The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.
– Jeff Bezos
The Idea: We have recently been hit by a cultural tsunami, creating massive displacement of everything in its path. Amazon’s iconoclastic CEO Jeff Bezos is challenging and tearing down longstanding beliefs, ideals, and institutions. He is an unapologetic disruptor of cultural symbols we once believed were sacred. Iconoclasts challenge our norms, our worldviews, and our values. Why do Bezos’ ideas matter?
Bezos’ annual Amazon shareholder letter has become iconic text (holy writings) for entrepreneurs. The letters are always rich in insights – best practices in both leadership and strategy. In his most recent letter, he reminds the world that Amazon is a “Day 1” entrepreneurial organization. Companies that transition into a “Day 2” psychology are static, and a step away from irrelevance.
What is the “Day 1” mindset?
- True Customer Obsession: The initial belief is that customers are always unsatisfied, even if they state they are satisfied. Bezos states, “Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight.”
- Resist Proxies: Bezos’ blueprint is to never allow someone else to speak on your behalf. You must understand the customer (and an emerging trend) personally, tangibly, and viscerally. You have to get close enough to taste research, not just read about it. Bezos reminds us, “A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.”
- Embrace External Trends: Life is change, and Bezos reminds us we must embrace it as soon as we see the change on the horizon (not later). Waiting invites Day 2, and you are left behind.
He goes further: “The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them, and you have a tailwind.”
Bezos embraces the question, “what’s next?”
- High Velocity Decision-Making: Speed kills, doesn’t it? Bezos believes being late is because of lack of courage. His culture believes you must create high quality and move fast! His mantra is make decisions with 70 percent of the information available rather than waiting to have 90 percent. Also, there is a time to dissent and disagree, and a time to “Disagree and Commit.” His belief is that “even though we disagree, will you gamble with me on it?”
Amazon embraces the paradox of playing a “long-term” game, and embracing flexibility. They remain vigilant, yet embrace speed, urgency, and a “test and learn” philosophy. They are a fact-based organization, while trusting intuition.
Bezos understands that innovation (or change) is a bi-product of creative tension. It’s a result of responding to constraints and restrictions. As one Amazon executive once shared with me, “we believe if you must fail, fail big. That’s where the learnings are.”