Elena Imaretska isn't a worker bee. And she definitely isn't inspired by business as usual. Imaretska heads up the Creative Outreach office of Minneapolis' Brave New Workshop, the nation's oldest sketch and improv theater.
In a single day, one might find Imaretska changing the mindsets of Fortune 500 companies, planning unique leadership-based, comedy-centric curriculums, talking behavioral psychology at lunch and designing nonprofit events in the evening -- possibly for Project 824, an initiative designed to donate the use of Brave New Workshop's Experimental Thinking Centre free of charge 824 times over the coming years.
"Our hope is to provide a platform to energize the world-changing work happening all around us," explains Imaretska, a Bulgarian native.
Project 824 was spurred by Brave New Workshop's commitment to supporting local and global community organizations, causes, individuals and social enterprises that aim to showcase innovative ideas and help solve pressing problems. The project was realized when the theater opened its flashy new downtown Minneapolis space in the Hennepin Theatre District.
If a free-venue program for nonprofits and a spanking-new space aren't signs that Brave New Workshop isn't your average theater, or job, then InnovationU definitely is. As part of Imaretska's work, she heads up the search for new program ideas that not only improve BNW's sustainability in a time of struggling arts organizations, but also provide eye-opening new perspectives for their partners and clients.
Enter InnovationU, an intensive curriculum aimed at small and large businesses. It focuses on empowering leaders to innovate, lead and inspire their organizations to transform the way they think, interact and respond. The program takes an unconventional business approach and integrates art, science and humor, things that aren't generally mentioned in that weekly 8 a.m. meeting or corporate boardroom.
"That's why we built this program, to focus on behavior," explains Imaretska. "Corporations are really good at processes, but not always good at human behavior."
Most important, InnovationU connects leaders working on similar problems in noncompeting industries, thus fostering collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas -- an ever-more necessary feature for progress in an interconnected global community.
"It truly is an amazing job," Imaretska admits. "It's part of working at a small, mission-driven organization. We create experiences that are both fun and impactful. It's wonderful."
Job title: Vice president of new products, partnerships and sustainability for Brave New Workshop.
Start date: 2007.
Background: B.A. in economics and German at Colorado College; MBA at Thunderbird School of Global Management.