Comfortable With Your Business Model? Time to Get Uncomfortable

Innovation - get out of the comfort zoneBy the time Travelocity Founder Terry Jones took the stage for his keynote address at the 2013 New York Tech Summit, the packed conference room was buzzing. All of those in attendance had one question in mind: how would Jones’s lessons learned at Travelocity apply to the tech sector?

Jones spoke of the importance of innovation when trying to corral a new breed of “wired and dangerous” consumers who are constantly influencing the way that Americans shop and buy.  Like a radar machine that never stops searching, companies must constantly strive to look for new ideas to replace those that have been rendered irrelevant.

Ideas can come from any place in an organization, at any time—and it is up to executives to recognize this and search for them from the bottom up, rather than from the top down.

In case you were unable to attend this year’s NY Tech Summit, here are some nuggets of wisdom extracted from Jones’s keynote address:


Do something extraordinary

Imagine this: Your airport is caught in a blizzard, and there is no way for planes to take off or land. So, your employee runs to the store and charges $10,000 to his personal credit card for a snow plow and cleans the runway, allowing travel to resume for the day. As an executive, how would you respond to this purchase when the employee tried to expense it?

Well, in the case of American Airlines, this employee was promoted.

“The CFOs head was coming off and he ran to the president and said, ‘What do we do?’” Jone said. “T o which the president said, ‘Promote him!’”

And according to Jones, this lesson should teach executives the importance of valuing creative decisions to get a job done—and focus less on reprimanding those who choose to blindly obey for fear of being reprimanded.

"If it takes more than two pizzas to feed a team lunch, your team is too big"       

While large teams might provide the manpower to accomplish larger tasks, they often lack innovation. “Keep teams small; big teams don’t innovate,” Jones explained. If you focus on building the right culture, and less on creating a small core of free thinking individuals, good things will happen. Like a jazz band that can think on-the-fly and innovate based on their creative abilities, teams that are assembled from a variety of different, un-orthodox places often prove the most successful.

And, in the case of Amazon, employ the two pizza rule. If it takes more than two pizzas to feed your team, then your group is too big.



nurture-the-flameNurture the flame                              

In baseball, a player who fails seven out of 10 times is considered successful. The same can be applied to the business world as companies must learn to build a culture where it is okay to make mistakes.

“Don’t write we will never change in concrete,” Jones explained. “Write it in sand.” And when something goes wrong and an idea does not pan out, kill the project—not the person.

Jones’s message was clear: get past the “bozone” layer in your organization, or the impenetrable wall of middle management who stops ideas before they move up. Learn to value ideas from every employee, regardless of their salary or tenure—and your organization will thrive.