Amazon Lab126

IMG_1450On January 8, 2014, the Villanova in the Valley team had the privilege to visit Lab126, a division of Amazon that is in charge of designing electronic consumer devices such as the Amazon Kindle.  We heard from several Lab 126 employees including the President of Lab 126, Mr. Gregg Zehr.

Mr. Zehr elaborated on the working philosophy of Lab 126 and how they approach inventing and developing their products.  The philosophy behind all of their products is to start with the consumer and work backwards.  When inventing a product, Lab 126 engineers do not focus on its competitors; instead, they obsess over what the consumer wants.  Mr. Zehr accredits Lab 126’s success to their work environment, trust between coworkers, and having a passion for what they do.

Two very passionate mechanical engineers expressed Amazon’s “cocooning” philosophy.  Co-workers listen to each other’s ideas and are encouraging to one another.  Amazon workers do not bring down the ideas of co-workers disrespectfully, they work as a supportive team to nurture innovative ideas.  They artfully displayed this “cocooning” process through an animated skit.

Furthermore, the engineers elaborated on Concept Streaming, a program to spark ideas.  A person that is not an Amazon employee submits a one-page paper of an idea to Concept Streaming at Lab 126. A leadership team at Lab 126 reviews the papers, accepts 20 ideas, and provides feedback to the innovators.  The top 3 ideas are presented to Mr. Gregg Zehr to possibly be approved to be developed. This was amazing, considering its potential to bring low-level employees in direct contact with the president of the lab.

Our group of students was able to experience cocooning and Concept Stream as we came up with several new concepts for the Amazon Kindle. We then presented our ideas in the same manner that would be seen at Amazon Lab126.  The two engineers truly engaged with us, encouraging us to think out of the box and be bold!  They turned us into passionate innovators who were excited to brainstorm ideas. The buzz among the students after this session was unlike the reactions after any of our previous site visits.

The visit to Amazon was an amazing experience.  I believe this was the most engaging company we visited so far.