One of the things that's been keeping me (Mark) busy the last week or so was the arrival of Innovation Week at Amazon. At least within Retail Catalog, each year the team takes a break from regularly-scheduled development to try to produce something truly new and clever. Each team-member is given the chance to write up a short proposal describing their idea (including business/customer benefits), summarize the solution to be attempted, and explain how it can be reasonably accomplished and brought to a functioning prototype in one week's time. Some people pair-up, such as a business analyst working with a computer programmer, while others go at it alone. Also, there's usually an overall theme guiding (but not cramping) proposals each year, such as "Customer Satisfaction" or "Quality Assurance".
I had a rather fun proposal which kept me quite occupied for the week, and I was happy to be able to write up a successful report in which all promised goals were met. Many of the other engineers on the floor seemed to get into the spirit of things as well; it's nice that Amazon provides such opportunities for staff at all levels of the hierarchy to directly recommend, implement, and evaluate new directions for the company. Successful companies such as Amazon hire a lot of bright people, and it's important to leverage that investment by giving everyone a chance to channel their creative energies and focus directly towards company goals. People often deliver their best work when working on a project in which they were directly involved in suggesting and planning, so this really is an efficient way to harvest all that brainpower under contract.
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