A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how Jeff Bezos creates opportunity for vast discovery at Amazon (my post Amazon Drives Innovation by Creating Opportunities for Vast Discovery). I had actually been working on this post at the time when I found a great quote from Bezos on the culture of “pioneering” that he was trying to create at Amazon. It made for such a great story that I just had to run with it and push this story aside. Well, Bezos has done it again. He threw the world another curveball yesterday with the announcement that he is purchasing The Washington Post for $250 million. The pundits are in a whirlwind discussing whether or not Bezos will be successful with this big gamble. Knowing Bezos and his long-term orientation I would give him better odds than most that he will find success.
Last week I was in a golf tournament for my college fraternity Beta Theta Pi and had the pleasure of being grouped with several current students. After a few stories of debauchery and crazy antics from over twenty years ago we got on to the subject of careers. One of the students mentioned that he was majoring in Information Systems which also was my undergraduate degree. The discussion triggered a flashback of the amazing amount of discovery that seemed to be bombarding me at that time in my life. Looking back over my “career path” I now realize how I have continually struggled to maintain that extraordinary sense of discovery I felt then.
Last June marked the fifteenth year since I graduated from b-school at the Carlson School of Management. Over the summer I had been asked by the school to do an interview and answer a few questions looking back on my experience. I had recently published a blog post on “Three Things I Learned in B-school” that focused on the lessons that had followed me throughout my career but as I prepared for this interview I was thinking more about how much had changed in the world since I had graduate. I was quickly blown away with my quick list of changes that I had written down: medical discoveries, the Internet explosion, software development, redefining business and leadership theories, and the advances in telecommunications to name just a few.
Last month Inc. magazine ran an article titled “Why Silicon Valley Loves Failure” about how failure has moved beyond a buzzword in the land of Internet startups. The author (Eric Markowitz – @EricMarkowitz) shared the story of mid-’90s entrepreneur Kamran Elahian. Elahian had custom plates for his Ferrari F355 made with the word “Momenta.” Momenta was the name of a company that he founded in back 1989. Great, so what you say? There are thousands of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who drive around with their company’s name on the vanity plates. The interesting point was that Elahian chose the name of his previous company that had already gone bankrupt back in 1992. When ask why he chose his failed company, Elahian responded with “It’s to remind me not to be too proud. Unlike other entrepreneurs who put the names of successful companies on license plates, I decided to put my biggest failure. That way, I have to be reminded of it every time I get in the car.” He had moved beyond accepting his failure to being proud of his failures (see my post on the idea of a having a Failure Resume).
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