A question I get asked all the time is what is innovation and excellence and why should I implement them within my organization. First, let me tell you that innovation and excellence are not new ideas. They’ve been around for years.
It’s recently that these words have started to spread like wildfire. Every successful company throughout time has embraced these concepts and that is how they were able to grow and scale.
What Are Innovation And Excellence?
Innovation simply means the ability to experiment and to create something new or to innovate something in existence to make it better. This can include a product, a process, a technology and so forth.
Excellence then is to take that Innovation and make it repeatable and scalable. This means that excellence takes something that is novel and finds a way to make to standardize it.
Case Study - How Amazon Fostered A Culture Of Growth Innovation & Excellence
If you’ve bought anything online over the last decade, you would have seen a recommendation engine working. This is basically when you get to the check out page and the website throws up other items that you might be interested in to entice you to purchase more. A standard practice that most savvy online retailers have adopted but did you know that it almost didn’t come into existence.
It was originally created by a guy named Greg Linden. While he was at Amazon from 1997-2002, Linden prototyped a system for making personal recommendations for other products to customers as they checked out.
Problem was, a marketing Senior Vice President thought these would distract customers from completing their purchase and didn’t think Linden had proof it would work.
Here is what Linden wrote in his blog about the incident.
I heard the SVP was angry when he discovered I was pushing out a test, but, even for top executives, it was hard to block a test. The measurement is good. The only good argument against testing would be that the negative impact might be so severe that Amazon couldn’t afford it. A difficult claim to make.Greg Linden
Linden’s experiment ultimately showed that the customers really liked the feature, and recommendations have become a signature design feature for Amazon. The rest, as they say, is history.
Can you imagine going up against a Senior Vice President when he clearly doesn’t approve of your idea? That is the type of culture that Amazon had created. Innovation was not just allowed it was sought. If you can prove your idea, it would go into implementation, if you couldn’t, no problem.
The recommendation engine was a novel idea, that revolutionized Amazon’s sales and was instrumental in making it the number one retailer in the world. Amazon was able to take this innovation and apply excellence to it. They standardized this practice throughout their platform to engage buyers in more sales.
Since then, almost all online retailers have used this innovative practice, which for us now is just standard.
There are countless examples throughout history of innovative ideas that companies were able to standardize to scale and grow. From the printing press and the assembly line to the smartphones, everything that we take for granted now was once an innovation of its own.
Innovation VS Excellence - What Should You Focus On
An organization should have a healthy mix of innovation and excellence to be able to scale and grow. 20-80 to be exact. Your company should be focused 20% on innovation and 80% on taking those innovations and finding a way to make it repeatable and scalable.
This means that if you find a way to innovate, you should then spend the bulk of the time to standardize that process, otherwise its just another great idea that you can’t execute one.