Up Close and Professional with Gap’s Kyle Hermans
The interesting thing about the dialogue I recently had with Kyle Hermans was well, only everything – starting with his customized title “Senior Director of Innovation Capacity and Organization Effectiveness” custom molded to fit Kyle’s extraordinary expertise.
When asked to describe it – the words were so fluid it was abundantly clear this role is far more than a title but more a promise to pioneer new thinking. In recognition of the “intangible” of business fundamentals “getting left to the side” Kyle works to restore the fundamentals to the forefront of leadership and to “disrupt the paradigm from within.”
My passion project and what I hope to do with the series I am calling “Confluence Diaries” is shatter the barriers that exist between the personal and professional lives of the most intriguing innovators. How are their passion and pain points interconnected and what gaps exist? How can we humanize these masterminds so that we can appreciate their multi-dimensionalities? As not just disruptors – but really engaging human beings.
Kyle was the perfect candidate to jumpstart this initiative. It’s no wonder Gap tapped Kyle for its transformation. After consulting with them for years, Kyle made the formal transition onto the team. When critical GAP projects are driven by recalibrating market share – he focuses on aligning team capabilities to ensure they can get the job done.
After all, innovation needs to be supported by the right resources and conditions in order to be actionable and it’s clear that Kyle is the right man for the job. Here are Kyle’s answers to a series of questions I was fortunate enough to ask him:
1. Did you always see yourself as an innovator?
From a young age before high school, I thought I’d be a lawyer or a psychologist – there is something about empathy and resolving conflicts and challenges that drives me. The whole idea of having a good listening voice that takes action and makes a monumental shift. It was that coupled with my love of people, design, music and architecture.
I got my design degree – I loved the idea of products and prototyping – there’s something about creating breakthrough ideas that is a HUGE creative accomplishment. It made me think – everyone involved in that breakthrough had to have a shared understanding and such shared passion to orchestrate those happenings. Somewhere a group of human beings got together, collectively tapped into infinite wisdom at that particular moment – and brought that idea into reality. I’m motivated by that. I wanted to be that guy and work with those those types of people.
2. When and how did these creative inspirations happen?
I was raised in South Africa, within a very creative family. Mother was a musician and stage actress and my father a commercial designer and theatre singer. I was raised in Apartheid. The whole idea of segregation – none of it made sense. I kept thinking – how could this be? There must be another SHARED way to overcome these greatest challenges.
I started traveling. I’ll never forget – I landed in the Netherlands …. I realized how isolated I had been in South Africa and from that moment on there was an amazing world that I vowed to absorb to the fullest. I find great passion in working with people from all around the world.
3. What’s your professional mission and how does that align with your personal values?
I want to help manifest the future. My work is a hairy audacious goal. My purpose (which is my personal statement) is to shape the thinking and actions of the world…Push the mantra – that anything is possible. I want to work with people to unlock the forces within them…. To help people find a way to get to the edge of their beliefs and go beyond them.
4. Love it. So, I have to ask – what’s your dream possibility project?
To write a body of music, create a product, service or system that the world chooses…. So, to be a spokesperson for good things with the message of music, creativity and self expression.
5. One of my favorite sessions this past year was the Failure Festival at the Anti-Summit launch collaboration I had with the Tribeca Film Festival. It celebrated resilience. It’s inevitable – every innovator has a failure story. What’s yours?
I like to reframe failure into a “how to” and be invigorated by it and learn from it. I start with a plan on how to overcome the challenge, and review the plan, then do the plan. I believe when you take on innovation, you take on more failure than success. I have had many failures in my business and personal life and each of those failures have been the conduit to the next breakthrough – I started a design business, lost everything and had to rebuild again. I realized how one conversation can shut down people’s careers. Personally I have been divorced and that by definition is a failure. Yet through those failures I have been able to build a successful business and step into a new evolved successful marriage. We all just have to keep looking forward and learn from the challenges we face. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it.
When I think of failure – I think – we couldn’t push this through in that way so let’s look at all the variables and try something else knowing that failure is inevitable when you’re striving for breakthroughs – if you want to be good at something you have to be less good at something else. It’s a tradeoff.
6. I believe there’s an opportunity for innovators to come together and advance real progress. That’s my passion – activism!
So, I look at Russian systematic patents to study incremental vs. radical innovation and there’s this theory that every problem has already been solved – you just have to change the language of the problem and therein lies the solution. The big learning for me is to ask is there something behind the challenge that I really want? Then try, try again and again to find the solution. Set the right climate amongst people is critical to be able to move things forward – open it up to a conversation. I want to be part of solving a huge world challenge.
I always say – ask yourself whose business are you in? The only business you should be in is your own.
Amen to that Kyle! No doubt there will be a lot of incredible breakthroughs from Gap and I intend to do some retail research of my own – this weekend!
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Kim Rivielle is an activations agent, experience designer and creative strategist who has spent the last decade leading, launching and growing successful events around the world. She also serves as Global Trends Editor for Innovation Excellence. Currently she is consulting with publishers on innovating their event experiences. Her message is to disrupt yourself or be disrupted. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter as @krivielle.