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September 4, 2021

Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy Back Into Your Work and Life - Best Selling Author Tania Katan

Creative Trespassing

Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy Back Into Your Work and Life - Best Selling Author Tania Katan

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BY: TARTLE

How many of us live our lives locked in the rat race? Despite the belief that money can’t buy happiness, we can’t deny that a surplus of income can give people the opportunity to live comfortable lives. It is this driving force for a stable future that has pushed many bright-eyed graduates into corporate positions, where they are gridlocked into a specific routine or career path. 

Younger generations are working on introducing exciting new alternatives, such as increased work-life balance, remote jobs, and the rise of the gig economy. Conversely, corporations are also looking into new ways to accommodate this change in priority; interesting new policies such as a liquor room are briefly touched upon in the podcast. 

In this episode, Alexander McCaig and Jason Rigby are joined by Tania Katan as they discuss issues adjacent to the meaning of work, the value of money, and the opportunity to enliven the monotony of day to day life. 

Creative Trespassing

In the podcast, Tania revealed that her book was entitled “Creative Trespassing” because she wanted to encourage creatives to encroach in spaces they are not necessarily welcomed in—or at least, where they are not invited through the front door. 

One particular salient point in their discussion included the issue of toxic workplaces, and where there is still an opportunity for this to happen. A call for structure and order means that businesses may not handle creative people very well; as a result, plenty of innovative minds become “lost” in the woodwork.

To this, Tania explained that humans do have an innate ability to solve practical problems in new ways. Like any other skill, creativity requires active participation and engagement — it’s not just about companies finding ways to create comfort zones, but also about employees looking for ways to break out of that comfort zone. This means that there is definitely still a chance for creatives to flourish in high-pressure work spaces, and even be the reason for positive change within these areas.

Life Is A Stage

Alexander made interesting parallels between theater and office culture, in that everyone has a role they should play. One thought-provoking question he asked was whether people should sit within the confines of that role, or “add the nuances of you that makes you special.”

At this point, Tania shared her roots in theater and how she eventually diverged from the path. She was excited to use her training as a writer in theater, but found a disconnect between the work she trained for and the work she actually ended up doing. This prompted her to work odd jobs on the side, such as telemarketing and bagging groceries.

These diversions led to a big discovery: inadvertently, she had started inserting things she learned from theater into the routine of day to day life, to keep her and her colleagues entertained. 

The Suspension of Disbelief

According to Tania, the foundation of theater is the suspension of disbelief. Throughout the podcast, it’s a recurring motif as well: what if straight-laced professionals in rigid industries like business and finance learned to approach their work with the suspension of disbelief? 

It’s easy to slip into a certain persona when you dedicate yourself to a certain station and work routine eight hours a day, five days a week. The process can be comforting; but it can also be mind-numbing, and eventually restricting. This metaphorical carry-over between broadway and work is the same individuality that helped Tania find the inspiration to write her book and share her experiences.

She discovered that there is always an opportunity to transform the environment and make an audience out of anybody, anywhere; whether it’s racing to make the largest number of customers smile, paying it forward amongst your workmates with a cup of coffee, or just taking a ten-minute break to stretch with your crew. It’s this attempt at bridging a connection and breaking the routine that can help everybody feel more alive.

Bringing Out The “Little C”

Oftentimes, creativity can be paralyzing. It can be difficult to break out from the fear of failure. This traps people in a situation where they are afraid to move at all, and it can be a common problem amongst perfectionists in particular.

To break out of this mold, Tania suggests creatives try two methods: the first is two actively set out and make bad work; and the second is to break the task down into small, incremental actions that anybody can make on a regular basis.

It’s exciting to think of our capacity to come together in one community, to create large and beautiful new things, without having to sacrifice our individuality in the process. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: our unique collective of separate identities is precisely what allows us to innovate new solutions and inventions.

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For those who are hard of hearing – the episode transcript can be read below:

TRANSCRIPT

Alexander McCaig (00:04):

Hello everybody. Welcome back to TARTLE Cast. I can't even keep my cool here with Tania. She's making me crack up. By the way, I was dying when I was reading your book. I could really feel the flavor of your personality through the writing, which I typically find rare for a lot of authors. They become very stiff when they write. They're really trying to force a message across. But I think it has to do a lot with your playwright skills. First of all, thank you for coming on. Thank you for the joy. Thank you for moving to New Mexico. I mean, that's a huge bonus. I mean, somebody is making some good decisions here.

Jason Rigby (00:37):

Yes, yes.

Alexander McCaig (00:37):

Talk about being a disruptor.

Jason Rigby (00:39):

We don't want to talk about New Mexico too much.

Alexander McCaig (00:40):

No, I know. I know, I know. That's not what it's about. But Tania, you have creatively trespassed into this geography of the United States. You have creatively trespassed into our mind, and I would love to discuss your against the grain attitude perspective, individuality, and how that's actually brought you to, I would say a very special point in life where you can share that knowledge and the success of that individuality with others in the workplace. Thank you very much for writing this and thank you for coming on.

Tania (01:20):

You're welcome. Thank you Alexander and Jason, the bearded man in the room.

Alexander McCaig (01:27):

He is the bearded man in the room. What was that barista?

