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:

Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right. When this process works, it means our failures are relatively small in size (most experiments can start small), and when we hit on something that is really working for customers, we double-down on it with hopes to turn it into an even bigger success. However, it’s not always as clean as that. Inventing is messy, and over time, it’s certain that we’ll fail at some big bets too.

Exactly! This is the experimentation mindset at play. Simply put, innovative companies try a lot more interesting stuff than non-innovative ones.

You see, innovation isn’t a process of checking tasks off a checklist. This where most non-innovative leaders get it wrong because they believe that using frameworks, following them to the T, should yield a predictable outcome.

As I’ve said before, use tools; but not as a pretext for innovation. Because first you need the biggest piece of all…

Without trust there can be no creative collaboration

No trust within the ranks and management = no innovation. As stated in the quote above, people have to feel that their ideas are valued.

Last week I posted a video where a leader from Google talks about the principles they live by that enable repetitive innovation. And it is no surprise that, just like Amazon and other innovative companies, what makes it possible for Google to keep innovating while growing, is that the make it explicit that ideas can come from anywhere.

What does this mean?

Bottom line: You can’t mandate innovation, only inspire it. So, never stop experimenting, and just try it! It doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor of processes and more things to manage, it is really just a matter of making it implicit that everyone’s ideas are valued.

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