Among Amazon’s leadership principles is a call for its team members to “Invent and Simplify”. Everyone in the company is expected to introduce process improvements that either enhance the customer experience or lower costs. But how?
Scale back teams. Keeping teams small makes it easy to share ideas, evaluate them, and try them out. Amazon structures its teams to be as small as possible — small enough that two pizzas would feed them. This helps the teams strike a good balance between a diversity of opinions on the one hand, and an ability to mobilize and act on the other.
Make space for conversations and innovation. Some companies are known for offering an afternoon or a day “off”, where deadlines are pushed aside to create space for pursuing fresh ideas. Amazon promotes creative thinking during regular business hours. It’s approach also includes borrowing ideas that were not born at Amazon, as long as they drive results. How many of us have felt that we were too busy at our day jobs to introduce innovations to our companies? How can we even quantify the organizational impact of keeping these great ideas to ourselves?
Allow ideas to soar, and to sink. Learning involves developing knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. This knowledge is built on experimentation - and an openness to being “wrong”. It is also built on the notion that (s)he who introduces an innovation “may be misunderstood for long period of time.” How many of your companies give employees who introduce new ideas the freedom to be “wrong”, and the time to allow their idea to sink of swim? While not everyone is going to be comfortable with long periods of ambiguity or uncertainty, some good ideas just need to time grow.
How are you driving innovation in your company? Are you growing or stifling it? Do you provide the space to let ideas take root and grow? At what point are results expected to be visible?
Read more about Amazon’s Leadership Principles: