I have the impression that Amazon is on a public relation spree. I just finished reading “Working backwards”. A book about how Amazon operates. Deliberate leadership is two words.
You cannot but admire Amazon, but also be very concerned. I always refer to “The four”. Amazon could become bigger than Google or Apple. Combining AI, logistics, PR, access to capital and ruthless efficiency. Basically owning the whole value chain for a lot of commodity products. Wait for the time when your AI-driven digital assistant is going to do most of your shopping. When brands and brand loyalty will disappear. That AI could be Alexa.
The big nine
You should also read “The big nine”. Amazon as a platform that manages most of your life (including health). That book is about the development of AI by Google-Microsoft-Amazon-Facebook-IBM-Apple (G-MAFIA) and Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT). American multinationals and the Chinse government. Out of control capitalism combined with a totalitarian government.
Amazon as the ring that binds us all
What happens when, ultimately, one company owns all AI, cloud, voice, data and distribution? Throw in space and robotics. Imagine Amazon as the Tyrell (Bladerunner) or Cyberdyne Systems Corporation (Terminator) and Jeff Bezos as the modern-day Lex Luthor (DC comics) or Sauron ( “Lord of the rings”).
Invent and wonder
That is why “Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, With an Introduction by Walter Isaacson” is fascinating. A collection of the letters to shareholders by Jeff Bezos and an interview with Jeff. And you cannot help but be impressed.
A characteristic of truly innovative and creative people is that they have a reality-distortion field, and they retain a childlike sense of wonder. Bezos also uses a “regret minimisation framework.” He would imagine what he would feel when he turned eighty and thought back to the decision.
A lot of this book echos “Working backwards”.
- Are you hiring missionaries or mercenaries? From the playbook of “Exponential organisations”.
- The focus on the long term. “It’s All About the Long Term,” Long-term thinking permits innovation.
- Focus relentlessly and passionately on the customer.
- Avoid PowerPoint and slide presentations.
- Focus on the big decisions. “You get paid to make a small number of high-quality decisions. Your job is not to make thousands of decisions every day.”
- I don’t even like the phrase “work-life balance.” I think it’s misleading. I like the phrase “work-life harmony.”
- Cleverness is a gift; kindness is a choice.
- Failure needs to scale too as a company grows. Everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments.
- Focus on finding the real root cause or causes—and then do real root fixes.
About business planning
His view on business planning: “You know the business plan won’t survive its first encounters with reality,” he says. “But the discipline of writing the plan forces you to think through some of the issues and to get sort of mentally comfortable in the space. Then you start to understand, if you push on this knob, this will move over here and so on. So, that’s the first step.” My view (I agree and disagree):
Hire the right people. “We will continue to focus on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees.” There are three criteria he instructs managers to consider when they are hiring: Will you admire this person? Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group he or she is entering? Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?
About future trends
Embrace external trends. Music to my ears. When Amazon was a hundred people, it was a different story, but Amazon’s not a start-up company, and all of our senior executives operate the same way I do. They work in the future. They live in the future. Right now, I’m working on a quarter that’s going to reveal itself in 2023 sometime, and that’s what you need to be doing. You need to be thinking two or three years in advance, and if you are, then why do I need to make a hundred decisions today? If I make, like, three good decisions a day, that’s enough, and they should just be as high quality as I can make them. Warren Buffet says he’s good if he makes three good decisions a year, and I really believe that. Read “The day after tomorrow”.
About decision making
To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1 (Amazon as a start-up), you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. First, never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. For those, so what if you’re wrong? Second, most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. Use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lot of time. This isn’t one way. If you’re the boss, you should do this too. I disagree and commit all the time.
To that end, we are recruiting other companies to sign the Climate Pledge. We’ve also committed to reaching 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% renewable energy by 2030. Also music to my ears.
About leveraging scale for good
To ensure that future generations have the skills they need to thrive in a technology-driven economy, we started a program last year called Amazon Future Engineer, which is designed to educate and train low-income and disadvantaged young people to pursue careers in computer science.
His perspective on the future
We humans—plodding as we are—will astonish ourselves. We’ll invent ways to generate clean energy and a lot of it. Atom by atom, we’ll assemble tiny machines that will enter cell walls and make repairs.
He asks some pertinent questions
I will hazard a prediction. When you are eighty years old and, in a quiet moment of reflection, narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made.
- How will you use your gifts?
- What choices will you make?
- Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
- Will you follow dogma, or will you be original? Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
- Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
- Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologise?
- Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
- Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
- When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
- Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
- Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
Amazon good or Amazon evil?
Whatever perspective you have on Amazon and Jeff Bezos. As a consumer (I love books), I am a huge fan. It does smell a little of Google´s “Do no evil”. But you cannot argue his success, and you cannot argue the way he is capable of embracing and implementing progressive management techniques. You also can’t argue with the questions he is asking. I bet he is a stoic. Read “The Little Book of Mental Toughness”
What do you think? Amazon good? Amazon bad?