Jason Rigby (01:31):

She said I'm wearing a dress earlier. That's what we were laughing about. That was the funniest shit ever.

Alexander McCaig (01:36):

Have you seen a gorilla in a dress?

Tania (01:37):

Awe, awe.

Jason Rigby (01:37):

That's great.

Tania (01:37):

You'd look cute in a dress Jason.

Jason Rigby (01:44):

I know I would.

Alexander McCaig (01:44):

You would look good in a dress.

Jason Rigby (01:45):

Yeah, we'll have to do that on an episode.

Alexander McCaig (01:47):

I wouldn't mind.

Jason Rigby (01:48):

Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (01:48):

As long as you're cool with it.

Jason Rigby (01:49):

No, I don't care.

Alexander McCaig (01:50):

Okay, perfect.

Tania (01:51):

Cool.

Alexander McCaig (01:54):

I can't even concentrate.

Tania (01:56):

I feel like we're on a morning radio show in Phoenix, Arizona.

Alexander McCaig (02:02):

That's exactly what this is. That's exactly what this is.

Tania (02:02):

You look great on the dress station Joe, Alexander oh, my God. Okay, we're just going to-

Alexander McCaig (02:07):

Our drivers are half asleep, but they're listening to us just because it's the only thing on air. You know what I mean?

Jason Rigby (02:15):

That's funny.

Alexander McCaig (02:17):

Okay. I need to understand something here.

Tania (02:24):

Talk to me.

Alexander McCaig (02:25):

I spent some time in theater building stages.

Tania (02:30):

Oh cool.

Alexander McCaig (02:31):

I wasn't the actor. I watched the actors. I watched the group, the collective. The individuals coming together and creating that theater tribe. All black, at the plaid. You know what I'm saying? I've seen it all from Jesus Christ superstar, to actually, I don't even know. There's tons. We did plenty of them. I was always shining the spotlight on these individuals. But they really do shine in that individuality. And even though they're playing the role of an actor on stage, there's still so much of their own personal character that comes through in that role. When I look at that bridge and also congratulations for making it through cancer. Cheers to you. That's a huge supportive thing and I want to share that to people out there. Yes, it is possible and Tania integrated with an understanding of something that was happening in her life and she achieved an overcoming of it. So, congratulations.

Tania (03:29):

I lucked out. Go on. Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (03:31):

Then to continue past that, right? When you look at theater, it reminds me a lot of office culture. I think that the bridge that you made in creative trespassing over to the function of your job in the office is everybody has a role to play. The question is, do you sit within the confines of that specific role, or do you add the nuances of you that makes you special as that actor? Because those are the things that lead people to get the Oscars, get the Grammys, to find themselves on Broadway. So when you're creating that Broadway at work, do you think that's where that transition actually happened? It was a perfect metaphorical carryover for you, is that what that was?

Tania (04:14):

Well, I think because of what my training was in theater, the foundation for theater is suspension of disbelief. Really, the foundation is about leaping from the foundation. It's about deciding collectively that we're going to enter theater space and we're going to let go of all of our assumptions and perceptions about the world as we know it and take a gigantic leap of faith into the unknown together. When that's your foundation for making, then you are creating worlds and you have permission to create entire worlds from nothing. I mean from theater, you have a blank script to start with, a blank page, and then a writer writes. Then you have an empty stage. You don't have prompts or anything. And then you bring together this beautiful collaboration of human beings, of somebody who aims the light, somebody who says where the light should be aimed. Somebody who stands in front of the light and says, "Oh, it's hitting me just right."

Tania (05:18):

That was my training foundationally, which at first when I was in ... I went to Arizona State University and did get my degree in playwriting specifically. I was being produced around the country as a young adult. I went in the world and I'm like, "That's my profession. I'm going to get paid a lot of money to write plays." Then I got a job working in theater development, and I realized A, I wasn't getting paid a lot of money. And B, I didn't find that this skill that I had developed as a writer was being necessarily celebrated, because I had to enter the donations into an Excel spreadsheet. I started to see this discord of this wonderful skill I've been taught and actors and lighting designers and all this, and then what we actually did and got paid for.

Tania (06:07):

I ended up bouncing around to a lot of seemingly disparate jobs outside of theater. I bagged groceries.

Alexander McCaig (06:15):

Barista.

Tania (06:15):

I did telemarketing, barista telemarketing. What's that? That's when we make things up and we get your credit card number. It wasn't my fault. It was my boss's.

Alexander McCaig (06:23):

Love that.

Tania (06:25):

But what I also discovered in these seemingly disparate jobs is that I start, inadvertently inserted the stuff I learned from theater to keep myself entertained, to keep my colleagues entertained, enliven these weird, rigid processes in a way that made us feel more alive. When I was bagging groceries, for example, it would be like, "Okay, how many grumpy customers can we make smile today? Let's go." A bagging competition. These were all unofficial things, again, to make us feel like what we were doing wasn't drudgery, was not for nothing. In essence, I was connecting to an audience. It's like, "Oh, the audience is grumpy. How do we perk them up?"

Alexander McCaig (07:08):

Exactly.

