It’s been an entertaining week watching the fallout from the Jeff Bezos interview on US show 60 minutes. The headline story being the potential to use drones for package deliveries perhaps being possible as soon as “sometime in 2015″.
My inner geek can’t help but marvel at the concept of mini Octocopters flying around and dropping off packages here and there. I have no idea if this really is something in our near future or not, but certainly the timing of the announcement put Amazon on the front pages over the key shopping period in the year and it deflected the conversation away from tax-avoidance and undercover warehouse stories. Smart because of the innovation of the idea or smart because it’s great PR, or both.
The show was also notable for two quotes from Bezos:
“Amazon is not happening to book-selling; the future is happening to book-selling”
“Complaining is not a business strategy”
Depending on where you sit on the love/hate Amazon spectrum, you’ll view those as either a load of rubbish from someone that only wants to screw staff, competitors and the book industry as hard as they can, or wise words from the leader of one of the world’s most innovative businesses. For me it’s the latter. It’s true that Amazon takes the path of most benefit when it comes to tax, operational costs, staff costs and the intensity and speed of fulfillment operations. Not all businesses have to approach things in the way they do, but Amazon chooses to push its business as far as local country legislation will allow in the pursuit of its success.
Really I’m much more interested in the Amazon approach to innovation, and what we can learn from this.
Related to this, it was interesting to read Michael Bhaskar’s blog about how publishers are held back by the lack of ‘slack’ in their businesses . The quote below is from Michael’s post, from which he goes on to argue that publishers need to provide funding, get out of the way and let small start-up/incubation/R&D units work out the radical change:
“The only way the industry as it is presently constituted can realistically innovate is by letting go. It can’t interfere. It can’t watch over its shoulder. And, boy oh boy, it can’t try to manage the change.”
I’m not entirely sure about this as I think a greater level of change can come from within. To do so we need to breakdown our businesses and destruct them at every level.
Amazon innovate across the business by tackling customer problems and finding sometimes simple, sometimes bold but usually innovation solutions to these problems. Whether it’s on the level of improved packaging or the launch of Kindle, Prime or Matchbook or solving delivery speed and convenience with drones.
This is what I think we need to do, to tackle each and every part of our business in this way. At its simplest level it’s to ask ourselves how can we improve from what happens today? Greater than this, though, we need to ask ourselves how can we destruct our existing businesses and pursue those destructive ideas. That’s where the big innovation will come.
Yes, this could come from funding skunkworks and incubators, but I really don’t think this is the only way. From within we can identify those pain points in our business, the elements that could be done differently (or will be by others if we don’t change) and challenge ourselves to innovate in a radical way.
We just need to be bold enough to launch drones of our own.