Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Disruptive by Design



Monday I went to a Wired Magazine conference called “Disruptive by Design”. (Twitter#WiredLive).

It had great speakers like Jeff Immelt (GE), Elon Musk (Telsa Motors/SpaceX), Shai Agassi (Better Place)and Vivek Kundra (the Information Technology czar for the Obama administration) just to name a few.

All of these guys were mesmerizing with their passion and conviction around technologies and business ideas that are disruptive and game changing.

But far and away my favorite of the day was Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder).

He made the pursuit of innovation personal and accessible. He talked about his conviction even in the early difficult days that Amazon would make it and his passion for his latest invention, the Kindle.

Here are a few choice tidbits from his speech (quoted semi-accurately, but you'll get the meaning):

"If you are going to be disruptive, you have to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time."

"Companies over dramatize failure. Failures of commission (taking action) are rarely that expensive. The real danger is in failures of omission (not seizing an opportunity)."

"Amazon makes decisions on business extensions by working backwards from consumer needs or working forwards from our skill sets."

"I always told my staff not to take fluctuations in stock prices too seriously. If you feel 30% smarter the day our stock goes up by that amount, are you going to feel 30% dumber the day it drops down?"

He says he knew that Amazon was going to make it even when the stock was tanking partly because it's harshest critics were among their best customers.

He talked about the power of the Kindle being that it is a singular focused device. He thought multi-taking devices were often over-rated.

"I love my smart phone, I love my Swiss army knife, but sometimes when I'm sitting down for a great meal, I love my steak knife."

I think it's fascinating that he's taking on books, which for many are sacred objects, and declaring "they've had a good 500 year run" but it's time for something new.

His problem with books? Too heavy, hard to turn the page with one hand, hard to find your place again, always closing at the wrong moment.

His problem with reading on another "multi tasking device" like a laptop? Too hot, too cumbersome, and not that easy to curl up in bed with.

I haven't tried a Kindle yet. But I'm curious. The people I know who have them seem to be passionate advocates. (Always a good sign).

I think time will tell if the Kindle really is a better mousetrap. But I know for sure that whether it fails or succeeds, Jeff Bezos is someone who is not going to stop disrupting.

That's my point of view. What's your twist?

Is the Kindle a disruptive innovation or a fad destined for failure?

3 comments:

  1. That sounds like an interesting conference. Great line up. Did Jeff Immelt have anything interesting to say?

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  2. Julie@BrandTwist.comJune 17, 2009 at 9:59 PM

    Immelt was great too. That man exudes power. He spoke alot about Health Care ("Health Imagination") and the need to provide solutions at multiple price points (not just the super high end scanners). He talked about making these first for China but then selling them in the US.He spoke about the need to turn the US back into a manufacturing power and that we need to stop focusing so much on service. He said without a "productivity solution" we will fall into the trap of protectionism. He spoke alot about China which he visits often for inspiration and "comes back every time with a headache". My favorite line of the talk was "never attribute to conspiracy that which can be explained by incomptency."

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  3. Julie - great post.

    Love the quote from Jeff Bezos "If you are going to be disruptive, you have to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time."

    It's great to be reminded that being misunderstood doesn't mean the idea isn't right or can't work. Often being misunderstood forces you to think harder and re-strucutre or re-think so the idea benefits from being challenged.

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