Innovator. Curious Storyteller. BridgeBuilder.
The official line: Hi! I am the founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox, author of Rethink Creativity and Have You Seen My Friends?, and host of Dear Workplace, Curious Monica, and the Rethink Creativity podcasts.
I’m on a mission to unlock creativity for all to reimagine how we thrive no matter how old we are or where we work. When I rekindled my lost imagination after being stuck in a job I loved—nuclear nonproliferation—I wanted to find a way to help others, so they didn’t ever feel stuck like I had come to. Today, I write, speak, coach, and coach leaders and companies on culture, leadership, and teambuilding transformation. I work with clients worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies, higher education institutions, government organizations, and nonprofits.
The bottom line: I want to help create a world where we can all show up as our full creative selves no matter where we work or how old we are. We’re all creative, and when we unlock our creativity, the potential to thrive is limitless. I want to help more people recognize their latent superpowers and show companies how to create a workplace where everyone is free to use their own creative voice.
A Few Fun Facts About Me - Honoring My Past
Growing up Korean American and living on three different continents means that you’ll be no stranger to the identity crisis. I was Korean but not Korean enough. I was American but not American enough. I was born in Washington, D.C. and at age seven moved to Incheon, South Korea, where I attended elementary and middle school before I started high school in the States. I went to boarding school, as my parents were still in Korea, so I had to learn how to get comfortable being on my own since age fifteen. I think this is why I grew sensitive to what it felt like to be included and excluded for who you are. I was sensitive to how it felt being one of the few Asian females in every room. But I’m glad my curiosity led me more than my fear, allowing me to try new things each day at a time. The journey of learning how to love my full self as who I am has been the greatest gift of all.
Because my work is so public, you’ll rarely see any photos of me and my family with respect to their privacy. If you do get to see them in person, however, you may mistake my mother for an older sister of mine. Meanwhile, my dad will likely be there with his camera, as he’s loved to capture every moment of our time together since we were born. Yes, back in the day when cameras were heavy, that’s when he started capturing our family time. My brother will be the one chatting away, sharing new things I should try and improve, and acting as if he’s my older brother because he is taller than me. You’ll see us conversing in both Korean and English.
If I could, I’d want to learn more. It’s such a powerful way to listen, learn, and meet people where they feel most comfortable in their mother tongue. As for me, I can only speak comfortably in two languages. I’m bilingual in Korean and English and grew up with both respective cultures and language customs. Yes, I had to take the US and Korean History classes growing up in both Korean and American education systems. I used to speak Mandarin a bit but now am embarrassed to admit how much I forgot after not using it for years. I used to write essays and spent some time studying abroad in Shanghai while learning Mandarin for ten years from high school to college, but practice is key. So the lesson here is if you love the language you are learning, practice and find ways to keep using it to expand your horizon.
StrengthFinders says my top strengths are Input, Activator, Individualization, and Arranger. Oh, and I do love all of that very much. My friends joke that my pace of working is “Monica move” because I love to juggle multiple insights, inputs, and data at a time—all in an effort to make faster, smarter decisions. It helps me connect the dots and find new pathways so the time spent watching a movie, reading an article, or listening to a podcast will prove more beneficial, giving me more ways to arrange projects and workflow and prepare my next book or presentation in a creative way. I share this because it took me time to learn to love and recognize my strengths. It’s key to take a moment to meditate on what your strengths are and to explore how you can bring out more of yourself every day. When we design our workflow with consideration for how we work best, we not only accomplish more but enjoy doing what we do each day. This is how I ended up in all the different jobs and roles that I relish today. Because I hated being boxed in and was eager to learn more, I kept arranging, learning, and expanding what I could do.
The opportunity to live in Washington, DC, Boston, Incheon (South Korea), Vienna (Austria), Geneva (Switzerland), Shanghai (China), and visit many more places has really been a humbling experience. The more countries you visit, the more you realize how unique and yet human we truly are. There are so many experiences that we have each day and so many new ones we create when we cross each other’s lives. I once helped bridge diplomatic ties with Kazakhstan government officials while supporting a client project in Astana as we spoke about what it’s like to be Asian. On another occasion, I helped someone learn how to read a map with my broken French on my overnight train ride from Vienna to Hamburg. And these are things I will never forget, and I can’t wait to travel again—after the pandemic—and one day be able to live in new cities and countries, learn about new cultures, speak new languages, and seek out new dessert spots!
What I’d Love to Do in the Future - Manifesting My Future
The how may look different than what I have in mind but I hope I never stop dreaming, learning, unlearning, and living life to its fullest.
If there are opportunities to collaborate in building a more creative and inclusive workplace and society for all, let’s connect. I’d love to speak with you. In the meantime, keep dreaming and building and showing up as well. Your voice matters.