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Q&A with John Rossman

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with John Rossman, Author and Business Advisor.

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

My interests have always been in solving hard business problems. Creating great customer experiences, employee experiences, operational excellence, systematic innovation, new business models and technology are the tools I use, but solving wicked problems and creating valuable businesses are my passion. I’ve been fortunate to have lots of different businesses to do this in. I was an early executive at Amazon and led the launch of the Amazon Marketplace in 2002. I wrote a few books including The Amazon Way to help leaders understand the unique combination of leadership, strategy, innovation techniques and technologies to insert into their teams. My mission is to help leaders & companies compete and win in the digital era.

What are the highlights of the key digital innovation trends for 2023? Can you give us some major examples?

Certainly ChatGPT and AI is the major one. I believe that the release of ChatGPT will be the historical mark of the start of a new era of three connected mega trends. First, the rapid development of language model based AI products and ecosystems. Second, a massive influx of investors and business operators who will look to disrupt traditional business operations and models with a “fully automated” design principle. Third, established companies reacting to this new opportunity and threat. Some will be able to, many will not.

But AI is just one of several disruptive technologies. The internet of things, computer vision, autonomous vehicles, quantum computing are all examples of other disruptive technologies. Business leaders need to sharpen their ability to articulate, as exact as possible, the future customer or operational experience and flow, envision future business models, and then bring the team & partners together to test and iterate as quickly and cheaply as possible. This is the heart of the Amazon working backwards techniques.

In your opinion, how can they create high value for organizations?

There are several mistakes that business executives allow to happen. The ones i’m going to mention won’t surprise anyone, but I see them all the time.

First, they think of these initiatives as a technology challenge. While the technology is hard, it is not the hardest part of innovating. The hard part is solving hard problems for your customers, so they are willing to switch, adopt and pay for your product or service. Average solutions don’t do this. A premium needs to be paid on defining the unique killer feature or hero use case which will create demand and customer delight.

Second, they allow “business as usual” mindsets and management to be applied to innovation scenarios. When experimenting and innovating, you are trying to optimize for solving a hard problem, testing and learning as fast as possible. Business as usual policies, procedures, approvals, and decision making works against the needs of true innovation.

Third, they don’t understand that solutions to wicked problems, true innovations typically take several attempts and trials. Experimentation starts with failure, and you hopefully iterate to success. This is why we need our experiments to be as fast and affordable as possible.

Traditional management mindsets get this completely backwards in most cases.

John Rossman is a business strategist, operator, and expert on leadership, digital transformation, and business reinvention. He is a former Amazon executive who played a key role in launching the Amazon marketplace business in 2002. He served as senior innovation advisor at T-Mobile and senior technology advisor to the Gates Foundation. John is an operator and builder whose love is diving into complex business problems and customer needs designing innovative solutions and business models, and creating durable enterprise value.

He is the author of three books on leadership and strategy for innovation and business results.

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