I really like this video (8 minutes), not just for what it says, but also for what it doesn’t say.
As Jeff Bezos stands comfortably in front of the YouTube camera, in a garden, with a flip chart, I’m reminded of the “it’s good to be king” refrain in Mel Brooks’ classic History of the World Part 2. There are experts all over the place — the Web, blogs, Twitter, et al., generate experts more than anything else — but Bezos is someone who’s 15 years down the path now and looking back on it with engaging and seemingly genuine good humor and good intentions. There’s no urgency here, and no embarrassment about giving advice. It’s delightfully simple understatement.
As he talks about Amazon.com’s history and the recent purchase of Zappos.com, he uses the simple motif of the flip chart, hand written, to punctuate his points as well as anybody ever has with PowerPoint or Keynote. You’ll see what I mean if you watch.
He boils it down to four simple points:
- Obsess over customers. Not competitors, not anything else, but customers. “Start there and work backwards.”
- Invent. “Any time we have a problem, we never accept either-or thinking. We try to figure out a solution. You can invent your way out of any box. Invent on behalf of customers. It’s not just the big things, like Kindle, EC2, the cloud, but an inventive culture. It’s so many small things.
- Think long term. This is really critical. Most initiatives take 5-7 years before paying dividends for the company. The ability to think in five-year and seven-year timeframes is rare. It requires and allows a willingness to be misunderstood. Many inventions are misunderstood in the early innings.
- It’s always day one. There’s always more invention in the future. And new ways to obsess about customers.
The occasion is the acquisition of Zappos.com, which generates a lot of positive comments near the end.
Note: if you can’t see the video on this site, you can click here to go to the source on YouTube.