Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

MEET MONICA KANG: FOUNDER & CEO OF INNOVATORSBOX

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This is InnovatorsBox’s “IB Backstage series, where in celebration of InnovatorsBox’s 6th year anniversary in November 2021, we are highlighting the stories of our incredible team members.

It’s me! I wanted to go last since you see enough of my introductions in many of my blogs. But there are still some layers to why I do what I do that I’d like to share with you, and I’m incredibly grateful for all of you for being part of this journey of sharing creativity in your life. 

Here are questions I know I get asked all the time and some that I hope could shed light and inspire you in the journey that’s ahead of you. I often describe myself as a curious one. And that was definitely a big part of what inspired me to do this team series as I was curious also about learning more about my team, just as you are. 

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Monica : Curious. Reflective. Playful.

Why is creativity important to you?

Monica : It’s the source of freedom, possibilities, and a reminder that we are alive as a being. When I’m creative, I’m dreaming of what else I could do instead of why something hasn’t worked. I’m not letting what has been done stop me from what could be done.

Any routines that help me be creative?

Monica : I’m an advocate for the balance of structure and flexibility. I try to have a few things that are routine that will let me stay focused on being in the flow and present in all the other realms. For instance, I have a few morning and evening routines I always like to stick to such as my morning exercise, vitamins, brunch, podcast, family call in the morning and decompressing at night with tea with a movie so that I enter imagination land. 

These routines permit me to enjoy the flow and be present as I walk out the door and notice more details in my routine where I find new ideas and perspectives. I try to have a lot of post-its around my home and my routine so that I could document those ideas and perspectives when I come across them.

Trends about work:

What is a skill that you found to be key in being a good entrepreneur?

Monica: Self-awareness and self-compassion. Whether it’s time management, project management or actual client and finance management, there is a lot that goes behind the scenes that people will not know other than just knowing you as the entrepreneur. You’ll want to be dead honest on what drives you, what excites you and what bores you to determine where you want to spend energy but also how you want to design the workflow where you get to do what drives you and less of what doesn’t energize you. 

Delegate the small things that you don’t enjoy. Design the workflow so that you can amplify both you and your team’s talent and strength. When we design it that way, success, growth becomes not only more attainable but sustainable as you design it around your strength and your team’s strength.

Q : What is one hack that you’d share for entrepreneurs who are starting off?

Monica : Really ask what you want to build and why. When you have a clear why, you will be able to make more strategic and long-term decisions and not be discouraged by the short-term success or challenges you might face. 

Really ask yourself why you want to do this. Why does this have to be done? Why does this problem need to be solved? When you have clarity, have the resources, and have an audience who you know could benefit from it, start there to see what you could do to support them. 

Then know that this is a marathon. The overnight success you hear on the news takes years of development and preparation. And there are plenty of successful entrepreneurs we never hear in the news who are doing incredibly well both in impact and profit. Don’t try to do it to be famous or for immediate ROI. Ask yourself, who are you really doing this for?

What trends are you seeing in the workplace that you are excited about and worried about?

Monica:  I’m excited about how more leaders are really being serious about culture and leadership development. This pandemic has opened our eyes to what we think about care and well-being and I’m looking forward to seeing how more leaders and more companies take the effort to build in care, well-being, and holistic professional and personal development as part of a company’s growth.

The concern is the fact that we are going through the Great Resignation shows that most companies are not listening to what people are asking. This has been hard because the society and economic push has led many leaders to make those complex decisions to either jump back into the office or not find a strategic, thoughtful way to take their people’s voice into account. I’m optimistic that this time will really push us to find new sources, new studies and new methods in how we listen to our people better. I worry about when that result will be and hope that we won’t lose this pandemic experience to forget all the important lessons we learned about the workplace and what we really want in life.

Download ALL: The Happy, Creative Culture Roadmap, A Happy Remote Workplace Roadmap, and two accompanying Worksheets.

What was your favorite project, experience or memory at InnovatorsBox?

Monica: No project is ever alike but the commonality of my memories are centered around people. It’s when a client shares how this workshop or coaching sessions was the game-changing moment that helped them rethink and shift their mindset about something they struggled for a long time. Or when a team member shares this is the first experience where they felt included or encouraged to be themselves at work. It’s these moments that I’m reminded of my why.

It may feel hard to always capture these impacts into quantitaitve numbers. But to see how more people are able to learn how to open up, get comfortable with who they are as a creative, and explore how they could reshape their company and team culture is really encouraging. It helps to know that we are making a difference, one at a time. It’s also humbling as many clients come back to us or refer us to others and share what we did with them was still one of the best sessions or the memorable one, in that it was both practical, heartwarming and engaging. We hope to continue to get better at what we do so that we could serve more in the continued earnest and intentional ways as we upskill leaders for this fast-changing workplace.

Design the workflow so that you can amplify both you and your team’s talent and strength.

Who are creatives that inspire you?

