Page 4 of "Inside The Mind Of Jeff Bezos"
Fast Take: The Book of Bezos
Hire very carefully — you're creating an enduring culture.
"I'd rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person," Amazon.com chief Jeff Bezos told a colleague in the company's early days. Why? "Cultures aren't so much planned as they evolve from that early set of people." New employees either dislike the culture and leave or feel comfortable and stay. So the culture becomes "self-reinforcing" and "very stable."
Be stubborn and flexible.
"If you're not stubborn, you'll give up on experiments too soon," Bezos says. "And if you're not flexible, you'll pound your head against the wall and you won't see a different solution to a problem you're trying to solve."
Obsess about customers, not colleagues.
"There are multiple ways to be externally focused that are very successful," Bezos says. "You can be customer-focused or competitor-focused." But he warns that "some people are internally focused, and if they reach critical mass, they can tip the whole company."
Know when to throw away the org chart.
"The great thing about fact-based decisions is that they overrule the hierarchy," Bezos says. "The most junior person in the company can win an argument with the most senior person with regard to a fact-based decision." For intuitive decisions, on the other hand, you have to rely on experienced executives who've honed their instincts.
Get good advice — and ignore it.
Amazon started with the seemingly ridiculous aim of offering a million book titles, including many that were very hard to find. "Every well-intentioned, high-judgment person we asked told us not to do it," Bezos says. "We got some good advice, we ignored it, and it was a mistake. But that mistake turned out to be one of the best things that happened to the company," since thrilled early customers gave Amazon terrific word of mouth.
Don't chase the quick buck.
"Sometimes we measure things and see that in the short term they actually hurt sales," says Bezos. "But we do it anyway, because we believe that the short-term metrics probably aren't indicative of the long term."
Fast Take: The Amazon Rules
Communication is terrible.
When Jeff Bezos's people said they needed to communicate more within the company, he shocked them by shooting back: "No, communication is terrible." To promote his decentralized vision of the company, he created "two-pizza teams": highly autonomous task forces with five to seven people — no more than can be fed with two pizzas — who innovate and test new features.
Take leaps of faith.
Bezos takes risks on ideas — such as letting Web surfers search the full texts of hundreds of thousands of books — that are so bold and innovative that the only way to know whether they'll work is to try them on a grand scale.
Bezos loves making decisions based on hard data, but when that's not possible, he believes in the power of being "simpleminded," relying on common sense about what would be in the best interests of his customers.
Add up lots of little advantages.
Bezos realizes that Amazon doesn't have any single big advantage over potential competitors, so he's constantly introducing small but innovative features that add up to a superlative experience for customers.
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A version of this article appeared in the August 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.