In this episode of our series, The World’s Most Interesting People, I sat down with Sarah Moyle. Sarah is a Creative Catalyst and Visual Storyteller.
She’s a self-taught graphic recorder and a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator (yep, that’s using LEGOs for creative sparks).
Sarah sat down with me to discuss her favorite outlets and ideas for how to be more creative at work.
Meet Sarah Moyle
Sarah always has loved encouraging creative thinking in others and is doing something incredibly unique in her professional life. She works at Intel, a Fortune 500 company, and out of more than 100,000 employees, she’s the only one doing graphic facilitation.
One of her creative outlets is whiteboarding animation, and she’s visually directed content on technology, policy, and other topics.
You have found a striking balance of professionalism and creativity at Intel. Is this something you set out to do in your career or did this happen by accident?
Sarah said finding the balance was a long road. Creativity always has been a part of her life–you could find her painting or drawing most of the time. She lived to create elaborate school projects. And while creativity was always an important element, she had the idea that the likelihood of her becoming a super successful artist was small.
So, she went to school pursuing a pre-veterinary degree and, after working in a clinic for three years, knew she needed to pursue something different.
This is how Sarah arrived at Intel. She began in an entry-level Human Resources position and was absolutely starved for creativity. So, she started looking for ways to bring her creativity to work.
Sarah reminded us that we spend so much time at our jobs.
If you don’t love what you’re doing, then what are you doing?Sarah Moyle
For the first time in her professional life, Sarah was excited to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. She quickly realized that she could bring something novel and different to Intel. So, she put together a pitch for her manager showing how these visual tools could be beneficial to the company.
Then, her manager quit.
Sarah waited a long four months for her manager to be replaced. In that time, she found friends in high places within the Intel community and began trying out her visual experiments across various departments.
For example, she started creating whiteboard animations like this one, using open source software:
For these types of animation, Sarah takes something complex and turns it into plain English, making it easier for people to grasp the overall concept. This simple language also is paired with visuals as an extra explanation. Sarah has videos on everything from technology to processes to supply chain management to collaborative intelligence. Whiteboarding is a great tool to engage audiences.
Action Step: Unleash your inner creative. Think about ways you can bring creativity into your work. If you can’t bring it into your job, consider creative outlets on the side on nights or weekends.
Once you started honoring this creative part of yourself, did it spark other things in your life? Did it change other things you were doing or working on?
Through Sarah’s quest for consistent creativity, she realized that no job, role, or process is set in stone. There’s always room for adjustment and change. Further, she’s decided she’ll never again settle for a job as it’s laid out in the job description. It’s incredibly important for her to add her creative flair to a role to unleash her brilliant combination of skills and passions.
Action Step: Your job description is not your only job description. Look for flexibility within your predetermined tasks and responsibilities to add your creative spark.
Have you found that your Intel colleagues have noticed or recognized you in a different way?
Sarah actually was nominated by one of her colleagues for our World’s Most Interesting People series. She reflected that it can be hard being different. She’s working at an engineering and technology company and she’s not an engineer nor very tech-savvy.
But her persistence for creativity has paid off. She stuck to the inner traits that make Sarah who she is and push backed when she felt her creative outlets were diminishing.
Due to her creative facilitation work, she’s often brought into high-level executive meetings and has the opportunity to work with groups all over the company, allowing her to build her professional network. This has given Sarah a unique horizontal view of the company that many employees don’t get.
Action Step: Creativity can be a career booster. Look for ways to add something unique to your role to make you more valuable to the company. It’s a bonus if it brings value to multiple teams or departments!
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Creative Outlet Ideas
Tell me about LEGOs. How do you use LEGOs at work?
Two and a half years ago, Sarah became certified in LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® through a company called Strategic Play. This is a methodology that brings unique solutions to help solve business problems or challenges.
The best part is that it gets teams and organizations to use their hands to solve issues normally tackled by words alone. Sarah told us that it’s one of her favorite ways to build team connection and engage with an idea or piece of content.
It all starts with a prompt. Someone could ask, “What traits do you find in a good leader?”
