Karen Harvey from KHC, Fashion Tech Forum on Creativity in the C-Suite – Sourcing Journal

As the founder of Karen Harvey Consulting and Fashion Tech Forum, Karen Harvey is always on the lookout for the best leadership talent – for the corner office and the stage. Her consulting firm specializing in training, development and executive search gives her additional insight into what businesses need to grow and she realized that creativity must be at the core. Sourcing Journal caught up with Harvey to learn what it really means and how companies can find and channel that creativity.

Where did you start your career?

I started out in corporate training and development – consulting and developing bespoke training programs for mega-corporations such as Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Nike and Benetton.

At Nike, I’ve worked with creatives and marketers around the world on presentation and storytelling workshops. Creatives are notoriously unenthusiastic about selling their ideas — they’ve made the work speak for itself. The idea was to allow creatives to better land their concepts and ideas internally to marketing so the best product can get into the hands of consumers. We would organize week-long off-site events for Nike in places like Orcas Island, Washington, where different teams and disciplines would work together to innovate.

We also spent 90 days on the Portland campus to participate in design, adoption screening, and interviews to really learn about the culture. There were very few, if any, companies that worked in this narrow and in-depth way – learning programs for multi-billion dollar global companies. That’s how I’ve worked with Nike for over 16 years.

Sounds like a great workout for Karen Harvey Consulting. What do companies misunderstand in the executive search process when looking for new talent and what do CEOs really need to be successful today?

Most leaders don’t put creativity at the center of what they do, and I’m not just talking about people who design, draw, or make things. More than ever, we see a need for creative CEOs who embrace design and strategy and see creativity as a differentiator.

If surgeries were the answer, it would all be easy, right? But today there is a Gen Z and Gen Alpha revolution – people working differently and the marketing revolution. Think about how companies allocate marketing funds. You can see very clearly from their income statement where they are skewing their money compared to before.

When looking for the right talent, does it help to look outside of the fashion industry for a fresh perspective?

European luxury brands have always been very good at bringing people from the premium consumer goods industry and training them into senior positions of CEOs. The fashion industry is very good at cultivating CFOs, operators and retailers, but not so good at cultivating general managers who understand luxury in the true sense of the general manager world.

We’re in this interesting place now because when fashion brands need to recalibrate and move fast, they need people who understand fashion. I think we need to pollinate each other from different talent sectors, but it depends on the discipline. As you recalibrate and try to make your brand more relevant to new consumers, you need to understand marketing and digital platforms in a whole new way.

Speaking of new consumers, how can legacy luxury fashion brands appeal to younger customers?

We are now in a moment that looks different in every way imaginable than almost any other moment. This is the biggest challenge today; Preserving heritage doesn’t mean that something always has to look the way it always was. Of course, it’s important for the main product to be recognized by current consumers, but some of these main consumers are aging from it.

Fashion has always been youth culture. There have always been moments when young consumers wanted nothing more than to play with a brand with rich DNA and make it their own. This is not evolution, this is revolution.

Was that the thinking behind the Fashion Tech Forum?

We began reaching out to companies in the technology sector to help them find creative people to work on the next wearable technology. Most CEOs I’ve worked with in fashion haven’t seen the onslaught of emerging companies and brands that are putting data and the consumer at the heart of their conversations. Fashion still spoke to itself.

I used my experience launching, building and building offsites for companies like Nike and Benetton to found Fashion Tech Forum. I wanted to bring together CEOs and CMOs from both sectors in one space to learn from each other, with the understanding that data is at the core.

This year we come out of three years of crisis after crisis and now the crisis of leadership. Not bad leaders, but we have a crisis of how to think about being leaders at a time when people really want to work differently.

We’re hosting our Fashion Tech Forum on April 11th at NASDAQ. We wanted to deliver actionable insights and help tech CEOs connect with CEOs, creatives and engineers. And it’s not just technology, it’s also culture.

You talk about creativity as a mindset, but we must never lose sight of creative products, right?

Product matters more than ever, and that’s coming from this young millennial and new Gen Z consumer. Think about what some of these new developers have been able to achieve with collaboration and drop models.

Does that mean creatives will be the new CEOs?

Not at all. This means the CEO understands that creativity is their differentiator. And technology will help us to keep evolving, bringing freshness and novelty to scale. That’s why something goes viral.

What have leaders learned from the pandemic, and will they revert to their old ways?

We have to give great credit to those leaders who have already made big bets on technology, and to those who turned around and said, “This could go a long way, and we must prepare to meet the demands of this crisis.” You had to have people on the ground and understand how to move quickly. Technology wasn’t just a word, it was an important factor in the customer experience.

What three things do companies need to future-proof against further disruption?

one and [Starbucks’] Howard Schultz said: Create a company, an environment and a platform where people feel connected and valued. Put your teams at the center of the conversation as they are your first consumers. Especially those in retail who deal with consumers online on a daily basis. That’s the data that matters, what the consumer is saying. Second, rely on things to change, so you need vision and agility. You cannot rest on your laurels. Third, creativity will always win—as long as it’s scaled, optimized, and authentic to the brand.

https://sourcingjournal.com/topics/business-news/ceo-corner-karen-harvey-khc-fashion-tech-forum-searching-for-creativity-c-suite-420208/ Karen Harvey from KHC, Fashion Tech Forum on Creativity in the C-Suite – Sourcing Journal


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