In my last article on Valuing Innovation, I discussed my decision to leave one of the hottest and fastest growing companies in the world – Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Ultimately, the decision was driven by a desire to take some of the lessons that I learned during my time at AWS and apply them to early stage companies and startups that were earlier in the risk curve.
However, there is a lot of value in the lessons that I’ve learned during my career – which included helping to shape the #1 private cloud provider and #1 public cloud provider at both EMC and AWS – that could be of immense value to other organizations looking to get their concepts off the ground.
Here are the first five of the ten lessons that I’d like to share with fellow entrepreneurs:
Focus on repeatable patterns and systems , not individual long shot outcomes
This may be best described with sports analogies. Simply put, instead of trying to hit a homerun or throw a “Hail Mary” pass, business leaders should instead practice systems and patterns that help them become consistent producers.
Build yourself, your team and your business out of repeatable processes. Creating behaviors, processes and machines that follow a repeatable pattern enables enterprises to be easily scaled. Areas where there is no repeatable pattern are opportunities to innovate.
Build new art and protect it
Innovate and create new capabilities. The organizations that have accumulated significant corporate value, customer mindshare or market share are usually the organizations that have created new capabilities and embedded them in the default behaviors of their users.
The ultimate outcome of any idea or innovative method should be considered art, and for it to be consumed, you need a distribution method. You also need to protect it. The best way to protect it is by being best in class either as a discreet capability or ecosystem of capabilities. Don’t draw a moat around everything with patents and trademarks. Those are important but, instead, protect ideas, innovations and solutions by continuing to innovate and improve them.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable – and asking for help
Being uncomfortable is okay. If you’re comfortable, you’re not risking, growing or innovating enough.
Stretch out of comfort zones. Engage with and encourage innovators that haven’t been through the creation process. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re working on a truly disruptive set of issues or capabilities, you’ll need help. You can’t do it in a vacuum.
Be prepared to defend your art
If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your solution or deliverable, you’re not moving fast enough. But you also need to be prepared to defend your idea in its infancy. If you can’t craft an argument for your idea and convince others about its utility or value, you’re unlikely to convince a broad market about it.
Leaders occasionally fail, but rebound quickly
Every individual job, project and innovation opportunity operates on its own rhythm. Leaders are obsessed with that rhythm. And leadership is about shortening the rhythm between when mistakes or poor decisions are made and when they are corrected.
Ultimately, there are two different types of decisions – business risking decisions, which are hard to recover from and rare, and business contributing decisions, which can be easily be unwound if the outcome is unacceptable. Leaders need to make both kinds of decisions, and be prepared to recover and move on quickly should they not work out.
Agree with my lessons? Disagree completely? Leave a comment and let me know. And be sure to check out the second half of my ten tips for entrepreneurs in my next article on Valuing Innovation.