Maliha Aqeel: My Cheat Sheet: Four Techniques to Boost Creativity

In this Inbound Speaks interview, we chat with Maliha Aqeel about her INBOUND 2020 session on four techniques to boost your creativity. We talk about curiosity, boredom, and the creative process. Watch this interview and learn who should be in the room, why, and the big takeaway from attending.

My Cheat Sheet: Four Techniques to Boost Creativity

Creativity in the workplace can often be mistaken for a buzz word. But like curiosity, creativity can be an incredible superpower to tap for turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. For communication and marketing professionals, applying creativity to problem solving can shift the focus from a linear path of question-answer to finding hidden patterns and making connections between seemingly unrelated factors.


About the Expert

Maliha Aqeel

Maliha Aqeel, PMP, SCMP, is Director of Global Communications at Fix Network World, where she leads multi-channel, integrated communication strategies. Previously, she was Assistant Director, Brand, Marketing and Communications at EY. She spent several years in an agency before heading communications for the Institute of Corporate Directors. She serves on IABC’s international board of directors and is a past president of IABC/Toronto. She has won several IABC Gold Quill and Silver Leaf awards for her work on ICD’s brand refresh, Director Journal revamp and EY’s “Getting ready for legalization” content marketing program. She also led EY’s Tax Canada Bot-a-thon campaign, which received the Gold Quill “Best of the Best” award in employee engagement.


Full Transcript

George Thomas 0:00
Alright, inbound attendees, it's your boy George V. Thomas. And we're back with another episode of you know what inbound speaks where we talk to speakers who speak at inbound. I love doing that to you every time we do these interviews, but instead of going meta on you, let's go ahead and get into the good stuff. Let's run that bumper. So we can talk to Malia and learn all about boosting and creativity and things like that. Let's run the bundle. All right, Molly, I'm super excited that you're here with us today. Can you just take some time and let the inbound attendees the viewers and listeners know who you are? And kind of what makes you tick?

Maliha Aqeel 0:37
Okay, thanks, George. So my name is Malia kill it my day job. I'm director of global communication for fixed upper fold, which is in the automotive space. But outside of my day job, I just love everything to do with content. I'm an voracious reader. I'm one of those people who just like absorbs knowledge like a sponge, and I like to share what I know with them. One out there. And that's really what makes me tick is when the dots start coming together and you're like, Huh, I didn't really think about that. What if I was to apply that in whatever I want to do, and there's make things happen.

George Thomas 1:12
Hmm, I love that so much. I love the connecting the dots. I love the being a ferocious, you know, consumer of content and almost like that lifelong learning mentality, if you will. So your session at inbound is four techniques. It's actually my cheat sheet, four techniques to boosting creativity. So when you talk about boosting creativity so that the inbound attendees know like, what's the overarching theme here? What direction are we headed into?

Maliha Aqeel 1:45
So you know, a lot of people seem to think that there are creative people in the world and then there are the suits. My experience has been, you can actually be both. And there's ways that you can activate your mindset so that you start thinking about it. How can I do this? How can I think of a problem in a certain way, so that I come up with the solution. And I think for me, creativity really is about letting your mind go. And it's about exploring everything you can out there to start making those connections. So that when you're working on a content marketing campaign, or you're working on an ad campaign, whatever the case is, you're actually automatically starting to think about the possibilities that you may not have considered when you take a very narrow view of, I need to do X, and I need to do it this way. And that's it.

George Thomas 2:37
Hmm, good stuff. Man. You might want to rewind and just listen to that section for a hot second. Now, I will say usually where I start, and I should have started there, but we're gonna go back then we're gonna backpedal a little bit if you will. Talk to me, Malia about who should attend your session, and why they should attend the session as well but as far as inbound 2020

Maliha Aqeel 3:00
You know, my session really is intended for people that work on content that work on marketing or communication. Maybe they're at that stage where they're not quite in the leadership roles yet. But they want to get there. And they're looking for ways to demonstrate their value by bringing out of the box thinking. And so my session really is attended for people who are looking to make that shift from being a specialist to perhaps an advisor, and why you should really attend is, you know, it's a really quick 15 minute session. And you get four amazing tips that as soon as you get back to the office or just, you know, maybe switch over the screen, given virtual, you're able to start applying those tips right away, and you'll start to see results immediately. You might not have to do all four tips at a time. But if you start with just one, that's all it takes.

