A common misconception about creativity is that it strictly speaks to well known artistic expressions like music, art, painting, etc. But, we beg to differ.
If you look closely, you can trace the dots of creativity in the tiny details, like when you tackle everyday problems, to a much bigger picture like when you create a technology for others to enjoy. Creativity is diverse in its expression.
On this topic, we had the privilege to discuss extensively with Claire Koryczan, Founder & Director, Imagine Beyond. She shared with us her deep rooted values in bringing together innovation and creativity for people, teams and businesses to explore new possibilities with excitement. Coming from a diverse background, Claire loves to integrate these different perspectives and connect the dots innovatively to help you imagine beyond, and her insights on this was mind blowing. You cannot afford to skip any line as you read, trust me, the juice is in the details. Let’s meet her!
On her background in creativity
So I guess if I go back right to the very beginning, when I was a kid, I was always interested in creativity, art, and music. My dad was very creative, and so I had a lot of creative influences. In my childhood, I played a lot of musical instruments and, found my creativity from that perspective.
Following this, I went to university to study for a creative degree; Design Studies, Bachelor of Arts. It was a great course, because it showed me all the various aspects of design. From graphic design, illustration, to typography, self promotion, PR marketing – all the different disciplines, and I loved seeing the world of design from this level of breadth and variety. A theme that continues throughout my whole life.
At uni, I remember sitting in a lecture one day and seeing two people from a branding agency present their work, and thinking, wow, I want to work for a branding agency one day! They were really cool, creative, working on super interesting projects. Seeing them talk ignited my curiosity and my passion to go into the creative industries for the first decade of my career. And although it took me a while to get an agency job, I finally got my foot in the door with one creative agency. I think the main reason was because I had researched the founder, written to them personally a number of times saying how much I loved their work, and why I wanted to work for them. And eventually, they said yes! This was the first step on my creative industry journey.
Connecting the dots between creativity and running a business
During these years, I worked in a number of entrepreneurial agencies. Working with corporate and consumer clients. Being in the heart of the creative buzz of founder-led entrepreneurial businesses taught me a lot – not only about creativity, but also the creative mindset, the entrepreneurial mindset.
So it’s interesting what you said at the beginning about sometimes creativity and running business don’t go together, but actually I think that having a creative mind is helpful when running a business, because you tend to think more divergently and are able to see beyond what most see. You’re always looking for interesting, new, innovative ways to solve challenges. And that’s really helpful for being one step ahead of the competition and spotting business opportunities.
On Pivoting, and Re-strategizing
So, I left the creative industry after 10 years, because I got quite burned out. The organization I was at went through many rounds of redundancies, however, me and a handful of others were still in the organization after that. It was a really challenging time, and everyone was very, very overworked. And that was the point where I thought, Ah, I’m done with it, I’m gonna step away, and I’m gonna take some time out, retrain and explore what’s next…
But, I had no idea what I was gonna do next? One day over lunch with a friend, we were exploring what I might do next and she said, “Oh, you’d be an amazing coach, Claire”. And I remember I came home from that conversation, went online straight away and started to research what it was all about. And the more I learned, the more I thought, wow, this is really interesting. I love the idea of helping to unlock potential, helping people to navigate their journey, in their careers and also in life.
So, I signed up for a coaching qualification in 2012 and I’ve used those skills ever since. They have been invaluable; artful questions, helping people move from where they are currently to somewhere to where they’d like to be. Coaching is a great way to do that – to help people fulfil their true potential and discover powerful insights about themselves is transformational and so rewarding.
Shortly after I trained to be a coach, I stumbled across a very interesting startup, with a mission to teach the world to code. And I remember meeting the founders at the time and thinking, Oh, my God, these guys are on to something really interesting and exciting, and I want to be part of it all!
Back then, the world of digital was just starting to become more prevalent within business. And in my second interview, I remember saying, “even if you choose not to hire me, I’m going to be one of your clients, because I believe in what you’re doing so much!”
And the rest is history. They hired me as their seventh employee with the ambition to grow a team, grow clients and grow the business. Which I did, from a tiny start up into a global business over six years. It was amazing. And that’s why I got two of the awards that you would have seen on my LinkedIn profile, one of which was from Grant Thornton phases of a vibrant economy, in 2017, which was all about being a trailblazer within the industry. And then the second one was from The Dots, in 2018, also for being a female trailblazer.
During this time. I worked with many, many organisations, with leaders from some of the biggest, most well known brands in the world, through to SMEs and startups. It was really a phenomenal experience, and one that I feel very lucky to have been part of. It was a special moment in time because we were on a mission to empower everyone about digital technologies – and we were doing it in ways that were world-class and innovative – I learnt a lot from that experience.
After six years, I left, and stepped out into the unknown where I was exploring what was going to be next. Both times in my career when I’ve done this, it has taught me that even when I don’t know what’s coming, I have all the resources to figure it out. And creativity plays such an important part in this. Being able to think broadly and explore different possibilities while keeping an open mind. It was at this point that I discovered I wanted to know what it would be like to run my own business.
