I recently read a profile in the LA Times that I found really fascinating, and it fits into a larger trend that’s worth exploring.
Growing up, 36-year-old Stitch Fix Founder and CEO Katrina Lake didn’t have lofty goals of being a tech entrepreneur or disrupting the retail industry. There weren’t many female role models in tech, and she couldn’t see herself as the next Steve Jobs. But she was fascinated by data and statistics, and her natural curiosity about the way things work led her to big, bold ideas.
“Creativity was definitely a big part of our household, and I remember always writing stories and being encouraged to be creative,” she said in this LA Times profile.
After earning an economics degree at Stanford, she began consulting in the retail industry and realized there had to be a better way to shop. Though she didn’t have an engineering or computer science background, she understood that she didn’t need to be an expert herself in order to bring her ideas to life. In 2011, she launched the clothes shopping startup Stitch Fix that leverages personal stylists and data science. The company has grown to become a nearly $3 billion juggernaut in the ultra-competitive field of online subscription services.
Contrary to what you might think, technology was not the only (and perhaps not even the most important!) key to Katrina’s success.
More and more, technology is being abstracted away from us, to a point where deep technical knowledge isn’t required to leverage many of the amazing new tools that augment our own abilities like artificial intelligence, machine learning or augmented reality. In the future, the most successful companies will be the ones with the most creative people who can unlock amazing products and services with their bold imaginations, ideas and intuition. Think of Steve Jobs, who didn’t have a lot of technical skills, but was incredibly imaginative and could inspire teams to come up with brilliant product designs.
In this future, you won't have to know how to code, but you will need a broad understanding of where technology can be used to solve problems and make better products. Creativity, learning agility and an inquisitive mind will lead you to the tools and partnerships available to help you the rest of the way.
I will take it one step further.
Not only do I strongly believe that creativity is important for the future of business, but that the inspiration for creativity and creative thinking comes from the arts. That’s why it is vital that we keep art alive and thriving in the communities where we live and work.
At our Capital One campus in North Texas, the arts are alive and well. We believe that the arts are catalysts for the creativity and innovation needed in this new era of business. So we offer physical maker spaces like the Garage, we display associate artwork throughout our buildings, and we encourage the musicians among us to showcase their talents at campus-wide events. Innovation requires human-centered design - and that’s an art. We’re each inspired in different ways as we interact with art, and we want to provide a work environment that sparks the imagination.
This year, we hosted our first-ever “Capital One’s Got Talent,” where our associates were given a platform to share their unique artistic abilities. This event was the culmination of many rounds of auditions, and several months of practice for all involved. Not only did our employees get to see a different side of some of their peers, the talents were both divers and inspiring - from opera to rap, Irish to Indian styles of dancing, rock bands to spoken-word poetry. I walked away even more proud to call Capital One home, as a new wave of inspiration came over me.
Providing outlets for artistic expression at the workplace might seem indulgent or a “nice to have,” but I would argue that fanning the flames of creativity will foster better teamwork, open collaboration and the sharing of ideas that all lead to better innovations across our company.
By feeding a “growth” mindset and leveraging arts to build creativity and gain inspiration, we can truly take advantage of the great opportunities that the technology revolution affords us in all of our businesses. How are you leveraging the arts to inspire creativity in your life and work?