WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND - MAY 31:  Salad Dodger (T2, L) wins The William Hill Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon Stadium on May 31, 2014 in Wimbledon, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Opinion

Amazon’s Number One Business Blunder

Silicon Valley might like to imagine it’s just invented social capital but the truth is that highly creative companies the world over have banked on its value for centuries. Ocean Spray may be an old business but only a shared sense of mutual dependency has built a multi-billion dollar business out of a bitter, red, nearly inedible fruit. The engineering firm, Arup, may work with bricks and mortar but its efficiency and reputation for fast problem solving has been built on a culture of helpfulness. Why are tiny biotech businesses able to solve problems that elude companies one hundred times their size? Because startup employees trust each other enough to share ideas and take them from bad to good to best – the narrative arc of all great breakthroughs. Lacking financial capital, it turns out, may not matter where you have high enough levels of social capital.

What does this mean for Amazon and for any company that aspires to sustainable levels of creativity and innovation? It means that the old reliance on competition, individual superstars and the macho culture of contest and endurance is a busted flush. It can work for short periods and small problems; over the long term, it’s inefficient, wasteful and unattractive to the very people most modern corporations yearn for. It also means that one of the biggest quandaries facing business today is how to be competitive externally without becoming a vipers nest internally.

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