What may have started with a question from @evanjacobs at Amazon.com’s shareholder meeting one year ago, ended with interesting commentary from Amazon’s CEO – Jeff Bezos – on their philosophy around invention, innovation, and risk taking.
The key insights I extracted from Bezos’ response to the question about their lack of big visible market failures and whether Amazon is continuing to take bold enough risks are as follows:
1. Invention versus Innovation
It was very interesting that Jeff Bezos only used the word innovation once in his response, choosing instead to focus on talking about invention. I think that there is an interesting distinction and an important point there. Innovation is not something you do it’s something you’ve done. It’s backward looking to some extent because innovation requires widespread adoption. Innovation definitely can be a goal, while invention can be seen as a component of the pursuit, the attempt to innovate. One important point to remember is that inventions typically cross the bridge from invention to innovation because the solution is not only useful but it is valuable, and the customer makes this determination not you. Another important point – not made by Bezos – is that there are many other factors that go along with invention to create innovation that must be managed, including: psychology, communications, education, trends, politics, legal, and more. This leads me to the second insight extracted from Bezos’ response.