The Amazon Effect: How to Drive Innovation

We’re in the midst of a technological revolution. AI, quantum computing, Humane’s Pin, drone delivery: take your pick! From farming to sales, radical new technologies are here, and more are on the way for every business sector. That’s unavoidable.

Whether that tech disrupts or enhances your business is up to you.

It’s hardly a secret that tech innovation is a major component of Amazon’s success. It undeniably enhances their business. And they are more than happy to share their “secret sauce” for driving that innovation, as Steve Armato, Amazon’s vice president for Middle Mile and Tech, reveals in our podcast with him.

Here’s how Amazon fosters a transformative role for AI and other technologies to keep their practices cutting-edge…and profitable.

1. Empowerment: Start with Your People.

Humans remain the alpha and omega of innovation. Steve says Amazon empowers employees by providing training, development, education, and other upskilling programs…shaping a supportive environment for sharing and prototyping new ideas. Steve is particularly fond of Innovation at Scale: encouraging a collaborative approach to moving an idea to a reality that benefits multiple groups across the company.

2. Innovate with People in Mind.

The purpose of any innovation must ultimately benefit people, either your employees or your customers. At Amazon, innovation benefits both employees and customers. For example, Amazon uses AI to provide summaries of the many reviews of each product offered so customers can quickly see why an item gets its score. AI also designs new delivery routes to get purchases to the customer’s porch faster and more efficiently. Meanwhile, robots boost ergonomics (and thus reduce injuries) for warehouse workers.

3. Keep an Eye on AI.

Amazon has used machine learning for decades…thoughtfully. AI systems are used to personalize customers’ shopping experiences and personalize employees’ work experiences. AI is also used for forecasting and predictive inventory management, which is why the retailer is so reliable and rarely unable to provide a listed product. Steve believes this AI is simply the latest step in technology’s standard evolution, in this case, from mainframe computers to desktops to smartphones to AI.

4. Monitor and Test: Is It Really Helping?

Even the best tech is no good if it doesn’t help your organization. Look beyond the immediate. While AI-driven forecasts and inventory management lead to better product placement, faster deliveries, and reduced costs, they also significantly boost Amazon’s sustainability by reducing shipping distances. Other new tech also drives Amazon’s shift to electric delivery vans and renewable energy projects, further driving sustainability and long-term reductions in operating costs.

5. Leaders Must Lead.

Just as innovation starts with people, so do people close the innovation loop. In this case, it’s you: the human leader. It’s important for you to create an innovative culture, to have your own innovative mindset, and to create a vision of the future. Successful innovation requires leaders with a mix of grit and optimism: you’ll need to maintain your drive when the inevitable bumps in the road arise and continue having faith in your vision. Both of those positively affect your team. This magnifies innovation; many of Amazon’s ideas come from the bottom-up rather than just the top-down.

6. Bonus: Your Innovation Boosts Beyond You.

Amazon freely shares much of its tech, developing enterprise-level tools for small businesses, such as mapping and routing tools. It also has a multi-million dollar program to train and upskill the public on AI and other tech, not just its own workers. That ensures a future talent pool not only for Amazon but also for other organizations, large and small.

At Amazon, innovation constantly transforms their business with results that extend far beyond the company itself. That means success is defined by much more than simple profit; it is defined by broad benefits instead.

How will your leadership with new technology transform your organization?


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode How Moonshots & Robots Put Packages on Your Porch.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.