Tania (07:09):

The audience just happened to be people in line waiting to bag their groceries. That was the inception then, as I got more conscious about this thing, this creative trespassing that I seem to be doing, and I was speaking about creativity in the workspace. People would come up to me after I'd speak at major companies that I felt like I didn't belong in. I'm like, "I guess I'm just an ancillary creativity speaker." But they would come up to me afterwards at Expedia and Etsy and all these places and say, "You know, I have a degree in theater too. I like to dance on the weekends," or this. It was almost like they were speaking to me in hushed tones. They had left off the theater, the dance, the stuff that really enlivens them, they'd left that off their resume and out of their job. And therefore their job seemed more like drudgery, than whatever they did on the weekends.

Tania (08:05):

I'm like, "This is a problem. If we're all here and we're spending more than 40% of our time, sometimes even 65% of our time, at work, why the hell aren't we bringing the crap that enlivens us outside of work into our work day?" And so then I started to do both physical research and real scientific research about what it meant to bring more creativity into less overtly, creative and transformative spaces, processes, and work cultures. People seem to really dig it. That's where the inception, yeah.

Alexander McCaig (08:38):

I feel like if you walked into one of the trading floors on Wall Street, they would have a panic attack. Jimmy Diamond from like, he'd be having a nosebleed if you walked into their office. Here's what I want to ask you then because, and this will lead us to some further points upon this. Some workplaces are quite toxic and these are the thoughts I had when I read your book. Some environments are ones that are actually quite sterile and job processes really end up defining the culture, rather than the culture defining the job processes. Is it still possible to carry that creative trespassing? And you use the word trespassing, which is strange, because trespassing says that somebody else owns that border of the area that you're walking into. You're pushing through it illegally, but a positive gain comes from it, which I think is quite interesting. If say the environment is toxic, say it is, or sterile in terms of the culture or things of that nature, or it's just a manufacturing environment. Does this process here, this creative trespassing, still work in those environments?

Tania (09:50):

Well, first of all, you bring up a good point. The inception or idea of the name creative trespassing is at some point people would ask me over and over again, like, "What do you do? Why are you working at this tech company, or why are you speaking at a manufacturing conference?" I'm like, "I'm creative. I'm a mascot for fun." I didn't know how to adapt a rigid notion of being in those spaces, because I wasn't. Then I'm like, "Okay, what I'm doing is creative." And then I'm like, "Well, what am I doing with that creativity? And what are all these people who are dancers and theater practitioners and who sneak in that creativity? Well, we are trespassers." As your point Alexander, we're going into spaces and places and work cultures that didn't necessarily invite us in through the front door. Now that they see the skills that we are infusing, they realize we're adding layers that weren't there before, and now they can't live without.

Tania (10:51):

That's the foundation for this idea that I came up with, creative trespassing. To your point, and I love that you went to finance, because always whenever I'm speaking at a large, a global company, it's always some accountant who raises their hand and says, "Well, what about accounting? Can you be creative in accounting?" The big challenge is-

Alexander McCaig (11:12):

Yeah, cook the books. That's creative.

Tania (11:14):

Yeah. But you know, I have two responses and here's really the response I say to them is not cook the books, but it's whatever you need to do, whatever you need to do. But it's actually, yeah, you can be rigid about it. If you can't find $10,000, you could be like, "Well, I have my Excel spreadsheet. I have all these processes." Or you could be like, "I'm going to look at the receipts and I'm going to conjure the memory of that lunch I went to with Alexander and we actually talked about what it means to be an entrepreneur or what it means to be in finance." And we found, yeah, you could do it. You could find the money in a lot of ways.

Tania (11:47):

But secondly, there are two C's in creativity. There's the big C of creativity, which is like painting, dancing theater, blah, blah, blah. But there's also the little C and this has been proven. There's a really good study that was done in the 90s. I won't go into it. Patricia Stokes, you can look it up. But basically it proved it was a Seminole study that we all have an innate ability to solve practical problems in new ways and that is creativity. That's the little C. Every human being, and it was actually tested with rodents. And if you believe you're a little smarter than a rodent, which I do.

Alexander McCaig (12:24):

Jason?

Tania (12:25):

Yeah, Jason? Oh, my God Jason's like, for those who can't see, Jason has a questioning look. No I'm kidding.

Alexander McCaig (12:31):

He's a rodent who looks like a gorilla that's in a dress.

Tania (12:35):

You're my new best friend. Perfect. Yeah, so it proved that we all have this ability. It's a skill, like any other, that we can choose to develop or not. that's what I say. In terms of toxic culture is a whole different ... there's a lot of top-down leaders. There's leadership. There's a lot of, "I worked at a company that was "flat management."

Alexander McCaig (12:59):

Classic.

Tania (12:59):

Yeah. Which just meant that you could do stuff until they're like that sucks and then they cut it off, or until the CEO is like, "Oh yeah, be free, be free." And then at some point the CEO would be like, "Oh yeah. Okay, free, free. Oh no, it's going to be my idea." And you're like, "Wait, how come it's always your idea?"

Alexander McCaig (13:18):

It's always your idea. You egotistical prick. Are you kidding me?

Jason Rigby (13:21):

I did this with Google and this was really interesting. They have a whiskey room. I don't know if you've heard about this. They have all-

Alexander McCaig (13:27):

I'm not setting that up for you.

