An experimentation DNA

Baba Shiv, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business said ‘Failure is the mother of invention’. Jeff Bezos, emphasizes how Amazon’s new ventures had either no impact or negative impact on revenues for the first 5-7 years. There is an internal joke in bay area that if you have co-founded a startup, failed miserably then Google will hire you as a ‘Product Manager’. This embraces the fact that Silicon Valley celebrates failure and is not afraid to try out new things.

E.g: Every employee at Google gets 20% time weekly to work on a side project of their choice. This kind of openness and support from leadership in exercising creative business is critical for both growth and employee happiness.

The factual challenge with the culture of large fortune 500s is the crawling bureaucracy in the management layers. This makes companies complacent, risk averse and stifles the entrepreneurial spirit and the risk taking ability existing in an Amazonian’s or Googler’s DNA.

When your most valuable talent spends their time and energy on resolving conflicts or runs ‘do-as-directed’ projects; it is very difficult to excite and motivate the rest without direct incentives. Giving incentives is subjective and can arguably be very relative. For few employees, its profit sharing or a monetize-able instrument, for some its working on the next big idea, for some it can be community give back. Therefore, an incentive-less culture can get detrimental and can self-create an opportunity inviting disruption.

Back in the day, majority of retail employees had very few or almost no visibility to the company’s financial benefits behind each initiative. This secretive nature might directly affect employee motivation. Professionals feel accomplished in jobs when it has a meaningful purpose, which comes by buying and investing into the vision. Granted, not every employee can have the opportunity to work on the next billion-dollar opportunity, but work must directly relate to a purpose, which would motivate them to think harder, feel purposeful and aim bigger.

Few tech-focussed companies have just started to make it mandatory for managers to justify a business case before launching initiatives. Product Managers play an incredibly important role for this particular case. Nonetheless, sharing monetization strategies across the board is still considered as a ‘hush-hush’ at many big boxes.

Effective decision making is a key management system to excite and energize employees. As opposed to delayed management decisions which generally result in increased employee frustration. If traditional retailers must attract and retain millennials, a more creative and liberal culture of experimentation needs to be fostered.

Traditional corporate hierarchical structure simply doesn’t work anymore. Amazon conducts leadership sessions, with an idea to invite other companies to visit, learn from Amazon’s business engine: their core philosophies, strategies and guiding principles to build and manage businesses. In short, selling proven entrepreneurism. 

Jon Katzenbach, best-selling author, world’s leading expert on organizational strategy talks about how a great culture can be an emotional energizer and impactful for employees. On the other hand, bad cultures can result in low productivity and unhealthy employee morale.

He also mentions that sometimes it’s better for companies to focus on behavioral patterns like style of interacting to customers or the way you start a meeting etc. which can be more tangible and measurable than culture. Such kind of behaviors tap into people’s emotion, which is very critical and can positively build a likeable culture.

Lastly, CEOs are becoming more visible on social media platforms. Marvin Ellison, CEO of J.C.Penney on Twitter, Doug McMillon of Wal-Mart on Instagram, Satya Nadella on LinkedIn, are live examples of how personal connect matters, and will play an important role in a company’s transformation; shaping the way customers interact, engage and communicate with their brand.

Key thinking points:

  • Does your company have a bold vision?
  • Is your team willing to experiment, fail, analyze and learn?
  • Is your leadership focussed, candid and connected?


(Featured photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash)