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AWS head of technology shares how Amazon fosters innovation

AWS head of technology shares how Amazon fosters innovation | IE

AWS executive discusses Amazon’s innovative culture and mechanisms.

Carlos Carús, Head of Technology at AWS EMEA South, shared with the IE Business School community key practices Amazon follows to foster innovation inside the company and leverage it for competitive advantage.

With over eight years of experience in one of the biggest companies in the world, Carús stressed that every organisation has an expiration date. Consequently, they need to snap out of the idea that innovation is a choice.

“In the 60s and 70s, the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 was 67 years. Five years ago it was fifteen, and nowadays it is only seven years. Competition is fierce,” said Carús.

“Understand that innovation is a must and is the driver behind competitive advantage. This is why innovating is so important. If you can’t compete, you are dead.”

Carlos Carús, Head of Technology at AWS EMEA South

He emphasised that innovation is a value that must reach across the entirety of your organisation. But it must come from the top.

“If the leadership does not foster innovation inside the company, nothing is going to work,” mentioned Carús. “Innovation is not locked to only one department. There is not a department of innovation, this does not work. In the case you have a department of innovation it should then make sure that all the rest of departments share that mindset.”

Carús shared the idea behind Amazon’s Day One mentality. To abandon preconceptions and constantly challenge the status quo to find new answers.

“We try to cultivate this [in our company] every day. The day one mental model consists in that the first day you go to work somewhere, everything is new and you don’t know anything about anything but you try to do your best. With this mental model, I don’t take for granted anything. So, I challenge everything and put things to test.”

He discussed decision making and risk-evaluation, to make informed decisions when ambiguity rises.

“If you have a decision in which you can go back, this is a two-way door. If we have a decision that once we made it there is no way back, that is a one-way door,” said Carús. “If the decision is a one-way door, think about it carefully, it might involve a huge investment in people or resources. If it is a two-way door, take the decision now.”

Carús placed significant worth in the ability to deal with ambiguity and failure to drive competitive advantage and pursue innovative solutions.

“No one has the certainty of what is going to happen, there is always a level of risk in the actions you are taking. However, if you don’t make decisions fast, someone else is going to make them faster than you.”

For the Amazon executive, failure is a source of learning and an opportunity for companies to evolve.

“Ninety-nine out of a 100 ideas will fail. These ninety-nine failed ideas might be a small or a big disaster. However, the 100th idea; that one idea that is going to work, can change the way the business works.”

The conversation was facilitated by the IE Technology and Innovation Club and offered an opportunity for attendees to chat with Carús in a post-event networking session.

“I personally believe that having the chance to chat with someone of such relevance in the sector is just amazing,” said BBA-BIR Antonio Pascual.

“I feel fortunate to have the opportunity of learning thanks to the knowledge and experience provided by a professional, such as Carlos.”

Antonio Pascual, BBA-BIR