Amazon failed with its attempt to introduce a cool smartphone, Fire Phone. The hotel booking site, Amazon Destinations, was similarly an epic failure. Amazon Auctions and several other ventures crashed and burned. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, believes failed experiments are a necessary evil to creating successful inventions. He says failure and inventions are “inseparable twins.”
But what about the game-changing leadership that is required to be Amazon-ready or indeed ready for any other disruptors? What can we learn from Amazon itself about their approach to leadership? The first thing is that the topic is important enough for Amazon to publish its own set of fourteen leadership principles.
One of the principles may help explain Jeff Bezos’ views about failure.
Invent and Simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here”. Because we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.
– Extract from Amazon leadership principles –
Jeff Bezos in a letter to shareholders said, “To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”
However, experimentation and risk are not without context. Clarity about what it is that you’re trying to achieve – the big problem you’re trying to solve for your customers – is the critical reference point for experimentation and pressing on in the face of failure. You have to know what you want; be prepared to try many different ways to get there; learning as you go…until you discover a breakthrough.
In fact, Doug Sundheim believes that leaders need to take “Smart Risks” to get there. In his book of the same name, Sundheim suggests that we reframe risk. Instead of merely focusing on what can go wrong, he suggests that we consider what we have to lose by avoiding risk. He talks about the five common dangers of playing it safe for too long.
- You don’t win
- You don’t grow
- You don’t create
- You lose confidence
- You don’t feel alive
Game-changing leaders are passionate about making a positive difference and are willing to risk failure to get there.
What smart risks could you take?
Best regards, Brian
PS: Want to align your team on a bold new future? Contact us for a free 30 minute leadership diagnostic.