What Makes Amazon’s Approach to Innovation Unique

By Scott Kirsner |  December 15, 2020

What is it about the way Amazon approaches innovation that helps the company drive eye-popping revenue growth?

The co-authors of the new book The Invincible Company address that question, and they shared with us a short excerpt focusing on “how Amazon built a company culture that constantly pioneers in new spaces.” (The book was co-written by Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Fred Etiemble, and Alan Smith.) 

Lots of companies have leaders who talk like Jeff Bezos: “We want to be a large company that’s also an invention machine […] with the speed of movement, nimbleness, and risk-acceptance mentality normally associated with entrepreneurial start-ups,” he has said.

But few organizations know how to create a culture with the right enablers and behaviors to actually achieve that.

And being willing to fail is essential, the co-authors explain: “Mistakes are where learning comes from, and understanding this has been at the heart of Amazon’s rampant success. Amazon has been able to build their entire organization’s culture through embracing failure from leadership and incentivizing experimentation from every single employee.”

Bezos often says, “Failure and invention are inseparable twins.”

Below is one of the book’s “culture maps” detailing the enablers, blockers, behaviors, and outcomes at Amazon throughout the years. Note that “willingness to fail” is a behavior that has been consistent at the company going back more than twenty years.

You can download the excerpt below, learn more about the book, or see a longer excerpt here.

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