Why Kanye Is a Good Case Study for Innovation | Inspirational Entrepreneurs

The following post is from an assignment from my class, BUS 371 – Critical Thinking Through Business Cases. For the assignment, we were asked to write a memo making a sound argument and this post contains the body text and references from the assignment.

Before I share the text I would also like to acknowledge that Kanye West is certainly an imperfect individual who’s actions often cause controversy, but I would like to imagine and hope you agree that 100 years from now Kanye will be remembered for his art, not his controversial persona.

The Argument

Kanye West has successfully innovated in multiple industries by leveraging a strong mindset. When individuals want to learn how to do something they should look to learn from cases of that thing being done. Consequently, individuals looking to learn to innovate should learn from Kanye.

Innovation: Through the Wire, 808s & Heartbreaks, and Yeezy

Throughout and even before his career as a creative, Kanye has continuously experimented with new ideas and questioned standards to shape his vision.

In music, Kanye began by popularizing a style developed by others referred to as Chipmunk Soul a style prevalent in his hit song Through the Wire. With his album 808s and Heartbreaks, Kanye shifted the paradigm on autotune, leveraging the tool to convey deeper emotions rather than simply create catchy hooks. Kanye continues to innovate in music to this day, his most recent projects are focused on creating gospel for the twenty-first century (Rose, 2022). With his innovative and interesting music, Kanye is currently the 12th most-streamed artist on Spotify with nearly 26 billion streams (Chart Masters, 2022).

In fashion, Kanye began by interning at Fendi starting in 2009 (a high-fashion brand), he then went on to create Yeezy. When Kanye started in fashion, his lines were initially not well received, but once he developed the Yeezy brand with Adidas, he found success. With Adidas, he developed the Yeezy 350 which went on to become a decade-defining sneaker. Recently, he began to work with Gap and launched a Yeezy X Gap collaboration (Lobad, 2022). In November of 2021, Gap reported that Yeezy Gap Hoodies delivered the most sales by a single item in a day in Gap’s history (Takanashi, 2022).

Kanye has achieved success in both fashion and music because he has developed a systemic approach to innovation and creation. His system takes the form of his mindset.

Kanye’s Mindset

Many of Kanye’s core beliefs have been documented. These core beliefs have enabled him to innovate, so they are worth exploring. A few of them are listed below:

  • Believe in yourself – because if you do not, no one else will.
  • Acquire the resources you need to get to your destination – you need mental toughness, resiliency, and grit to achieve big things (Starr, 2018).
  • Find an example to work towards – have role models and aspire to be like them, this way you can find a path to things you care about. (Creative Minds, 2022)

Individuals Inspired by Kanye

It should also be noted Kanye has inspired and helped many notable public figures including the likes of:

  • Drake – Spotify’s most streamed artist ever (ChartMasters, 2022).
  • Kendrick Lamar –  One of hip hop’s current most influential individuals  (BET, 2022).
  • Virgil Abloh – Louis Vuitton’s artistic director from 2018 until his passing in 2021 (Clevinger, 2021).
  • Elon Musk – Billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX (BBC, 2018).

Learn from Kanye

By believing in himself and sticking to the rest of his core values, Kanye has continuously innovated in music and fashion. Because he has demonstrated repeat success in innovating in fashion and music, has systems that can be studied, and has helped others achieve their goals in those areas, individuals learning to innovate should look to Kanye to learn about his mindset.



BBC. (2018). Elon Musk: Kanye West inspires me. https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-43369201

BET. (2022). Watch the throne: 10 artists influenced by Kanye West. https://www.bet.com/photo-gallery/6s8neq/watch-the-throne-10-artists-influenced-by-kanye-west/pq1gmf

ChartMasters. (2022, October 9).  Most streamed artists ever on Spotify. https://chartmasters.org/most-streamed-artists-ever-on-spotify/

Clevinger, N. (2021). PARTNERS IN DESIGN What was Virgil Abloh’s relationship with Kanye West? https://www.the-sun.com/entertainment/4163551/virgil-abloh-relationship-kanye-west/

Creative Minds. (2022). Kanye West – 7 Principles for Creative Success. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1QNEkI3LEI&t=41s

Lobad, N. (2022). A look at Kanye West’s design evolution over the years. L’Officiel. https://www.lofficielusa.com/fashion/kanye-west-fashion-design-evolution-yeezy

Takanashi, L. (2022). Will Yeezy save Gap? Complex. https://www.complex.com/style/kanye-west-yeezy-gap-balenciaga/demna

Rose, J. (2022). How Kanye West changed music. Complex. https://www.complex.com/music/kanye-west-changed-music

Starr, K. (2018). Luck and success aren’t always random, and Kanye West proves it. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/kanye-west-luck-success-2018-8

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