Archive for: April, 2014

Jeff Bezos: Failure can’t be separated from invention

Jeff Bezos - Caricature

Jeff Bezos – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

How do you maximize people’s potential to drive innovation? As Bob Ross says, “We don’t make mistakes, only happy accidents”. So, let employees make happy accidents.

This is what happens at the world’s most innovative companies, one of which is Amazon.

There are many lessons we can learn from Jeff Bezos about maximizing people’s potential to drive innovation. For example, in his annual shareholder letter, Jeff Bezos closes the letter with some final tips on what lets the company continue to lead. One is that invention comes from everybody, not just senior leaders. A lot of those ideas are going to fail. That’s not a bad thing:

Which is more valuable, good ideas or good people?

Which is more valuable, good ideas or good people?

The answer is obvious, right? Well, not so. Some think that ideas matter more because you can snap them out of thin air. Which is why I think most people guard their ideas. They think they are unique on their own…

That isn’t true. Ideas matter, but execution is where the rubber meets the road. You need both.

With that said, the answer is obvious: Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas.

Bottom line: Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. But, getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea. This is easier said than done.

One question to help you innovate how you innovate

break out of your comfort zone to innovateHow do you innovate how you innovate? Easy, stop doing what worked before and start looking for insights outside the mainstream.


Because I haven’t found any, and conduct them myself, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a short guide on how to conduct outside industry benchmarks for innovation. Part of this process is to consistently step out of your domain and learn how others approach similar business challenges; a few years ago I wrote about my experience at Disney Animation Studios.

The point of benchmarking outside your industry is to overcome the human tendency of letting what we know limit what we can imagine; to look outside your domain for inspiration.

Innovation is not a process of checking tasks off a checklist

While the rest of the world clamors on how we are settling into an entrepreneurial economy and how their respective countries are building entrepreneurial ecosystems, there are other non-entrepreneurial habits that come with the territory: charlatanism.

I’ve called attention to this before, and I keep bumping into the same thing over and over again. There are quite a few people out there who are masquerading as innovators/entrepreneurs. A lot of them are nothing more than promoters/commentators /observers who take some known frameworks and play a game of plug-and-play.

For example, I recently talked to a guy who is forming a consultancy with another group of people (one of which who works in a government funded venture fund) to help entrepreneurs plan and execute their startup. Their plan is simple: help entrepreneurs fill out the business model and value proposition canvas for free, and then ask them for %5 of the company if they go ahead and launch.