Amazon began with a young Jeff Bezos who, through his job at the time, learned that Internet usage grew strongly. He then made his analytical homework and decided that he would start a website for selling books. Here’s an interesting clip from 1997 where you can hear Jeff Bezos himself describe his process.
It would be easy to say that “the rest is history”, but instead we are going to stop and think about it. Being small, on the right market, at right time and growing is one thing, being big and continuing to develop is a completely different challenge. The two are very often confused. The question for established actors is not if, but when their conventional ways of doing business are going to become outdated. Many companies hold on to obsolete business models far too long… and eventually die. But there are ways to go forward – and like everything else it takes decision making and commitment.
Amazons competitors at the time was called Barnes & Noble and in Sweden Akademibokhandeln. Today, the list can be made considerably longer – way too long to post here, but have a look at this link. Firms like DHL, Volvo and Scania is going to be challenged in smart deliveries, transports with self-driving drones. With regard to data analysis and data storage, Amazon today competes with both Google and IBM. And with the acquisition of Whole Foods, Swedish food actors like Martin & Servera and ICA will also have to think about what their real challenges will be in the future.
Is your organization equipped to meet Amazon? Who will be the future leader of your industry?
Amazon has succeeded in systematic innovation and a sustained entrepreneurial spirit within the company, even when it grew large. What can you learn from this? For established companies it is about continuously develop two abilities:
- Develop intrapreneurs and the company’s intrapreneurial awareness!
Intrapreneurs are employees who take responsibility for, and drive, develop and change within the company or organization in which they work. Unlike the entrepreneur, an intrapreneur must not only be knowledgeable and driven, but also learn how to navigate and challenge status que within an existing organizational structure. That means challenging already established ways of doing and thinking, break down established silos, deal with internal policies, etc. Companies like Kinnevik (owner of Zalando, Millicom, Tele2, Rocket Internet, Global Fashion Group and MTG), IBM, Microsoft, or the industrial company Sandvik had not been what they are today without their successful intrapreneurs.
- Systematic innovation
Systematic Innovation is a prerequisite for survival for all companies. Global competition requires the ability to successfully develop and introduce new processes, services products and methods that result in significant improvements in quality, efficiency, utility and new markets. In order to compete, companies need to build a strong foundation based on a proactive and systematic way of working around their innovation strategy. Innovation must start to be seen as a critical activity. On a practical leveval this is all about acquiring the right tools and knowing how and when to innovate – but also when not to do it.
Do you want to equip yourself and your company with the right tools already this autumn? Read more about KTH Executive Schools two courses Executive Training in Intrapreneurship and Leading Innovation.
Business Developer Expert and Program Director KTH Executive School