NOT my day job | Economic Improv
Economist Geoff Simmons says his day job as Morgan Foundation general manager is 'strangely complementary' with his creative work as an improviser and actor.
"Our work is all about trying to communicate complex issues in ways people can understand and engage with, so the creative stuff comes in handy."
In the latest NOT my day job on The Big Idea, highlighting creatives in New Zealand with multiple jobs, Geoff tells us how creative skills are becoming more important in business.
Qualifications (creative and ‘day job’):
My day job is General Manager of the Morgan Foundation. I graduated in economics from Auckland University and had 10 years in Treasury and the UK Civil Service.
I’ve been acting and improvising for 24 years. Since 2001 I’ve also been teaching improv which also led to some corporate training.
Tell us about your day job.
I run the Morgan Foundation which is all about stirring up debate. We aim to get people talking about important issues like Predator Free NZ, climate change, freshwater quality, tax and welfare, the health system, obesity. Democracy really relies on an informed public, so it feels pretty rewarding.
Tell us about your creative work when you're NOT doing your day job?
I improvise and act with Best on Tap which does improv and devised work, act with Stagecraft which does scripted work at Gryphon Theatre, and teach with Wellington Improv Troupe (WIT), a community based improvisation troupe. I still perform with the Improv Bandits in Auckland too, plus the odd corporate gig.
How do you manage juggling both?
It can be tough during show time – I try to save boring tasks for those days when you turn up to work creatively drained.
But generally I find them strangely complementary. Our work is all about trying to communicate complex issues in ways people can understand and engage with, so the creative stuff comes in handy.
Tell us about your creative background.
I started doing improv and acting in high school and then Uni – we won the Comedy Comps in 1998. Then I joined the Improv Bandits, a professional troupe in Auckland and helped form WIT when I got to Welly.
What has inspired you? Who or what keeps you going?
Making stuff that is entertaining and challenges me as a performer but also makes people think. This is what inspires me in life – in my work and in creative pursuits - challenging people in an enjoyable, playful way.
Would you like your creative work to be full-time?
I prefer to perform in artistically rewarding stuff rather than chasing money. I did consider being an actor full time when I was younger but it is such hard work – I have immense respect for actors. Thankfully my creative skills have allowed me to carve out a unique niche in economics.
What would help you achieve this?
Times are changing, and it is getting more difficult to communicate and get messages across to customers and the general public. Creative skills are becoming more important in business, so I think there are opportunities for people that can bridge that gap.
If you had the chance to start your creative career or path again, what would you do differently?
Not much. I honestly couldn’t think of a way life could be better. Which is a worry as I am only 40. Now I’m thinking, what happens next?
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a similar creative career or pathway?
Work out your strengths – the stuff you are good at. Find your inspiration – the stuff you want to do. Then make your way towards the place where they intersect.
Tell us about your upcoming creative projects.
Best on Tap have devised a show called the F Word – it is all about feminism in 21st century New Zealand. We’ve toured it and refined it so we’re bringing it back to BATS. I’ve found working on that hugely fulfilling – it is thought provoking and bloody funny.
What’s your big idea for 2016?
Getting married to Anna Dean is top of my list.
Best on Tap will perform our improvised Mix Tape format (based on a mix tape made by audience members).
On the work front, 2016 will be massive. Kiwis are starting to wake up to the problems we are facing with the tax system, loss of native species, freshwater and climate change in particular.
- The F Word Return Season at BATS Theatre, 11-14 November.