Tania (13:28):

What?

Jason Rigby (13:29):

I think we need to set this up. But they have all the most expensive whiskeys in a room. they encourage teams, when they're stuck if they drink alcohol, to go into this room and they have big, big beanbag chairs and stuff like that, and they actually drink whiskey and sit there and they talk about the problem.

Alexander McCaig (13:44):

I'd be wondering where you and Tania [crosstalk 00:13:45].

Jason Rigby (13:45):

They microdose, this whole side thing. They do all these different things. The Gmail team said that they came up with Gmail [inaudible 00:13:53]. How do you get, like a Google, how do you ... They're encouraging alcohol abuse-

Tania (14:04):

Well first of all. Yeah?

Jason Rigby (14:04):

At the workplace nine to five. It's a nine to five job. I mean, Google's not nine to five. You can work there at two o'clock in the morning. But it's like, "Hey guys, go have some alcohol. Figure this problem out." How do you get, because you said normal is where creativity goes to die.

Tania (14:16):

Yeah.

Jason Rigby (14:17):

So, how do you get-

Tania (14:19):

And alcoholism is where creativity goes to AA. [crosstalk 00:14:26]

Jason Rigby (14:26):

Your prefrontal cortex-

Alexander McCaig (14:27):

Here we go.

Jason Rigby (14:27):

... it moves that away. You have more lateral thinking. It builds to lateral thinking, we know that. They've done studies on alcohol where if you're at a 0.08, then that's when, 100 times, what was the writer?

Alexander McCaig (14:38):

Hunter S. Thompson.

Jason Rigby (14:38):

Hunter S. Thompson, you know he did some of his most creative work. Stephen King said he couldn't unless he was drunk, he couldn't write.

Alexander McCaig (14:46):

This is interesting.

Jason Rigby (14:46):

And I'm not an advocate for alcohol. I'm just saying, how do we transform the norm?

Alexander McCaig (14:52):

Okay.

Tania (14:53):

Well, also what you're talking about is alcohol as a nudge to be free within your thinking.

Jason Rigby (15:05):

Yes.

Tania (15:06):

Yes, alcohol is one way to get there, maybe. But, not for all people. Also, I think this could be #whiteprivilege. Just go into a room. We got fancy booze and you can drink it.

Jason Rigby (15:19):

Right, I see what you're saying here.

Tania (15:19):

Okay. What I am saying is, is that creativity, I'll go back to it is a skill, like any other. Think about Jason, a skill that you possess and think about you getting into a moment where you feel stuck or you're blocked. A choice could be drinking alcohol, fine, or it could be pushing through. Actually any creative person who's listening, and by creative I mean anybody who's had to solve problems, you know that when you stay the course and push through and not actually shift gears and drink alcohol, or shift gears and get away from the problem. When you push through and sit there and go, "You know what? I know this is uncomfortable and there's a reason why, because I'm at a moment of breakthrough," you will break through.

Jason Rigby (16:06):

But creativity always comes in those moments of you can see the blue paintings with Picasso when he was super depressed.

Alexander McCaig (16:16):

Yeah.

Jason Rigby (16:16):

I mean, if we really look at, because I want to shift the podcast in this direction, we're going to go there.

Alexander McCaig (16:22):

Yeah, I know where you're going.

Jason Rigby (16:22):

Yeah, he knows where I'm going, because this is what I wanted to talk to you about, is there are people that are out there in workplaces that are either on the spectrum of creativity maybe really high, and they're lost. If they're sitting at a Goldman Sachs wearing a tie right now, they're like, "I want to jump out this window.

Alexander McCaig (16:42):

And some do.

Jason Rigby (16:42):

And they do, and they think about that constantly because a lot of creative people are almost, I don't want to say they're a different species, because I don't want to. But, it's a whole different diagram. I don't think managers, leaders, C-suite handles creative people very well. You get a super creative introvert, you have an amazing person there, an absolutely amazing person. But yet, how do you handle that? How do you handle their mood swings? How do you handle them being late constantly?

Alexander McCaig (17:12):

How do you open them up?

Jason Rigby (17:13):

Yeah. How do you open them up.

Alexander McCaig (17:14):

How do you let the creativity flow?

Jason Rigby (17:15):

Do you see where I'm saying?

Tania (17:16):

Yeah. But also, I mean in fairness, there is this mystique or mythology about creative people, as a group, a grouping of people. And really you could go granular and say, "Well, some people who possess the big C of creativity maybe are dealing with some mental illness." You know what I'm saying? I mean, we can't put a blanket on this idea of our artists are temperamental. Our artists are this, or this, that. Some artists need that just like some-

Jason Rigby (17:50):

All great art and music have been off of that.

Tania (17:51):

Hey listen, but I've been-

Alexander McCaig (17:53):

Tania's about to snap, don't say anything.

Tania (17:54):

No, but I mean, I've met plenty of CEOs and CIOs and all the I and the O's and the E's and the C's and the V's and the P's who possess all that erratic and lovely and magical and shitty ways of being in the world. I don't buy into that mythology. I do, what you're saying in terms of having leadership, not understand the visionaries hiding right under their noses. The creatives that they can tap into for the big campaigns or ideas. I totally agree with you, that there are lots of situations like that. Then we get into a whole conversation about ego and also there's another practice other than drinking, called meditation. I don't know if anybody's ever heard of this, but-

Alexander McCaig (18:44):

Tania?

Tania (18:44):

Yes?

Alexander McCaig (18:45):

We just had Ethan Cross on the other day. You would've had a freaking blast with this guy. He wrote Chatter.

Tania (18:51):

Oh, yeah.

Alexander McCaig (18:53):

You're talking about this focus on these things that make you uncomfortable, and whether it be meditation or a methodology he has for finding that focus, that is that catalyst for creativity. When you talk about this little C, fear is a massive blocker. How do you afford somebody in a workplace, and then I'm going to make the larger masses-

Jason Rigby (19:16):

This is chapter one [inaudible 00:19:19] last year.

Alexander McCaig (19:19):

Right, and fear is last year. How is it that they can unlock the little C for practical problems, but not worry that every freaking outcome from them trying something is going to end up in their demise?

Tania (19:34):

Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (19:35):

How do you do that?

Tania (19:36):

A few different ways. One is to make bad work and actually I write about it.

Alexander McCaig (19:41):

Correct.

Tania (19:42):

Yeah, correct. I love it.

Alexander McCaig (19:46):

No, I mean like I hear, you know?

Tania (19:46):

Certainty is so, I love it. Yeah. And so sometimes we put artificial stakes, like we raise the stakes of the situation. Because our boss is very demanding and maybe yelling at us, or putting exclamation points on that. You need to finish this. And so we absorb that and we're like, "Oh, shit." And then we get trapped in a fear swirl or a doom circle, as I like to say, doom spiral. Then instead of producing our best work, we are producing our worst work. So I say cut the middleman, do your worst work. These are the situations where we're already jumping to, I'm going to fail. I'm going to be fired. Instead of jumping to that, stay still and say, "I'm going to just do the worst work I've ever done." There's a freedom in that.

Tania (20:35):

I've found in people that I coach and work with embedded in companies, it's like, "Oh, actually, now I've produced something weird and wonderful and actually useful to the task at hand. That's the first thing. And then another thing Alexander, which I'm sure both you and Jason know, is we're a bunch of over achievers or high achievers.

Alexander McCaig (20:56):

Yeah, we are.

Tania (20:56):

And a lot of people who feel that fear of failure, and so they don't even start, are also high achiever. What we do is we're like, "Okay, okay, I want to do everything and I want to do everything right. And I want to be perfect. Then what happens is we get stuck in overwhelm and we end up doing nothing. The solve for this every single time isn't ... Something I say to my coaching clients is instead of doing no things, do one thing and celebrate it. Those tiny incremental actions actually add up to something significant. So for leadership, for example, if you're like a leader in a company and you're like, "I know creativity is supposed to be something and we have to pivot. Everybody's like creativity, innovation, but I don't know." It's like just do something every single day. It can be a 10 minute engagement with your teams on some creative pursuit, some brainstorming that has no, you're not invested in the results. You're invested in the process, in allowing people to have personal agency and allowing people to shine.

Tania (22:03):

As a marathon runner myself, I didn't sit up and one day I'm like, "26.2 miles, bam." I had to train for my first one for a year. I would run one mile on Monday, two miles on, and incrementally built up. So that towards the end, I was running 17 miles with ease. And then when I showed up to run 26.2 miles, that's insane. I was able to do it because I had trained writing creative, trespassing. I mean, writing an entire book. If I sat down and like, "I'm going to write it in two seconds. And then I'm going to" ... I've been practicing my whole life writing.

Tania (22:41):

And then with this book I would write a chapter in a week and I'd send it to my agent, or my editor. And then I'd be like ugh, and then I'd write another one. I wouldn't look back at her notes and I would just continue onward. Think about any, any behavior you've ever changed and did you do it overnight? And if you went into the whiskey room, did that take you off track for a little bit? You know what I'm saying? Weeks sometimes we all go to the whiskey room and then we're like, "Oh, shit, I need to leave that room, lock it and go on my real path."

Alexander McCaig (23:15):

Right. Can we stop derailing here for a moment and be productive?

Jason Rigby (23:19):

The reason I brought that up is because mainly for leaders, because we have a lot of leaders of companies that listen to us, 222 countries. It's like how do you make something creative? How do you take this sterile environment that you're in and create a Google, or creative at some of the companies that you mentioned earlier? How do you bridge that as a leader?

Tania (23:42):

Yeah, one thing actually that when I was giving a talk and workshop for Expedia a few years ago, one of the issues that it was for their global engineer team. One of the issues that they were facing, and this is pre-pre pandemic was they were feeling disconnected from their teams who were overseas. You guys are sitting together in the same room and there's an energy and a generative quality to being side-by-side and figuring out, solving problems. They were like, "I know we have video, but like hm." We dug a little bit deeper and I'm like, "Well, I guess as a company, Expedia deals with travel. They travel. They go overseas."

Alexander McCaig (24:25):

Why don't you travel more?

Tania (24:26):

I'm like, "Well, what would be a really cool way to communicate with your, like let's disrupt this thing, the video.

