Innovation, Customer-focus, & Long-term Thinking

Here is a fascinating interview with Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Jeff has been on a mission since day-one of Amazon and has done an amazing job of both short-term execution excellence while keeping the company focused on the long-term goal. This post is primarily directed at my colleagues at nGenera (yes, rather than dedicate an entire post to this, I’ll just announce it here – BSG Alliance has transformed into nGenera – check out our awesome new Web Community at

Amazon is really hitting a stride executing on multiple fronts – it is quite amazing to see a company excel across so many diverse capabilities at once. nGenera colleagues take note – Amazon is not a software company, not a services company, it is many things at once geared toward delivering compelling customer experiences. Think about it – they are an e-tailer, an e-tail platform – both sales and physical distribution, a web-services platform, and a total consumer hardware solution provider (Kindle is more than just a device – think iPod – it is software, commerce, services and hardware wrapped in one). Sound familiar?

Here is a favorite quote

Q: Few CEOs have taken as much flak as you have for spending on innovation, in both good times and bad. What’s your philosophy?
A: My view is there’s no bad time to innovate. You should be doing it when times are good and when times are tough—and you want to be doing it around things that your customers care about. For us, it’s such a deep-seated belief, I’m not sure we have a choice.

Below is a re-post of this post by Tim O’Reilly which highlights some of my own takeaways and another favorite quote. The emphasis is mine.

Business Week has a great interview with Jeff Bezos as part of their innovation issue. The interview is entitled How Frugality Drives Innovation, but Jeff talks about far more than frugality. Here’s my favorite bit:

Q: Every company claims to be customer-focused. Why do you think so few are able to pull it off?
A: Companies get skills-focused, instead of customer-needs focused. When [companies] think about extending their business into some new area, the first question is “why should we do that—we don’t have any skills in that area.” That approach puts a finite lifetime on a company, because the world changes, and what used to be cutting-edge skills have turned into something your customers may not need anymore. A much more stable strategy is to start with “what do my customers need?” Then do an inventory of the gaps in your skills. Kindle is a great example. If we set our strategy by what our skills happen to be rather than by what our customers need, we never would have done it. We had to go out and hire people who know how to build hardware devices and create a whole new competency for the company.

Well worth a read. Another great line: “The key is to pick things that you think are really iimportant, and then focus on them.” It seems obvious, but so few of us do it as consistently as we should!