Melissa Kilby

Be brave as a creative – and collaborate

Melissa Kilby, CEO of Girl Up – the global leadership development organisation transforming girls to be a force for gender equality and social change – says it’s important to be brave, vulnerable and honest, and to be creative you must collaborate

How would you define creativity – is it a process, an idea, a talent?

I think of creativity as a way of thinking. For me it’s about dreaming big and thinking of new ideas and solutions. It can also be about expressing those ideas – through words, art, movement. There are so many ways to be creative – a creative negotiator, a creative problem-solver, or to create something that moves emotions in others. I love that I get to be creative in all these ways through my work with Girl Up.

What difference does being creative make to the way in which you approach opportunities/problems?

I try to look at opportunities and problems from many different angles, to interrogate common responses and think about new, bolder ways to move forward. I love to collaborate and brainstorm with others. Feeding off a team’s energy makes me more creative. I think aloud so having someone to bounce off ideas and feed off allows me to be my most creative – luckily, I work in a great team with incredibly dynamic and creative people.

How did being creative enable you to deliver something positive – something that has made a difference to people's lives?

In the spring of 2020, while we all adapted to the sudden shift to virtual work (and for Girl Up, virtual programming) I knew we needed to keep our Girl Up leaders engaged and continue to show our value to our partners. I pushed the team to get a virtual event series together within a few weeks. Not only did we provide great programming to our movement, but we also kept our leaders and partners engaged – and showed them that Girl Up was dynamic and nimble and that we would continue to be there for our community. We faced a big challenge with creativity and innovation and haven’t looked back since.

Who has inspired you creatively?

My colleagues inspire me daily. They push me to challenge convention and they inspire me to be bold and think big. I’m also constantly inspired by the activism, passion and potential of the Girl Up leaders around the world. Their creativity in the face of challenge after challenge keeps me driving for change.

What have you learned from thinking creatively that will inform your next project, role, endeavour?

I am about to undertake a huge creative project and the thing I’ve learned the most about tapping into creativity is to be as brave, vulnerable and honest as possible when you are sharing, teaching, and inspiring others. I’m hoping to garner many of my own leadership lessons, and those unique insights I’ve gained from working with this incredible group of young people, to share in an upcoming book.

How important is it to surround yourself with other creative thinkers, perhaps people that think differently from you?

I can’t think of anything more important. Since we all have different talents, different ways of thinking and working and seeing the world, the best ideas and the best solutions come from collaboration. I am not a solo-creative, I’m a group-creative – and the more perspectives and experiences the better.

published on

20 June 2022

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