Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Focus on Innovation - Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

“You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you,” ~ Jeff Bezos.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is considered one of the founding fathers of ecommerce. While Amazon.com started off as a bookstore in 1994, the business grew faster than anyone could have imaged and is now considered the Internet “goliath” that sells everything from books to clothes to food.

No matter how much the company grows, Jeff Bezos emphasizes his six core values: customer obsession, ownership, bias for action, frugality, high hiring bar, and innovation.

Studies report that Amazon excels at different kinds of innovation – from creating new ways to do business to making small changes that improve the online store.

“My view is that there is no bad time to innovate,” Bezos said in an interview with Business Week. “You should be doing it when times are good and when times are tough. For us, it’s such a deep-seated belief, I’m not sure we had a choice.”

In today’s economic environment, companies are seeking ways to achieve growth through innovation. Eighty-three of respondents in the Bloomberg/Business Week/Boston Consulting Group annual survey of top executives said innovation will be a key part of their strategy moving forward.

While most executives know that innovation is important, not all are committed to making it a top priority. The difference between a company whose CEO and leadership team have an “all-in” mentality regarding innovation, and the one who is not truly committed to innovation, is unmistakable – and so is the impact on the company’s culture and results.

Innovation can occur at every level of the company. This does not necessarily mean that every employee is responsible for creating the next breakthrough product. It does mean everyone must look for and find ways to do their work better than it’s ever been done before, and to do that as often as possible.

Passion and innovation seem to go a long way. Bezos could have stayed satisfied with revolutionizing the way we locate and buy books but he also sought to revolutionize the way we read them (hello, Kindle!).

“There are two ways to extend a business. Take inventory of what you are good at and extend out your skills. Or determine what your customers need and work backwards, even if it requires learning new skills. Kindle is an example of working backwards,” Bezos said.

Sources: Inc., Fast Company, Business Week, New York Times, U.S. News and World Report

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