Tania (24:33):

Anyway, we came up with, and actually write about it, yay is writing. So they became, I was like, "Why don't you become pen pals with these people and write a physical letter, instead of going hyper, they're a hyper tech company, let's get analog on the situation. What if we could turn it all around?" And so they started being pen pals. I don't know if you guys remember or still have letters that come to your mailbox and how exciting it is to open it up and feel the paper that somebody's chosen and look at their handwriting, and see how they purposely put words on paper. They loved it.

Alexander McCaig (25:10):

I mean that's why we choose this. We always go with the physical book.

Tania (25:12):

Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (25:14):

I think there's a different connection that happens here with your synapses. I'm pretty sure that's proven. I love the fact that I can get it as an ebook and I can buy it with one click. But having this here in front of me, something tangible, allows me to create a relationship with the book, which I think is a lot different. And having a relationship with your coworkers, with your creativity, with the culture is the thing that starts to define the difference in how you work with that material.

Tania (25:40):

Yes. And also, I want to give you a follow-up to what ... Here's a group of engineers. I mean, there were I don't know, hundreds and hundreds of engineers. You talk about people freezing up at high levels within corporations, like leadership about like, "Oh my God, what are we going to do with these unhinged engineers now?" But actually the person who brought me in said that the engineers were so excited, that they started to think about disrupting all of the technologies. Not in a way that was harmful, but in a way that elevated what they were already doing. Really, it triggered some deep creativity that had been latent and not really like, this is a focus creativity.

Tania (26:24):

Ironically, a lot of the companies that I've been speaking with and consulting with in pandemic times, were the ones that scaled pretty quickly based on being innovative and creative. That was the first thing to go when they started to scale. The thing that brought people to these was the thing that once they started making money, that they let go of. Back to leadership, it's a practice and a process. And if you do not invest, just like any software you use. It's like a CRM, but only the C is creativity. It's something, you invest in software and you're not like, "Oh, it sucks or it's hard. I'm going to give it up." You're like, "No, this is going to help my clients. This is going to help the found, our teams. This is going to help us scale." That's the same thing with creativity.

Alexander McCaig (27:11):

This is brilliant. Kudos to you. We have data champions all over the world. Ones that listen to the podcast and ones that actually interact with the data marketplace. We talk about disruption in the workplace. Is it possible for individuals in all these countries and countries carry culture, to be disruptive in a positive, creative sense for the greater good of themselves and their country, and everybody else that they're in relations with outside of it? Does this format still work for an individual in their country, in their family, in their household?

Tania (27:50):

Yes. I think that when thinking about disruption, obviously it can mean lots of things. It can mean something, just like anything else. Creativity can be used for good, or it could be used for evil and same with disruption. At the end of the day, all of the disruption that I've done as an individual and as a collective, or collaborative, or working with a company is we are focused on the mission and vision of what we're trying to do. And by disruption, my definition of disruption is applying a question that all of us artists learned early on. And that question is what if? And that allows for possibilities beyond this space and time. What if instead of us using technology, we sent letters in the mail. What if going to work meant feeling alive? What if being in our household meant we took strategies and tactics from work that work, and applied them to communication within interpersonal relationships? What if?

Tania (28:55):

To that point again, this is being in the world in a way that you're practicing seeing what isn't just in front of you, but what the context is. How that impacts other human beings. How that has a ripple effect. I mean, that is, that's the big C of creativity. Those of us who've trained in dance, or theater, or music, or whatever, we don't just think about the music we're making. We think about who's showing up to the show and we're thinking about what we want, how we want them to feel once they're there and how we want them to feel and act once they leave the theater, or leave the bar, or whatever.

Tania (29:34):

That consideration is something that again, a lot of companies, especially if they're not thinking, or really connecting to T-shaped skills or collaboration, or just stretching across departments, disciplines, and ideas to actually bring in outside ideas into the insight. Then we're really just perpetuating a myopic way of thinking. There's where we get into trouble. Obviously there's been a lot of, we've talked about in corporate culture, diversity and inclusion, in a very sterile way for a long time. Diversity happens, cultural diversity, diversity in age in thinking and thought process, neural diversity. Really when we invite in all of those perspectives to the table to solve problems, we will solve problems. Otherwise, we're just literally spinning our own wheels.

Alexander McCaig (30:35):

Then the way I look at this from your framework is that seven and a half billion people, if they come together as all these little C's doing this small creative thing, all of us just a 1% change in adaptive, practical thinking and being that individual, we can actually come together to create something large. A big C, something very beautiful for the world as a whole. If I understand this, just because we come together as a collective to do things as a group in unity, it doesn't mean we have to suppress our individual identities. You can have a collective of identities that can still maintain who we are as Jason in the dress, Alexander in the hat. Tania, as the totally wild against the grain human being.

Alexander McCaig (31:39):

We can still do things amazingly together and solve the world's problems proactively, if we begin to trespass on these cultural ideas that we think are so rigid and finite that are actually limiting us from being true human beings. I think this is a really phenomenal message that is so much stronger than just the workplace culture. I think this can actually really expand to everybody across the globe, so we can really find a foundational change that is better for all of our futures.

