Drone Delivery vs The Fear Burger 

Two very different approaches to innovation

Like the rest of the world, I have been captivated by the Amazon announcement yesterday of Prime Air, the drone-based delivery system currently in development.To call it an audacious leap would be an understatement. There are a dizzying array of reasons to not even bother attempting a project like this. First, a thicket of logistical problems, among them scheduling, control, security, safety, and of course, liability. Add to that a pile of legal and regulatory issues — drones are currently illegal in U.S.airspace, for instance, and you quickly get to “no way” inside most companies. But Amazon isn’t most companies. Amazon is a company that has been driven from the beginning by a clear and audacious narrative — something along the lines of “to overcome any obstacle to connect people and the things they want, faster and better than any other company in the world.” Amazon uses that narrative to drive every activity they engage in as a business. They don’t advertise that story, filling the airwaves with braggy commercials about the general excellence of their delivery experience. They “do” their story by relentlessly creating iconic experiences that make that narrative incontrovertibly true. Amazon has embraced the principles of storydoing at their core. It will be a while before a drone lands on your lawn, but announcing the initiative on cyber Monday at the height of the holiday shopping frenzy was a stroke of genius.It continued to make Amazon’s long term intentions crystal clear while drawing a massive amount of attention during the critical holiday buying period.

Contrast this with yesterday’s announcement from Olive Garden that they are introducing… a burger? Olive Garden is another company with a clear narrative — something along the lines of “to make an authentic Italian eating experience available to the masses.” So, how does a burger fit in to that story exactly? I wasn’t the first to scratch my head at this. In this article, Olive Garden executives chronicle the internal debate and attempt to explain the decision to introduce a menu item completely at odds with the core story of their business. Turns out it was pretty simple. “We were losing customers to people who were craving burgers.”Or put another way, ‘we don’t have any conviction in our core story, so if somebody wants a different story, we’re happy to change it so long as they give us their money.’ What’s that smell? That’s not a burger, it’s fear. Scared companies make bad decisions,and Olive Garden’s decision to introduce a burger is a great example of a nervous company losing its way. I can’t wait for the truckload of advertising trying to re-educate the world on why they should go to Olive Garden for their burgers. Actually, I can wait.

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