Your Creativity Lies Where You Least Expect It

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Valerie Everett

Valerie Everett

It’s a great feeling to be appreciated (and even compensated) for your work. But what if you could accrue those benefits for things you do to get work done? What if you could share your by-products?


By-products are produced in the process of making something else. It’s taken curious and creative minds to see the potential in these discards. This kind of vision has allowed people to create or contribute to industries in ways no one expected:


  • The packing “peanuts” derived from corn and potato stalks
  • The tennis racket string that’s derived from cow intestines
  • The artificial sweetener, Saccharin, the chief ingredient in Sweet N’ Low,      that’s derived from coal tar

When it comes to your by-products, what could you be sharing with the world? In our company, the by-products of the research, content, user conversations, computer code and design work we do gets repurposed as keynotes, presentations, articles, books, new product features, and internal software. We’re not alone:

  • English teacher, Laura Randazzo found a market for her lesson plans. She was creating and field testing them in her own classes and she thought, why not make them available to other teachers?
  • Project management software company, Basecamp (formerly 37Signals), found a market for their Ruby on Rails software. Founder and CTO, David Heinemeier Hansson, authored this programming language while developing the software for Basecamp, so why not share it with other programmers?
  • Seth Godin found a market for his thought leadership. He’d gained knowledge and skill working for other companies, founding and selling his own, and developing cutting-edge marketing techniques. Why not make his insights available to a larger audience?

You can share your by-products in a number of ways. Randazzo, Heinemeier Hansson, and Godin do at least one of the following:

  • Blog
  • Podcast
  • Teach
  • Speak
  • Develop and share resources
  • Offer reviews
  • Write articles/guest post
  • Write books
  • Share helpful resources on social media

If you still need a reason, consider how by-products give you an opportunity to:

  • Create something new
  • Extend work you’re currently doing
  • Connect to others with like interests
  • Solve problems
  • Find and develop your voice
  • Reflect on your work
  • Market your work in non-traditional ways

While by-products, like corn, potato stalks or even cow intestines, may seem more concrete and obvious than anything you have to offer, remember that they weren’t obvious at first. Even after someone thought to use them in these ways, she still had to figure out how.

If you’re wondering where to begin, start by doing some research on other people in your field. What by-products are they sharing? Then talk to friends and colleagues and ask for feedback on all the ways you’re helpful to them. Decide which combination of “helpful to others” and “interesting to you” you’d like to pursue. Then choose the way you’d like to share it with the world (see the list above). You never know where it might lead!

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