Tania (32:18):

Yeah, I totally agree with you. I feel like we're going to create this creative trespassing collective after this podcast.

Alexander McCaig (32:25):

I love it.

Tania (32:26):

Yeah. You're reminding me of a moment in which I, as a collective with a tech company, came up with a big idea to see, hear and celebrate women in technology and in the world. It was a moment, to your point Alexander, where a lot of times the things that are most important to us as human beings, get sidelined and workspaces get sidelined in the home, get sidelined in places of worship. Really at the end of the day, as humans, we just want to be seen, heard and celebrated. I don't mean that in huge parades. I just mean that as a human who's contributing to fellow humans and being in the world. That was the impetus for starting the creative, or it was never addressed campaign.

Alexander McCaig (33:26):

I love the bathroom sign.

Tania (33:30):

Yeah, and I'll just talk a little bit about that because it really was a moment where it was a problem nobody was looking to solve, within our company. I was working at a software company-

Alexander McCaig (33:42):

Axosoft?

Tania (33:44):

Axosoft, had no prior experience, didn't care about software. I thought it was a cashmere sweater. It's not. It's a technology that's boring AF, to me at the time. I literally was hired as an evangelist and I'm like, "Wait, I'm not a religious zealot. Why did I take this job? This totally sucks."

Alexander McCaig (34:03):

Yeah, I'm Jewish. We have our own little tribe and we keep quiet. Come on.

Tania (34:08):

That's right, yeah. I started working at this software company and literally didn't know anything. But I wanted to take a risk and I thought it was an awesome challenge. Second month on the job, my boss came to a colleague, Sarah and myself, and said, "We're going to host a big women in technology company. I want to show up in a big way. Come up with a big idea." This is 2015 when the Ellen Pao trial was going on. A lot of, there wasn't clear pipelines or invitations to women being in technology, even though there were a lot of women who were qualified. And once they were there, it was so bro culture that it was like, "Okay, diversity. But where's the inclusion part,? I'm going to leave." The turn rate was high, it was yucky.

Tania (34:57):

I started thinking about women in technology and women in most spaces and yeah, how oftentimes we're not seen, heard or celebrated for the superheroes we are, or just our daily contribution and how can we disrupt that? Long story short, the one thing I landed on was the symbol of the women's bathroom sign. She's got a triangle dress.

Alexander McCaig (35:23):

Love it, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tania (35:24):

Circle for a head. She hangs out in the place where you want to pee-pee.

Alexander McCaig (35:30):

Always watching you.

Tania (35:30):

As she's always watching you, casually though. She no eyes, so it's careful. Yeah, and so I brought the symbol back to the office and I'm like, "I don't have a big idea, but I have a symbol. I know that she's easily recognizable across cultures and genders." Then I just couldn't shake the shape of her dress.

Alexander McCaig (35:49):

Cape, ugly cape?

Tania (35:50):

Yeah, yeah. I did, I was like, "Well, it's a dress," but then I kept thinking that other things are that shape. I thought it might be a cape. But then I thought I was a crazy person. I printed out the vector and I took a pen and with few lines, it's like, she's been there this whole time. We were just looking at her back. And in fact, she's wearing a cape. I brought her back to Sarah and Sarah's like, "It was never a dress." And I'm like, "That's genius." So we created this campaign, and by campaign, it sounds lofty. We made stickers and I gave a talk about gender equity at a small women in technology conference. Then somebody took a picture of the sticker and said, "Cannot unsee." And then within 24 hours, every major media outlet company in the entire world picked it up.

Tania (36:37):

And the point of this is, is that it was a moment where we came together. We saw this problem on the larger stage. My boss prompted it. Let's see. We didn't solve the problem of women in technology. But what we did was, we offered another visual representation for women being in the world. That we weren't just a symbol of the mundane. We're actually superheroes of the everyday. Yeah, so anyway, it was really lovely. What people to your point, is people were writing in, because the symbol wasn't about being in the workspace specifically, it was about women being in the world and feeling like they had personal agency. And not just women, non-binary folks. People who were like, "I don't feel like I fit in and this symbol has said to me, you do fit in." And the symbol became their own. People embraced it in a way that they're like, "This is my symbol and I'm putting a lab coat on it, like oh my God. The symbol became way larger than us three on that particular day, or during that week. It became the symbol for everyone.

Alexander McCaig (37:44):

You latched onto something that translated very well across borders. It was this figure. It's essentially a figurative representation, a symbol of a human being. I think finding that fundamental thread for everyone, that thread of the cape, we'll just go with that, allowed you to make that sicker, which stitched all of these different people together and allowed them to then be creative upon how they define that symbol for themselves. That's almost like, here's the sticker of the little C. Here's the symbol. You choose how you want to make it the big C and that's up to you for how you want it to shine. I have this androgynous looking symbol. We'll put some hair on it, throw a cape on it, put a lab coat on it. That's up to you. But that's for you within your own identity. But underlying within all of it, is the fact that you are a human being and you have that choice to creatively trespass on a symbol that we see every single day, all day throughout the world. I think that is a spectacularly simple, tiny C, that turned out to something so magnificent.

