Nonprofit HR is featuring experts and influencers who are making incredible impacts in the social sector. First up, Monica H. Kang, Founder and CEO for InnovatorsBox. Monica, no stranger to the Nonprofit HR community, has spoken at the 2018 Talent and Culture Summit.
A creative educator who is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity, Monica teaches creativity in a tangible, practical, and relatable way. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. She is the author of newly launched book, Rethink Creativity.
1. What or who inspired you to pursue your profession?
Kang: I started InnovatorsBox because I was tired of waiting for others to create a solution that I thought was desperately needed. I was in a career that I loved in nuclear nonproliferation, but I felt stuck. I had everything that was seemingly great on paper: a purposeful career, work travel, great colleagues, and clients. Yet I found myself feeling depressed and lacking a creative outlet at work. I eventually realized what helped me feel engaged at my job was learning how to build a creative mindset and living more creatively. That discovery was empowering and life-changing. It started with doing things differently in my everyday routine such as listening to different music, trying out different excel templates, changing my meeting schedule, and reading different articles. These small changes helped me be comfortable trying new things and encouraged me to stay open-minded. When I realized many others also felt stuck at work, I wanted to find a way to help them. Today I help professionals and students all around the world realize their innate creative potential and learn that they are more than just their job title. In hindsight, I am grateful for my struggles because it inspired me to take action instead of waiting for someone else to create the solution. If you know something is needed, don’t wait for others to do it, go and do it yourself!
2. How do you foresee talent shifts in the social sector, and is your organization preparing to meet new demands?
Kang: Our reliance on technology is only going to increase. People with emotional intelligence and creative minds will stand out at work and lead our futures.
Think about how much the way we work and live has changed in the past 10 years. This type of change will accelerate with technology, which means the type of work, skills, and talent needs will be very different in the future. To be able to equip oneself for the future, you have to uncover new insights, connect the dots in unexpected ways, and be comfortable working with everyone. We may not know exactly what technology will bring to the workforce, but we do know that people will continue to play a huge role. Those who solely focus on technical skills and do not know how to inspire, motivate, empower, and work with other people with different interests, perspectives, and opinions will be left behind. In order to prepare for the future, my team takes the time to learn new things and be curious. We attend different conferences on unfamiliar topics, share new articles, ask about each other’s expertise, and remain curious. This is a fundamental to how we live and work. Unless we start to have the mindset to learn, seek growth, and be open to different perspectives, we’ll miss out on the rare insights right in front of us.
3. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Kang: Why do you do what you do at work and home? Have you ever wondered how you could approach your career differently? Taking the time to ask questions like these and reflecting each day is one of the best tools to become a better leader, team player, and creative. It is easy for us to stay busy and react to every change. It is harder to stay proactive and remain calm in the midst of unexpected changes. The secret to becoming a better version of yourself is remembering that these skills and insights are built over time, not overnight. We all know that you cannot be healthy just by going to the gym once, so why do we think one creative exercise makes a creative person? As leaders if we want our teams to embrace creativity, we have to take the first step of making time to do things differently, reflect, and learn from the experience. You can start by practicing curiosity and asking questions. Ask yourself more questions about why you do what you do. You may be surprised at what you discover through this process.
Just for fun: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Kang: A diplomat. I grew up in two countries and loved building bridges among different countries and cultures. While I may not have the title of a diplomat, I consider my work to be diplomacy as I am helping people build bridges and working with different communities every day.
More about Monica Kang: Her work has been awarded across numerous platforms, including The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). She is also the author of Rethink Creativity: How to Innovate, Inspire, and Thrive at Work. Driven by her lifelong love of knowledge, she is also an adjunct professor at BAU International University where she teaches entrepreneurship and leadership. Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert in international affairs. Sheholds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.
Find Monica and InnovatorsBox online.