As the Holiday Season begins, memories of family, friends, and long-standing traditions capture our thoughts. Growing up in the South, cooking has always been a big part of any celebration. I am reminded of a story I once heard about a young mother teaching her daughter how to prepare a “Sunday roast.” After chopping vegetables and seasoning the roast perfectly, the mother chopped the top third off the roast and discarded it. The curious young daughter ask her mom the reason and she paused and responded, “I’m not sure. Nana always did that – so I do too.” Still not satisfied, the young girl went to Nana who offered the same response, “That is the way my mom (your Great-Grand) always did it.” Still curious and determined to understand why anyone would waste a perfectly good part of the roast, the girl went to see Great-Grand for a “final answer.” Great-Grand, now ninety-six, threw her head back and laughed, saying, “Are they really doing that? I only did that because we had one roasting pan and the entire roast would not fit!” This makes me think about how many times we repeat the same processes, behaviors, attitudes, or thoughts – without question – because that is the way things have always been done.
A couple of weeks ago, Amazon introduced a sweeping collection of new cloud computing services that lets you manage tremendous amounts of data without setting up your own expensive and expansive infrastructure. While Amazon Web Services is less than ten years old, Deutsche Bank estimates its worth at $160 billion, more valuable than Intel! Amazon did not get there by doing what has always been done – by cutting the end off of the roast. They could have followed suit and bought infrastructure hardware, networking equipment, storage, processing power, data analytic tools, databases, etc. from the likes of Dell, EMC, Cisco, HP, and others. However, Amazon, like other Internet giants Google and Facebook, had simply grown to such a large size … so it was simply too expensive. So – what did they do? They built their own solution – their own servers, their own storage, their own databases, and other software for managing information across all the hardware. And then they did a truly remarkable thing … they shared it by offering the world’s largest cloud computing operation to many businesses to run their software and store their data.
They could have certainly kept “cutting the end off of the roast” – but instead, Amazon chose the more innovative and curious approach, asking “why not” and “why can’t we?” As a result of this type of thinking, their stock has doubled in value in 2015, when the overall market – including technical companies – have been … well … flat.
So, as you develop your forward-looking strategies that will launch you into a new year and a promising future, be challenged to think beyond the typical and the “way it has always been done.” Be innovative and don’t simply “cut the end off of the roast!”