How Amazon retains a nimble start-up culture, despite it's size

Culture is the difference between a truly innovative organisation and one that pays lip service to innovation. Amazon shares their tricks.

Despite growing into a giant global company, Amazon has built a culture which ensures it stays nimble and entrepreneurial. It is inherent in how they do things from end-to-end.

Get the right people in

Amazon is quite open about their desire to hire ‘Builders’, or people who are naturally curious and engage in experimentation and innovation. People make up and drive the culture of an organisation, and Builders give Amazon an internet network of intrapreneurs who will build the next AWS or Kindle.

Empowerment and Freedom to fail

Entrepreneur Joi Ito once summarised successful innovation by saying:
“Want to increase innovation? Decrease the cost of failure.”
In a traditional corporate environment, the person who makes no mistakes and takes the least risk is rewarded with the promotion. Here, failure is OK! Having originated from a start-up, Amazon realises that experimentation and innovation is inherently risky and instead rewards those who have new ideas to contribute.

One of these rewards include the expectation that you own and run what you build, which fosters a sense of ownership and autonomy. It is expected that you’ll reach out to your colleagues to form “two-pizza teams” – small, decentralised teams from cross-functions. Small teams are nimble, giving them speed and agility to execute and rapidly iterate.

Empowerment here isn’t just limited to forming and running teams, but also in making the decision on whether to keep going, pivot, or kill the idea outright. Unlike most corporate environments, ‘failure’ is not a career ending move.
Instead, failure is encouraged: for every 100 projects pitched, 90 will fail, and 1 will become the next multi-billion-dollar product.

*  *  *

Amazon’s culture is not a mistake. It is a conscious attempt to maintain the best of the start-up world with the power and resources of a large organisation.



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Karn Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: How Amazon retains a nimble start-up culture, despite it's size
How Amazon retains a nimble start-up culture, despite it's size
Culture is the difference between a truly innovative organisation and one that pays lip service to innovation. Amazon shares their tricks.
Karn Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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