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  • Former Amazon executive explains keys to success, leadership in OSU speech

    John Rossman, Former Amazon executive explains keys to success, leadership in OSU speech

    Former Amazon executive explains keys to success, leadership in OSU speech

    John Rossman discussed the importance of failing but succeeded in entertaining and informing a crowd of about 175 in the Wes Watkins Center on Wednesday night.

    The Spears School of Business, Student Government Association and President’s Speaker Series sponsored the speech.

    Rossman, a former Amazon executive, explained leadership principles from his book “Leadership the Amazon Way” to begin his presentation.

    The energy of the audience matched the dimly lit appearance of the room. Those in attendance were attentive yet quiet during Rossman’s speech. The crowd chuckled after Rossman, an Oregon State University graduate, sprinkled in a few jokes, ranging from topics such as bow ties to what was on the menu for dinner. 

    The main focus of his speech included accepting failure and an overview of leadership principles from his book.

    “The flip side of innovation is failure,” Rossman said. “It’s all about doing as small of an investment as possible to see if it works and then move forward. That is the notion of what innovation is. It’s repeated failure until you get success.”

    Rossman said before writing his book, he felt extremely unqualified to do so. But to make the process simpler, he followed certain guiding principles for writing it.

    Rossman received his first spurt of laughter after explaining his first principle. He said he wanted readers to be able to read his book on a plane with a glass of wine, joking the alcoholic beverage would cause readers to skim over any errors he made while writing.

    Kyle Eastham, a professor in the Spears School of Business, said he didn’t have any expectations coming in but mirrored Rossman’s sentiments following the speech. 

    “It’s OK to fail; in fact, we encourage failure,” Eastham said. “In fact, if you’re not failing, you’re not trying much.”

    Ken Eastman, dean of the Spears School of Business, said the decision to bring Rossman, a former executive for an online company, to speak was made because the Internet is an important topic.

    Too often, people point to why a problem can’t be solved instead of finding ways around those obstacles, Rossman said.

    “The job is to get to yes,” Rossman said. “I can find anybody who can tell me no. When you put yourself in that mindset of, ‘There is no ‘no,’’ you will typically find solutions. That’s where mindset is so important in the problem-solving process.” 

    After 40 minutes of discussing the content of his book and career, Rossman allowed the audience to ask questions, yet in an unorthodox manner.

    Before the discussion began, Ryan Neal, director of the Speakers Board, and Eastman gave the audience a phone number that could receive questions from text messages.

    Each sitting to Rossman’s side, Neal and Eastman took turns asking questions, which led to Rossman comparing the back-and-forth action to a tennis match, garnering more laughter from the crowd.

    “That was nice to hear,” Eastham said. “I always enjoy some humor thrown in. It makes him seem more likable as a presenter. Yeah, he was a big shot at Amazon, but he’s a regular guy. He’d probably be fun to hang out with.”

    For more information about ESB exclusive and disruption speaker John Rossman, contact Executive Speakers Bureau at (901) 754-9404.

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