This Stanford interview with Spanx founder and CEO Sara Blakely is chock full of leadership insights. For those who do not know the story, Blakely came up with her initial product idea when she designed a simple workaround before heading to a party. One night, she cut the bottom of of a pair of pantyhose so that she would have the appropriate undergarment to go with her white pants. As design thinkers often say, a workaround is a bright flashing light indicating a customer pain point or frustration. In this case, Blakely didn't notice some other user's workaround; she developed it herself.
In the video below, take special note of how she talks about always observing and asking questions. She says, “I think of a lot of ideas at traffic lights. I pay attention to things that haven’t evolved and why. I ask myself questions all day, every day. I could be looking at a table and be like, ‘Why is the table like that? When was the table first created? Is that the actual best design for a table? Or could there be something different?'"
Blakely also discusses her philosophy about failure in this video, something I write about in my upcoming book on creativity. From identifying workarounds to asking questions and sharing failure stories, Blakely's approach to leadership and innovation bears close examination.