Innovate Like Chris Rock

I am the girl who is always looking to be challenged and grow. How does one do that in a way that stretches you? That lets you test the waters in a way that allows for innovation? For me, that means taking risks—putting myself out there in a way that still affords me a lifeline as I discover which risks are worth taking and which ones lead to dead ends. I especially love the ones go no where—as they allow me to see that by taking another approach I can help our business continue to be creative, innovative and unique in our offering at a time when everyone is looking to find a niche that keeps them in the game.

I came across this article at It uses Chris Rock—one of the truly brilliant and funny comedian’s of our time—as a superb example of innovation. And Jeff Bezos.

It’s funny…for years Jeff Bezos of Amazon was dragged through the media for not making money and for a business model that many felt (as a result of that little “not making money” thing) just wouldn’t work. Now look—in an uncertain economy where everyone is adjusting their financials, Amazon is making money. They had one of the best holiday online sales seasons for 2008. In the article I am going to share with you Peter Sim’s, the author, cites that “Amazon led by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has continuously used experiments to identify unique growth opportunities beyond the company’s core book business—such as the Kindle, Amazon stores, and elastic cloud computing.”

My hope is that all businesses will remember Jeff Bezos when reviewing their 2009 marketing plans. And remember that experimenting to identify unique growth opportunities beyond the core channels that they have used up to this point is necessary. Especially when it comes to inclusion of digital media, which is an absolute marketing must in this changing economic time.

Where are you innovating this year?

Best Nicole

Chris Rock has become the most popular comedian in the world. There is no doubt he’s got enormous talent, but his brilliance also comes from the fact that he’s an experimental innovator. The jokes he rolls out on his global tours are actually the output of thousands of small experiments—some of which worked, but many of which did not.

We can all innovate like Chris Rock. Consider his process and methods.

First, he picks small venues where he can do rapid, low-risk experiments with new material. In gearing up for his latest global tour, he made between 40 and 50 appearances at a small venue called the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey, not far from where he lives. Rock told the Orange Country Register, “It’s like boxing training camp. I always pick a comedy club to work out in.”

In front of audiences of say 30 to 40 people, Rock will bring a yellow legal note pad with lots of joke ideas scribbled on it, according to fellow comedian Matt Ruby. In sets that run say 45 minutes, many of the jokes will fall flat, but according to Ruby, “There were 5-10 lines during the night that were just ridiculously good. Like lightning bolts. My sense is that he starts with these bolts and then writes around them.”

It’s all part of a process. When the material falls flat, Rock will even pause to say things like, “This needs to be fleshed out more if it’s gonna make it.”

In an eerie way, Chris Rock innovates like Amazon does. Amazon led by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has continuously used experiments to identify unique growth opportunities beyond the company’s core book business—such as the Kindle, Amazon stores, and elastic cloud computing.

Experimental innovators don’t overanalyze or put all of their hopes into one big bet—they quickly, creatively, and inexpensively use experiments to learn, gather insights, and identify unique opportunities—they then rapidly iterate, relearn, and refine to achieve success.

Chris Rock has become the king of comedy, but getting to his final product doesn’t happen in a vacuum—we can all learn from his process. How are you using little bets to work toward breakthrough innovations?

Peter Sims is an author and strategic adviser specializing in leadership and innovation. He is the coauthor (with Bill George) of True North, the nationally bestselling book on leadership.


One Response to Innovate Like Chris Rock

  1. Matt Ruby says:

    Thanks for the shoutout re: my post about Chris Rock. If ya want to read the whole thing, you can check it out here.

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