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The Most Creative People in Business Innovate at Amazon, Instagram

Every year Fast Company spotlights the standouts it believes are leaders in creative thinking and design. This year, executives from Amazon and Instagram made the cut alongside the NBA’s CMO Pam El and actress Reese Witherspoon, to name a few.

“The 100 Most Creative People in Business list isn’t about power or lifetime achievement. It’s about unique ideas that are having a meaningful impact—right now—which makes it unlike any other list you’ll see in media,” Jill Bernstein wrote in Fast Company. “Together, these 100 groundbreakers indicate where business is headed.”

Landing the No. 9 spot, Instagram’s director of product, business platform, Vishal Shah got high marks for help to attract 25 million businesses in the two years since the social media site launched its enterprise-focused option—and many of those outlets lean on Instagram as their central point for interacting with customers.  “We’re shooting for an ad experience that not only feels native,” Shah told Forbes, “but also helps users discover products or services they would actually love to find out about.”

That could be why 200 million active users stop by a corporate page every day. With shoppable posts and the kind of precision targeting parent company Facebook is known for (though here in Instagram Stories), Shah has helped to build the new standard for social media marketing.

One of the biggest stories in retail since its launch, Amazon Go is seen as a game-changer in an industry in which the game already is being changed by demanding, tech-empowered consumers. At Nos. 12 and 13, Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s VP of technology, and Gianna Puerini, VP, Amazon, get the nod from bringing Amazon’s patented one-click-checkout into the real world. “We had to keep distinguishing between things that were impossible and things that just hadn’t been done before,” Kumar told Fast Company of the duo set out to design the Go experience.

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Though she was confident Go would resonate with consumers, even Puerini couldn’t quite anticipate how shoppers would react initially. Designing for an untapped future often requires a “shot in the dark” that, it’s hoped, will pay off. “I knew people would like getting a little time back, but I underestimated how it would feel to actually leave the store,” she told Fast Company. “We found so many customers stopping and asking one of our associates, ‘Are you sure it’s okay if I just walk out?’ That’s a cooler, more magical moment than I imagined.”

The RealReal CEO Julie Wainwright, at the No. 19 spot, earned recognition for extending the life of luxury items through a platform that resells authenticated high-end merchandise.

Creative director of her eponymous brand, Misha Nonoo (No. 34) got a shoutout for her sustainable approach to fashion, producing apparel only when a customer places an order. Trying to solve retail storefront vacancies, Appear Here CEO Ross Bailey (No. 46) uses his marketplace to connect “languishing real estate with brands on the rise — and revitalizes entire neighborhoods in the process,” according to Fast Company.

Metamorphosing from a company known for abusing suppliers to a digitally-minded firm competing head-to-head with Amazon, Walmart now is seen as among the top innovators in retail. No. 52 Katie Finnegan, Walmart’s VP of incubation, global e-commerce, is responsible for much of that and helps bring new tech in house via Store No. 8, the innovation incubator.