Monica:  I have a lot of people I admire. From leaders like Bob Iger, Brene Brown, Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, Priya Parker, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, to artists like BTS, Stromae, Neil Gainman, Eiichiro Oda and more. How they strive to do the best at what they do and how they pour all their curiosity and heart into dedicating what they do inspires me to know that why quality is born out of care and thoughtfulness. I loved how many of them would often share the importance of continued development and I strive each day to wonder how I could be a better person, creative, and a leader and be eager to know that tomorrow I’ll only be better by putting more care, dream, and intention to each step of the way.

What is a book that you couldn’t stop reading?

Monica: Loved Robert Iger’s The Ride of a Lifetime both from business perspective as well as, as a Disney fan learning how he led all the M&A and how he continues to leave an impact. I’m also reading The Body Keeps The Score as I’ve been having some sleep problems and found it helpful to remember how after a busy run, I’ll need to do a better job taking care of myself. I also just purchased The Premonition by Michael Lewis and looking forward to reading it as I enjoyed his book on the Fifth Risks learning about the innovation transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration.

Getting to know Me!

Q : What are you listening to lately – music or/and podcasts?

Monica : I’m into a lot of new podcasts as I’m studying podcast trends. I share more of my podcast recommendations in this blog that I wrote but here are some particular highlights that I recommend: Radiolab, Foundering, Podcasting Q&A, Tablo Podcast, Planet Money. But of course don’t forget to add Dear Workplace and Curious Monica to your playlist too and let me know what other content and stories we should capture. Excited to share all the new development we are doing.

For music, in addition to all our music at InnovatorsBox Studios such as Paint My World, Here and more, I’ve been revisiting my love for BTS, Stromae, Pentatonix, Disney, Hamilton, LaLa Land, Richard Freeman’s background music, L’Orchestra Cinematique, and JPop as I’m a big fan of animes.

Why do you like anime and where do you recommend others to start?

Monica: I’m a big anime fan. I think it’s because of all the creative storytelling that inspires me and gets me hooked to wonder what else will happen to these characters. And because of my interest in leadership and team development, I’d say a lot of these shows spur a lot of good ideas and reminders on key elements in what we want in a team and leadership. 

First, if you are new to anime, there are three realms I recommend looking at. Disney/Pixar Animation, Ghibli Studios, and Japanese Anime. All three have a distinct style and approach to storytelling, music composition, and narration. Most likely, for our American readers here, access to Disney and Pixar are plenty, so I’ll go a bit deeper for the other two. 

What is your favorite way to decompress? Why?

Monica: As much as I love coaching and workshops, I do enjoy my time alone where I get to reflect, write, process, and be present. Perfect way to decompress is a day where I get a solid 8-hour sleep, exercise, good food, chilled weather with my window open so that I can write and reflect and work on things that inspire me to be creative. 

At times, it’s writing, reading, watching something, and spending quality time with friends and loved ones. This is why, when I’m often visiting Korea, I like being MIA for others so that I could be fully 100% present only for my family and parents to spend time being present and make up for all the time that we couldn’t spend while I’ve been away from them. You can’t buy time and experiences you could have with loved ones, so that’s my favorite way of decompressing. 

If someone is visiting DC for the first time, where would you recommend they go, eat, or do? 

Monica: So much to share too! I’m a DC born resident, so have a lot of pride and appreciation for this city, its history and culture. A few things I recommend everyone to do: early evening or sunrise walks at the monument, afternoon stroll and brunching at 14th & U street, a walk at Meridian Hill Park, and checking out the Smithsonian museums. 

A few restaurants I recommend: DC Noodles, Donburi, Paul, Doi Moi, Barcelona, Jeni’s IceCream, Jubilee Icecream, Busboy and Poets, Sushi Taro, Duke’s Grocery, Estadio, Makan, Maketto, and Rasa. And if you have a car, to go to Virginia to get some Korean food and get Yechon or To Sok Jip

If someone is visiting Korea for the first time, where would you recommend they go, eat, or do? 

Monica: Where to start! So many places you should go and try and do. First, if you have only a few days to go, center it around Seoul and the DMZ so that you get to have that historical experience. Even in Seoul, you’d want to divide up visiting between Gangnam – the southern part of Seoul, and Gangbuk – the northern part of Seoul. The two have different industries, sightseeing, and foods to enjoy. But if you have more days, I highly recommend expanding your visit to Busan, Jeju Island, and other places that have tons of experiences, food, and moments to experience. I’d go back to any of them in a heartbeat. If you have a car to drive through the country, San Museum is also phenomenal. 

If you could travel anywhere and do anything, where would you go and what would you want to do? 

Monica: At the moment, since I couldn’t travel for a year for COVID, I’d love to go back to Korea to see my family but also be able to visit some of my other favorites like Vienna, Austria where I used to live and travel every weekend in Europe. Would love to train-travel COVID free, so that I could enjoy being on the road, unplugging and enjoying the presence of different environments and experiences. 

Anything else you want to share?

Monica: Writing this has been reflective and I hope some of these could inspire others to reflect on how we take the time to get to know our own selves. Curious how you’d answer some of these questions when you look back at your journey. And thank you for stopping by our site!

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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