Amazon and Zappos are two wildly successful, yet characteristically different companies.
Amazon is an engineering company with solid focus on measurement. This is great for incremental improvement (even very rapid paced improvement) but means they have had few paradigm shifting moments. Akin to an awesomely efficient Supercomputer Amazon knows how to squeeze efficiency when a set of variables is presented but lacks the ability to question and test the input variables themselves.
For a long time now I have wondered why Amazon didn’t have author interviews (video or audio). I imagined a format where after book launch an author would be interviewed and describe the book etc etc. I’ve seen authors talk about their books at conferences and this has greatly influenced my buying decision. But this concept was not implemented by Amazon, and now I understand why. Engineers at Amazon are so focused on improving throughput (like maximizing number of books sold) that the ideation process needed for author interviews is simply not there.
Zappos, on the other hand, is a marketing company. Founded on the backbone of customer service Zappos aggressively identifies areas of growth and then uses marketing to get there. A great example of this is the “Vegetarian” shoes section on Zappos. The idea of “Vegetarian” shoes was picked up by a marketer within Zappos who realized untapped potential. This innovation could not have come about by tweaking dials.