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Fostering Innovation

Bezos described how he surrounds himself with people at Amazon who are inventive. He asks all job candidates: “Tell me about something that you have invented.” He adds, “Their invention could be on a small scale—say, a new product feature or a process that improves the customer experience, or even a new way to load the dishwasher. But I want to know that they will try new things.” When the CEO asks all job candidates whether they’ve ever invented anything, it sends a powerful signal that invention is expected and valued. - FastCompany

As I was reading this interesting article on FastCompany about how innovation is baked into certain organizations’ DNA, I started thinking about about how different innovation looks from company to company.

An Apple a day…

At Apple, for example, the vision comes from the top, and they’re very selective about the types of innovations that are “let loose” into the wild. Steve Jobs has publicly stated that he’s as proud of the things he didn’t do as the things he did.

And while Apple has seen a few of its innovations fail, this approach does lead to a pretty high success rate.

Compare that with Google. Their vision is still set from the top, but it’s a lot more broad: Don’t be evil. That gives employees quite a bit of leverage.

As a result, they have an incredibly diverse product range and churn out cool new products at a lightening fast rate. The public is often part of the beta testing, and they have a pretty high failure rate - or at least flop rate - compared to Apple.

I’m not sure one approach is better than the other. They’re just different.

Experimentation & Failure

At first glance, it might seem like Apple takes fewer but more calculated risks. I have no proof, but if I had to guess, they experiment with new products just as much as Google. They just do it behind closed doors where no one can see it.

Apple is very selective about which experiments it releases into the wild. Google is not.

Which approach do you prefer, and why?