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22 September, 2021
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HomeBecomingHow Jeff Bezos Has Run Amazon, From Meetings to Managing

How Jeff Bezos Has Run Amazon, From Meetings to Managing

The common thread through his maxims has been the emphasis on staying relentlessly innovative

Obsess over customers, ignore the stock market and know the difference between good and bad failure are among the AmazonAMZN -0.74% chief’s leadership maxims.

In building one of the world’s biggest and most influential companies,Jeff Bezos developed a distinct leadership ethos—one he often ruminated on in his annual letters to Amazon.com shareholders, other writings and interviews.

His management principles over nearly three decades at Amazon’s helm have touched on everything from sleep (get eight hours) to when best to have meetings (not before 10 a.m.) The common thread through his maxims has been the emphasis on staying relentlessly innovative, a philosophy that has fueled Amazon’s dominance across multiple industries as well as its hard-charging work culture.

Failure and innovation are inseparable said Bezos.

Here are some of his most influential leadership lessons and other nuggets of advice:

Make a small number of high-quality decisions

Mr. Bezos says he goes to bed early, rises early and schedules “high IQ” meetings before lunch, all in the service of making a few clear, smart decisions each day, he told an audience at the Economic Club of Washington in 2018. “If I have three good decisions a day, that’s enough,” he said. “They should just be as high quality as I can make them.”

Obsess over customers

Mr. Bezos frequently attributes Amazon’s success to the company’s obsession with giving customers what they want. From Amazon’s early days, he would place an empty chair in meetings to prod executives into thinking about how their decisions would affect customers, he recounted in the Economic Club of Washington interview. And when Mr. Bezos considered expanding the business beyond books and music, he emailed a random group of 1,000 customers, asking what they wanted to buy on the site. From their responses, he concluded he could sell just about anything on the internet—which is exactly what he’s done.

Innovate. Then innovate some more.

Amazon was ranked the best-managed company in the U.S. in 2019 by the Drucker Institute, a leadership-focused think tank based at Claremont Graduate University in California. One factor that helped Amazon unseat Apple Inc. was the company’s intense focus on innovation. As Drucker researchers found, Amazon outpaced other firms in patent applications, trademark registrations and spending on research and development. The company abandons patent applications at a higher rate than others, a sign of its commitment to move past obsolete technology. Mr. Bezos himself is named on dozens of Amazon patents.

“If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive,” Mr. Bezos wrote to employees on Tuesday, referring to Amazon innovations such as customer reviews, Alexa and one-click shopping.

Embrace failure

Failure and innovation are inseparable, Mr. Bezos has said, noting that there’s a difference between good failure and bad failure. “If we build a new fulfillment center and it’s a disaster, that’s just bad execution,” Mr. Bezos writes in “Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos.” “But when we are developing a new product or service or experimenting in some way, and it doesn’t work, that’s OK. That’s great failure.”

Most meetings are pointless. Make them matter.

Mr. Bezos is well-known for his insistence that meetings be productive. To facilitate that, he requires presenters to write a memo, no longer than six pages, that is circulated and silently read at the start of a meeting by everyone present. Mr. Bezos praised the memo process in one of his letters to investors: “Some have the clarity of angels singing,” he wrote. “They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion.” Employees have said they spend weeks perfecting their memos, a process that sharpens ideas and improves decision-making and discussion.

Ignore the stock market

Focusing on the daily gyrations of company shares is a losing game, or at least a waste of energy, Mr. Bezos said at the Economic Club in 2018. He said he’s been telling employees the same thing for decades: “When the stock is up 30% in a month, don’t feel 30% smarter, because when the stock is down 30% in a month, it’s not going to feel so good to feel 30% dumber—and that’s what happens,” he said. “Never spend any time thinking about the daily stock price. I never do.”

Source: WSJ, Feb. 2, 2021

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