George Thomas 3:54
I know me and I know the audience, we love tips. So is there a fifth tip that you didn't have time for or is there one tip that you think that you can share here on the inbound speaks interview so that it'll kind of get people going between now and actually attending your session at inbound 2020.

Maliha Aqeel 4:13
Anyway, my one tip, which I do talk about in the session, but I think there's I can never talk enough about it is curiosity. And to me, curiosity comes from being bored, and allowing yourself to be bored. I think we get so caught up in being busy and doing things and just being like, Okay, I've got my to do list, I need to check this things off. And that's how I'm going to get through my day and show on being productive. But actually, if you were to just take one day in your calendar, block it off every day, every week. And that's your thinking time. That's when you throw away those to do list and you say, I'm going to spend this day thinking and I'm going to allow myself to tap my curiosity and learn about things out there which may or may not be related to my job. But by learning, I'm going to be able to think about how I bring those learnings to what I need to do. Because we don't have, you know, curiosity blocked off in our calendar. It's very hard to find the time for it. But by blocking it, you actually are giving yourself permission and you're telling your team, I need my thinking time because that's when the best stuff happens.

George Thomas 5:24
I love this so much so much. First of all, my spirit animal and most people don't know about this, because I don't talk about a lot but my spirit animal is Curious George, cuz like he's just always into stuff. He's always trying to figure things out. And that is me. Like I love taking the time to go sideways on a topic or a thing that I want to learn. And understanding that at the end of the day, I'll be able to bring some pieces, some nuggets back to what I'm actually going to do in the business realm. So that was so good. I love that now. Here's the thing Malia I'm super curious, are there any hurdles that you see people battling with over and over and over, that keep them from being curious or boosting their creativity? Like, what's the hurdle? And how do we eradicate that if you will,

Maliha Aqeel 6:16
one of the big hurdles is that when you talk about curiosity in the workplace, people think about that as non essential to doing the job you were hired to do. And their biggest hurdle is always going to be how do you demonstrate the value of curiosity and why you need to spend time out of your day job learning about different things. And you know, being able to make that business case is the biggest hurdle. I think it starts by getting permission to do it once and showing the value that one time and backing it up with solid results. So that when you go out and ask for that time to be you know, consistently in your calendar or you want to go out and go to conferences, or want to take courses or things like that, you've actually now got this one solid case, they can say, you know what, by allowing me to tap my curiosity, I was able to deliver something that was very strategic, very creative. And, and I was able to drive solid business results, and that one time you do it opens up the floodgates for you to be able to ask for permission, every time. But I think it's hard for people, because you're almost saying like, you know, yes, you're paying me to be at my day job from nine to five or whatever it is. And, and actually, maybe I'm taking two hours out of that day, to not do things that are poor to what my job description says. I think that's hard for people to even justify to their managers. But I do think it's sometimes you just have to be brave and take that step. And and I think it goes back to your values. You know, it's like it's one of your values. Being a lifelong learner is one of your values. seen as someone creative, because if it is, then you have to fight for it.

George Thomas 8:06
Mind blown like, there's, again, there's so much good there and just the ability, like, here's where my mind went when you're talking about that. It's possible for you to be your most productive when you're not being productive. And I'm using air quotes there, right? So that is super amazing. So Malia, let's, let's do this. You get done with your session now, last year, I would be like, so you get done with your talk and the audience stands up and they give you a raving round of applause. Well, this year, I've gotten an applause button that I'm gonna buy off of And when my session is over, I'm just gonna hit the applause button over and over again. And I'd be like, yes, they love me. They love me. Many speakers are probably doing that at this way. Yeah. So here's the thing though, when they do stand up in their living room, or their home office or their kitchen, wherever they're watching inbound 2020 From, what's the big thing like, what's the takeaway that you hope that they learn and then run with for the rest of their life?

Maliha Aqeel 9:07
I want them to walk away thinking this is easy. It doesn't require a lot of my time. It doesn't require money. It just requires me wanting to do this. And that's really all it is, you know, it's curiosity and creativity. They're both mindsets. You have to be in the mindset that you're billing to do it. Because if you're not, there's nothing wrong with that. But I think if you want to take your career to the next level, you have to start shifting your mindset from I can't do How can I and that really is the the way that you move things forward.

George Thomas 9:43
Make sure you take time to go to maalaea session, my cheat sheet four techniques to boost creativity. Like you heard it here. It's all about mindset. It's about creativity. It's about being curious. It's about adjusting that mindset to I How can Or I can and listen while you're working on this consistency this curiosity this new mindset will be here waiting for you in the next episode