Alberto Mingardi  

Jeff Bezos on innovation

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Jeff Bezos was recently interview by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Asked by digital editor Massimo Russo "what is the recipe for innovation", he gave a phenomenal answer:

Easy: to improve our customers' experience. To be genuinely innovative, innovation needs to adopted by consumers. If they do not choose it, if they prefer the old-fashioned way to do things, it is not innovation. We love inventing and we are willing to fail. Real winners, such as Kindle and AWS, make up for any losses. Failure is costly, embarrassing, unpleasant. In a number of cultures it can be a reason for being dismissed, for being fired. To invent and to fail are one and the same, you cannot have one without the other.

I find this to be a magnificent answer, because Bezos is stating very clearly something that most people prattling about "innovation" miss. Innovation is not about technological progress per se, it is not even about "new stuff" per se: it is about what Deirdre McCloskey calls "market-tested progress", and the market-tested part is not trivial. Making new technology a means to better answer consumers' demands is not trivial, is not a mere "last mile" of innovation. It is its essence. Innovation is about "products", and "products" are about serving people's needs and wishes, not just about doing something which was never done before.
last mile.jpg

The whole interview is well worth reading. Bezos speaks on colonizing space, his cameo in Star Trek Beyond, his marriage, and Donald Trump. Alas, it is in Italian.

Comments and Sharing

CATEGORIES: Entrepreneurialism

COMMENTS (4 to date)
ThaomasH writes:

Yes, novelty itself is not of value -- I was just reading a list to the abandoned projects of Yahoo that Verizon is not buying -- but in a larger sense, technology is definitely the real driver. Without the Internet no one would discover that on-line sales will turn out to be a better market-tested way of selling books and then a bunch of other stuff than physical stores. The desire for international travel has probably changed less since Herodotus than technologies to make it cheaper.

John Fembup writes:

I often told our staff, especially our IT support staff, that it's not enough for a new process, or system, or organization to function. It has to help.

If it doesn't help us do a lot more with the same resources, or do the same with a lot less resources, then it's not helping, no matter how well it's functioning.

Heads nodding. Deaf ears.

rww writes:

"Last year, a New York Times article on’s business practices revealed an ugly sight: employees crying at their desks, high turnover where few last beyond a year, work hours that exceed 100 hours a week are common, as are employees working on weekends, vacations, through cancer, their children’s illness and parents’ deaths. Amazon executives are quoted referring to this as “purposeful Darwinism” and justified as necessary for to meet the exacting standards of its founder, Jeff Bezos."

- David Sloan Wilson

Prateek writes:

I've never been convinced by this definition, and believe it to be fundamentally wrong. Innovation is a social process, not simply an economic one. The last mile need not be justified by market progress alone and the "tests" it enables. Innovation needs to be justified by the progress of the human condition. It just seems too facile to adopt the simpler definition of consumers and markets for innovation.

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