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Why innovation is more than just a goal with Amazon’s Keyvan Peymani

Maeve McQuillan
Published on July 11, 2017

Are there real, tangible steps you can take to instil a culture of innovation at your startup? Keyvan Peymani thinks so.

Keyvan is head of startup marketing at Amazon Web Services, and he’s joining us at RISE this week. He’ll be speaking about how to build and maintain a culture that keeps your product growing and your team motivated.

Before he hits the RISE stage, we asked him how you can make innovation not just a buzzword, but a central tenet of your startup.

What are some things companies should keep in mind when thinking about innovation?

First and foremost, innovation requires a true cultural shift within a company. The focus should be on your customers, and the objectives should align with what will matter to them the most. It requires frequent, measurable experimentation, and constant iteration. It also requires tools to help teams track and manage processes. As you maintain a nimble environment, it is also important to focus on giving your team the support and structured time necessary to execute well. Innovation is not a goal. It is an outcome of a tightly managed and ongoing process.

What should startups think about when wanting to partner with large corporations?

Startups have to remember that there is a difference between pitching a large corporation to build a partnership, and pitching an investor. When pitching investors, the frame of the conversation is all about how the startup is unique and will succeed against all odds to be the dominant player in its domain. The script is all about you, the startup. When you are trying to build a partnership with a large corporation, the script is flipped. Here, it is about the corporation and how your startup is the missing puzzle piece that will help the corporation succeed. You are speaking about their needs and how you, the startup, will aid their core strategic goals.

Innovation is the result of activities done by teams every single day.”


What should large corporations think about when working with startups?

The desire to work with a startup is not enough to create a meaningful and long-lasting partnership. Months-long legal negotiations, protracted processes for procurement, and endless approvals cycles may be common among enterprises, but they can be the end of a relationship with a startup if the timelines and the expectations are not aligned. If a large corporation has not done the necessary work to define the processes by which it will work with a startup, the odds of success are low. In addition, it is critical for there to be an internal champion for the relationship who can navigate the complexities of the corporation, and pull in the right team members to work with the startup.

How can you sustain innovation in a company?

Innovation is simply aspiration if companies do not think about the people, the processes, and the tools that drive it. Vision, above all things, is the guiding light that sustains innovation cultures. Management must commit to taking on challenges like building new systems, reengineering internal processes, and carving out the time needed to experiment, fail, learn, and iterate. Execution has to be measured, and those succeeding in driving the company forward must be recognised and rewarded. Sustained innovation requires daily commitment and dedication to managing all of these efforts, and without vision, the drive for innovation can be lost.

What one piece of advice would you give a company starting on building an innovation culture?

While every company wants to be innovative and sustain a culture of innovation, many do not do the hard work of setting up the environment for this culture to materialise and thrive. Companies need to invest in time for teams to experiment, in tools to track and measure progress, and in its culture to support the work. Innovation is the result of activities done by teams every single day. It is the pinnacle of what a company can do and is not simply a singular goal or solitary achievement. My advice to all companies starting on this path is to understand that innovation is the outcome of this hard work.