Chapter 22

Sponsors and Authors

Great Firms Make Sure That Innovation Is not Optional

Leaders play an indispensable role in catalyzing and driving innovation. Given that most people (and organizations) innately resist change, the job of an innovation leader is to overcome this inertia and drive a path to the future. There are many different ways to foster this momentum, but the same fundamental behavior underlies the following examples, taken from iconic companies such as Amazon, General Electric, and IBM. Great leaders make innovation obligatory instead of optional; they sponsor the change they want to see, and they set the conditions for their organizations to author and drive initiatives from concept to market successfully.

Innovation Leaders Make Bold and Committed Choices

In 1997, the year he took his fledgling company public, Jeff Bezos wrote a few words to Amazon’s new shareholders. In this letter, he referred to their collective environment as “Day 1” of the Internet. “Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies,” he wrote, proceeding to outline his precise vision for his organization. Bezos outlined his beliefs in making investment decisions to drive toward sustainable market leadership rather than chasing short-term profitability, and his commitment to the aggressive management of every internal program. “We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability ...

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