Look for creative inlets – not creative outlets. (The Creativity Suite. Episode 8)

Interview with Georgina Lee, Innovation, Growth and Experience Leader at Mercer Australia.

Many people look for a hobby outside their work as a creative outlet for their soul. The idea is good, creativity should always be encouraged, but the approach is not the best. Even better than a creative outlet is a creative inlet. Let me explain.

I learned about creative inlets from Georgina Lee. Georgina is Innovation, Growth and Experience Leader at Mercer Australia. Mercer is a global consulting firm and Georgina loves her job. But that was not always the case.

For many years, her job at Mercer at the time was a way to make a living but it was not where she got her creative inspiration. Instead, Georgina would get her “creative fix” working as an artist in the evenings, working with start-ups on design strategy, or being involved with independent arts organisations.

The job at Mercer was well paid, but it was – according to her – “killing her soul”. All the creative side hustles were what was keeping her soul alive.

This idea that your day-job cannot be the place where you get to use your full creative potential is quite common. It creates this notion in people that they need to have these side activities, these hobbies, or pro-bono work to exercise their creative muscle. Serious at work. Creative during our free-time.

But while we might have different identities, we are just one person. Separating our “creative selves” from our “professional selves” could risk making us miserable, or at least much less creative than we could be.

Georgina is a person who loves being creative. All the time. She looks nothing like what you would expect from a person in a corporate environment with her coloured hair and plentiful tattoos. And she told me about how her hunger for creativity outside of work “infected” her working style at work.

She took the creative energy that was generated during her “off work” creative projects and used it to bring an element of creativity into her projects at the office. And people noticed. Slowly she got more and more creative assignments to work on. One day she saw herself being recruited as chief of staff to the Mercer Australia CEO and one of the reasons the CEO wanted to work with her specifically was, according to the CEO, her ability to think in creative ways.

Finally, she ended up in the role she is in now, working full time as Innovation, Growth and Experience Leader in a big part because of her ability to bring the creative energy from her side hustles into her day job. As Georgina put it: “You are exercising your brain in different ways. Bring that mindset into your daily work and you will find that you will gravitate to more creative projects at work. And eventually, that work will start gravitating to you.”

The creative projects that she had looked at as “outlets” were actually “inlets” 

An “outlet” is “a pipe or hole through which water or gas may escape”. Why look at creative energy as something that is escaping?

An “inlet” is “a place or means of entry”. So look at creative side projects as places or means of entry for your creative energy and that energy can then be transferred to the rest of your life.

Georgina is doing a lot of work in pottery at the moment in order to practice her ability to work with her hands, learn to appreciate patience in the creative process, and of planning your time. All things that she can actively use in the rest of her work, or as she puts it: “I am learning a lot about patience… about how beautiful things can unfold slowly.”

Follow the lead of Georgina, who not only practices this idea of finding creative energy outside work on herself but who also encourages her co-workers to find creative projects outside work that will create positive creative energy that they can harness at work. Because Georgina has discovered the creative power that resides in having “creative inlets”.

And so should the rest of us.




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