Amazon CTO urges businesses to open up to ideas

At the FT Innovate conference in London, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels argued that companies should be more open to ideas

At the FT Innovate conference in London, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels (pictured) said companies should be more open to ideas.

"In most organisations, it is easy to dampen innovation. At Amazon, if someone objects to an idea they have to write a four-page report on why it is not a good idea," he said.

To maintain an innovation culture, Vogels said enterprises should try to mirror small company culture: "In a startup, there is a real hunger to get the product build. In large organisations, people are more focused on the company than the products."

Amazon has a fairly flat management structure and turns ideas into products in a matter of months, he said.

While some ideas may only have a short shelf life, Vogels urged delegates to focus on things that do not change. "Such innovation will benefit customers forever," he said. "This is about doing existing business processes better."

He said CIOs had previously blocked innovation, but those CIOs who embrace cloud become more relevant for the business.

As the head of Amazon Web Services, Vogels said cloud computing allows business to innovate at a lower cost. He also believes organisations need to take open source software seriously. 

Open source software has the quality that rivals commercial software, he said, and the licensing of open source software makes it possible for startups to innovate and scale far cheaper. "You can get a startup going for $50,000," he added.

Vogel also urged companies to look at how startups are able to attract a global customer base thanks to low-cost technology, without being constrained with having to develop country-specific routes to market.

A recent McKinsey report recommends that CEOs build a shadow IT organisation that focuses on innovation. 

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