And then everyone starts building their answer to this prompt with LEGOs. Once everyone is done building, each person shares how their model tells a story of leadership–they use it to explain and tell a story. (Watch the video above to see Sarah’s leadership LEGO in action.)
Using LEGOs is not only way more fun than simply verbally answering a prompt, but it also levels the playing field. Sarah explained that having everyone build their own model encourages each person to share their unique voice. It’s an approachable methodology for all kinds of professional thought exercises and challenges. Sarah has used LEGOs in team building sessions, software retrospectives, and several process improvements.
It’s a unique way to tap into the power of nostalgia in adults and offer an opportunity for professionals to experience childlike imagination.
Action Step: Do something with your hands. Bring out your old LEGOs or go to your local toy store and ask for recommendations on something you can use to flex your creativity muscles. Bring your new toy(s) to work as an icebreaker or as a team-bonding activity.
What’s the first step to get into graphic recording and facilitation?
Sarah recommends, The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking as a great place to start learning and identifying your visual style. We also found a curated list of resources and classes here.
Action Step: Practice your visual storytelling with your favorite TV show, or even with one of our YouTube videos. Send us your notes and we’ll share our favorites!
I noticed on your website you feature beautiful chalkboard art. Is this something someone could pick up as a side hustle?
Sarah has created many examples of chalkboard art for weddings and her own events. This is something that doesn’t take a lot of time or money to do, so it’s a perfect introductory creative outlet and another opportunity to do something with your hands.
Sarah recommended surfing Pinterest for visual ideas and font choices. You even can copy your favorites for practice!
Action Step: Turn your favorite quote into a visual. Practice your stylized handwriting on your chalkboard.
You’ve also done wood burning for weddings. Tell us more.
Wood burning is an artistic technique that involves burning letters, shapes or a design into a piece of wood, like a wood round or slice from a tree.
This one really excited me as my husband Scott and I hired a wood burner to make coasters for our wedding with all our favorite cities on them, such as Tokyo and Sydney, Shanghai.
Sarah said it’s pretty simple to get started on this craft. Begin by watching a few YouTube tutorials, then locate the wood crafting section of your local craft store for supplies.
Action Step: Produce a unique product, such as coasters or vases, as gifts for the next holiday season or family birthdays. Having a timeline in place will give you purpose behind your craft and the motivation and time to do it.
Photography, parenting and the dark arts. Tell us more.
As a self-identified creative, Sarah gets asked all the time to photograph her friends and their events. She’s self-taught and loves to pursue this creative outlet as a gift for her community.
Action Step: Check out Creative Live’s offerings for photography classes.
Sarah has created fun cartoons about being a mom. (Warning: some NSFW.)
Motherhood is hard. If you can’t laugh through it, it’s a lot harder.Sarah Moyle
The Dark Arts
In addition to all of Sarah’s creative outlets, she also has a not-too-secret obsession with Halloween.
She draws and paints custom art for her house during the holiday, such as dark fingerpainting and creepy anatomical drawings as a callback to her biology classes.
Action Step: Use a holiday to jumpstart your creativity with decorations or a party at home or at work.
What’s your most favorite project you’ve worked on?
This one is big. And spooky.
Sarah designed and built a haunted house on the Intel campus. It was in one of the large training rooms and inside were all things scary, including a huge maze, sound effects, smells, decorations, props and lighting. She had a day and a half to set it up. It was open for four hours (and brought in more than 500 employees!) and then everything was torn down.
In addition to being one of her grander projects, it was also one of the most exhausting.
Action Step: Create something celebratory at work in the break room or conference room. If your organization has a party planning committee, join it!
Any final words for people who want more creativity in their life?
Creativity and playfulness is a mindset.Sarah Moyle
Sarah urges us to find ways to be more curious and to take the time to sit, reflect, and create. Turn to creativity when you want to do something mindless, like watch Netflix. Honor your creative spaces and desires. Spend time with the children in your life. Look at the way they approach the world and try to emulate that.
Don’t be childish, be childlike.Sarah Moyle
Follow along with Sarah’s journey: