sometimes you have to do something completely different. There’s an attitude shift when engaging in the art of play. A creative block can be shattered by a refreshed mindset. Creativity is linked to increasing happiness, reducing stress, producing innovative ideas, and feeling a sense of accomplishment. It also helps with memory and longevity. Let’s inspire one another to restore—and make time for—creative play. Try teaching a class in your workplace, you never know where it will take you.
Take a class!
Interested in learning a new creative skill? My upcoming workshops include, DIY Cacti Terrariums, Moonlight Painting, and How to Arrange Grocery Store Flowers with Fruit. Follow @design_with_Ali on Instagram to see more. Collaborations and inquiries are welcome.
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“Ali has been such a vital part of making Evernote Academy a rich and holistic experience. Her classes provide a new experience to many Evernoters and encourages them to stretch in different ways. People love these opportunities to be creative, refresh, and connect with others.”
— Moran Eliahu, People Program Manager
Want to join the team? We’re hiring.