The catalyst to this was a conversation with my coach who asked me how I was feeling about the places that I was interviewing at and I remember not being that excited about any of the opportunities. And then she said, “Well, how would you feel if you ran your own business?” And I was like, “woah, that would be amazing!” I felt so excited at the idea of doing this, that after our call together, I had to stand outside, take a pause and ground myself from all the excitement at the idea!! I had a visceral reaction in my body that I will never forget. It was important that I paid attention to it at the time, and then created the steps to make it happen.
It was from that conversation that I started to imagine what it would be like to be a founder and start my own business. Which I did in July 2019 when I officially set up Imagine Beyond Ltd. I had some false starts at the beginning with ideas that weren’t quite right, but as you know with these things, you learn quickly, the hard way, and those lessons are invaluable.
Since then, I’ve done lots of consulting and have truly found my creative sweet spot; discovering insights, creating content, storytelling, experience design, presenting, facilitating, coaching and mentoring. Also, being innovative and connecting the dots between lots of different things. Having a broad perspective and a variety of interests are the key to this creative thinking, I believe.
And now, 22 years into my career, I’ve finally figured out what my purpose is; to share my knowledge to empower others, and discover powerful insights that help you to imagine beyond. But don’t let that amount of time put you off – seriously, it doesn’t have to take that long. It just took me that long.
How I’ve found my purpose started with knowing what my strengths are – because this tells us what gives us energy, and what our unique gifts and talents are! I use an amazing tool all the time and share and recommend it to literally everyone, it’s the high five strength test. It’s a free tool that asks you a bunch of questions, and gives you your top five strengths.
It’s brilliant because it helps you understand yourself better. One powerful question that I also love to ask is “what have you done recently that’s really energised you?” Because by understanding what energises you will tell you what you’re motivated to do, what you’re naturally really great at – it’s also linked to your strengths.
So finding that in terms of my career journey, and really knowing what I love to do and what I’m good at, has been an important step on the journey of fulfilling my potential, and the company I’ve been consulting with since 2020; Let’s Talk Talent, has helped me to use my strengths a lot. By using them every day, I am able to be the most authentic version of me, which is the best version there will ever be! I’m being creative and doing it in different ways. And even though I’m not in the creative industry anymore, what I do now is the most creative that I’ve ever been!
On the creative mind and its diverse application
This is something that I’m teaching my son, that being creative isn’t just associated with the arts and the obvious expression of being artistic like music etc. But actually, being creative can be applied in so many different ways.
It really is how we think and the lens with which we see the world. It’s how we solve problems. It’s how we innovate and are able to find new and interesting different ways of overcoming obstacles. My dear friend, Gem, says to me “there is always another way, Claire” – and this philosophy epitomises the creative and entrepreneurial mindset.
Being creative can be expressed in so many different ways; writing, design, storytelling etc. Your unique expression of creativity is about paying attention to what you are naturally drawn towards, and asking yourself why? Exploring what it means to you. Because there will always be clues that tell you what your sweet spot is, and in the words of a book I love “you are always three feet from gold, if you just keep looking!”.
At the beginning of lockdown. Couple of years ago now. I co-founded a business called We are Powerful Creators, It was really phenomenal for me and my co founder at the time, because we were able to bring a like-minded community together, a bit like what For Creative Girls is doing bringing a community of creative beings together to have shared experiences, to connect and collaborate.
I am very proud of the work that I’ve done with Powerful Creators because we created experiences that were so relevant and connected to fellow creatives at a very deep level. We don’t run that company anymore, we finished summer time 2021, but it was great fun, and enabled me to tap into my creativity in abundance – and I made beautiful friendships along the way too.
During this time I discovered a fantastic book, called How to be an explorer of the world by a lady called Keri Smith. In her book she covers two things; looking at the world through the eyes of a scientist, so you’re experimenting, you’re exploring, you’re discovering, and also through the eyes of an artist, where you are being creative, you are finding new ways to express your own way of seeing and being, through creativity. And I love the idea of bringing those two things together. Because, you know, I’ve tried lots of different things across my long career. And I think I failed at lots of different things too! But actually, in those failures have come so many amazing lessons and insights and learnings. And actually, that’s enabled me to do what I do now, with confidence and powerful insights. And although some lessons were tough, they’re important in terms of the journey so far – the scientist in me learns from it, the artist recreates and reimagines.
On navigating the creative learning curve as a business leader
The year before the pandemic I studied for a neuroscience in leadership qualification. I remember at the time being really curious and interested in that topic, but having no idea where I was gonna apply it. I just knew that I was interested in it. Somebody at the time said to me, “what are you gonna do with that qualification, Claire, how are you going to apply it? and I was like, “hmmm I’m not sure…yet” I just know that I’m really interested in the topic.