Tania (39:01):

Well, thank you. And thanks for bringing, threading all these ideas together. One thing that, when I wrote the website for it was never addressed, the day before we were to launch it, which we didn't know was going to be a big deal. You know when you're doing something in advance, you're like, "It's got to be clear enough that people are like, what's that?"

Alexander McCaig (39:21):

Yeah.

Tania (39:21):

But vague enough that you're like, "I don't know what it is." But the thing that was really important to me was that we provided the free lined drawings and that you could enliven it, design it any way you want. That was part of the foundation. The rest, we didn't know it was going to go viral. We really didn't know. You never know. People who are like, "I'm going to create a viral marketing campaign," good on you. Most of the times we don't know that a business or campaign or whatever is going to take off. We hope it serves the people that we intend it to serve, and then beyond that it has a life of its own.

Tania (40:03):

So that was really important to me is that people had the agency to interact with the symbol and also something I infuse in a lot of my talks. I gave a big talk to a manufacturing summit, and they're like, "What is she doing here?" But I took the symbol that they had that represented manufacturing and I showed them what it looked like upside down, what it looked like on the side and made them guess and it looked like these. So it starts to plant the seed that when you're walking into everyday spaces, your office that you overlook, or a mall, a coffee shop that you go to. You start to take your brain and go, "Oh, what would happen if I turn that symbol upside down, or inside out?" And you're like, "There's a whole new world." And once you start to tap into that way of thinking, all bets are off, man. Everything you see becomes fuel and fodder for creative ideas.

Jason Rigby (40:55):

Tania, I want to, we'll ask this last question, because I want to be respectful of your time. But I want to ask this, we have a lot of young leaders that listen to this podcast.

Tania (41:03):

Yay.

Jason Rigby (41:04):

What would be advice that you would give them? If you don't mind, you could give whatever advice you want. But also the courage to be able to do this, to take these steps. But, what would you leave with a young leader that's coming into, maybe a new tech company, or any type of company and they want to be creative. They want to implement these creative ideas. They want to trespass. How could they have the courage to be able to do that?

Tania (41:32):

Two things, one it's a process. And I can't say this enough, those of you who are listening and use your body in some way, you know that there's muscle memory. If you run incrementally, your body shows up one day and your mind doesn't get in the way and say, "I'm freaked out about running." It just knows what to do. It's the same thing with creativity. So there are two things for young leaders, especially if you're embedded in a company that you're like, "I'm not sure if I can be creative." One, bring a notebook with you. I literally will carry a journal and have carried a journal with me every single day to every single job, no matter how shitty and rigid it is, because this is my safe space. I can write and work on ideas, whether that's during my lunch break, before work, after work. Bring a space that's safe, a pen and paper, and a pen, and use it to write down all of your wonderful, weird ideas. Bam.

Tania (42:22):

Two, and this is the thing I had to learn the hard way, somehow because I was never ... I always had to create my roles within companies. I was never really aligned. I never had resources. They never gave me a team. My budget was like a dollar. What I realized early on is, "Oh, wait, I can assemble my own team," and this is important. You might find somebody in accounting and then somebody in HR and assemble your own team and have your own meetings that are unsanctioned. So, you make sure you check in with people who hold you accountable, challenge you, and also celebrate and encourage your ideas, so that you don't feel lost and alone within a big company.

Tania (43:04):

Also this applies outside of it. A lot of times I couldn't get what I needed within companies, but I needed the money, right? So I stayed there for a little bit longer. I had my own team outside of the company. Have a quarterly meeting, have a weekly meeting with people who enliven you, challenge you and cheer you on the whole way through. You can assemble your own team. I cannot say that enough. A lot of times we feel like work is the place where they give us a team and we're stuck with them. That's bullshit. You can make your own. And so, those are the two things I would suggest right off the bat that will keep you fueled, yeah.

Alexander McCaig (43:38):

I'm fueled at the fact that we can all assemble our own team of superheroes. And Tania, thank you very much for being a steward of creativity and helping remind human beings everywhere, no matter how entrenched their processes are, that that little piece of creative humanity still resides within you. You just have to get rid of the fear to pull it out. Thank you very much for coming on the TARTLE Cast. This message will be heard far and wide, and please continue to be loud, be against the grain, be disruptive, because I think that sets a fine precedent, an example for what every human being should strive to be.

Jason Rigby (44:18):

And what is your website so that everyone can go on there?

Tania (44:22):

Sure. It's Taniacaton.com, that's Tania T-A-N-I-A, not like the other Tanya with a Y, who's delightful. And then also could follow me on Instagram. And I am a good time on Instagram. It's the unreal Tania Caton.

Jason Rigby (44:36):

Oh, wow.

Tania (44:38):

Because Tania Caton was taken by a mom with two kids and I'm like, do I want to be like, I'm the real Tania Caton and your mom's not?

Jason Rigby (44:44):

No, do the inverse.

Tania (44:45):

Start therapy early. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a total pleasure. You guys are amazing human beings. Thank you so much for inviting me on. I appreciate it.

Alexander McCaig (44:56):

Oh, much appreciated.

Speaker 4 (45:04):

Thank you for listening to TARTLE Cast with your hosts, Alexander McCaig and Jason Rigby, where humanity steps into the future and the source data defines the path. What's your data worth?

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