But here’s the thing… in the work that I’ve done over the last three years since that qualification, I’ve included neuroscience in content and the workshops that I teach, and often it’s this knowledge that has been the point of difference to the workshops other people do. So, follow your curiosity and see where it takes you 🙂 Steve Jobs talks about this in his Stanford speech where he says to follow your curiosity and intuition in life, because it will all make sense in the end, and I totally agree.
Conquering the fear of the unknown as a creative
Fear… it holds us back so much, in so many ways. And has been exacerbated since the pandemic, where our window of tolerance for stress has become narrower and as a result, we feel more fear. What I’ve learned about fear and the unknown is this… if you are able to hold your nerve in those moments of absolute uncertainty, when you have no idea what’s coming next, when you feel fear and uncertainty and if you are able to not lose your shit at that point, literally the following day, or soon after that point – that is where the magic happens. There is a great quote by Napoleon Hill which exemplifies this. He says “Every Adversity, Every Failure, Every Heartbreak, Carries With It The Seed Of An Equal Or Greater Benefit ” It’s so true.
There is always something around the corner, you’ve just got to trust it will come. Trust that things will work out even if you don’t know the answer to how and just keep making those small steps to move forward. Baby steps, baby steps, because those baby steps cumulatively end up being massive leaps. And when you look back, it’ll all make sense, although it might not feel like it at the time.
Another lesson is the importance of building your network. Because our careers are about 40 years long. And the more that we can create connections, meaningful connections with people along that journey, the more people will be willing to help us as we get further in our careers, and that’s definitely what I’ve experienced, more so when I stepped out on my own.
Do your best to create great relationships with people, because you never know where they end up or how you might work together in the future. Our connections are like one big ecosystem to continue to build and nourish over the years. So yeah, I would definitely say that’s another big lesson.
Connecting the dots between creativity, technology, innovation and people
My career journey has been in creativity, technology and most recently people. And combining all of these together means that I’m able to see and think in different ways. So I would encourage your brilliant creative audience to explore areas they are also curious about. It doesn’t necessarily always have to be work related. There can be lots of different other influences and diverse perspectives ultimately help us to be more creative. There is a wonderful book I love called Curious, that explores why we as humans, have the drive to understand – and how this taps into our creativity.
Tackling the great resignation era as a Creative
So my thoughts on that, over the last two years since the pandemic, we have been working from home, reevaluating the things that are important to us, being more creative, having a bit more time to reflect and spend time doing the things that you love, with the people you love.
Being creative, you are also likely to be innovative, agile, curious, opportunistic, and make things happen, which are all attributes of an entrepreneurial mindset, and that means that as creatives, we succeed in a variety of different settings.
The stats for resignations in 2021 I read where around 40% of people left their jobs voluntarily. 40% of the population is a big number. But what’s interesting about it is that there is an emergence of entrepreneurship and this idea of not wanting to work five days a week for any organisation. Maybe only wanting to work three or four and on the other day working on a side project, experimenting and exploring the different things that you find interesting to either build a business or build a product, or just try new things.
The great resignation has meant that many organisations need to work a lot harder to keep amazing people because we’re restless. And we don’t necessarily want to stay in a place that isn’t going to help us develop our career, or isn’t going to help us develop ourselves, or isn’t going to give us the opportunity, or pay us our value.
People are more empowered to go and explore. And actually have realised that they probably don’t need to have a really big salary to be happy. Covid has made us appreciate the more meaningful things that make us happy. So, yeah, I think the great resignation is a reflection of our attitude, actually, and our expectations of work. And if those expectations aren’t being met, we don’t need to be stuck in a job that’s not going to fulfil our potential or help us grow and it’s a candidate driven market out there now, so lots of opportunities.
You know, in places like India, I was speaking to a client recently who has an office over there. She was saying that it’s very common in job interviews for people to have four or five job offers at a time. You know, the market is that hot. So for organisations, it’s really, really hard. But for us, that’s great because it means we get to choose which organisation is going to be the best fit.
Seeking a balance between passion, career pursuit and financial stability
I guess there are two ways to think about it. There’s the practical way, which is if you have financial commitments and you need to be addressing those on a regular basis, then there may be some compromise in terms of knowing I need to do this to pay the bills. Doing the work to give you stability.
But keep in the back of your mind a seed of inspiration and ask yourself – what is it that I love? Can I find things in this job that I’m doing to pay the bills that do actually play to my strengths? Is there something in it that you can find, to bring a little bit of happiness and positive energy, knowing that this is a stepping stone towards another place. Our careers are about 40 years on average, and if you spend five years building financial security, that’s still only a tiny percentage of your entire career. And sometimes we need to do that in order to get to the next chapter in the journey. So, taking the long term view is what I would say and know that it’s not going to be like that forever. There are two sides to everything in life, so explore ways you can find your passion, even in the smallest of things. x
Connecting with Claire
LinkedIn is one, and The Dots
The Dots : https://the-dots.com/users/claire-koryczan-365484