What day is it?


Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a philosphy that he shares with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and his shareholders.

Every day is Day 1

In his 1997 letter to shareholders, Bezos wrote that this is Day 1 for the Internet, adding that Amazon’s hopes were to create an enduring franchise, extend its market leadership position and take decisions to create long-term shareholder value.

In 2016, the Day 1 message remains unchanged.

Day 2 is statis, he writes, followed by irrelevance, decline and death.

So, what does staying in Day 1 mean?

The picture is a model of Bezos’ 2016 letter which sets out a starter pack of essentials to stave off Day 2.

It starts with an obsessive desire to delight customers, which leads us to try and make things better for them.

This drives us to invent new capabilities and functions on their behalf to make things quicker and easier for them.

Companies that have this kind of focus rely on outcomes – do customers love this and does that show up in market share growth – rather than proxies such as focus groups that show a mild preference between options.

In Day 2 companies, the process is more important than the outcome – everyone is crouching below the parapet.

Powerful trends are sweeping along the corridors of industry.

From artificial intelligence (AI) to nanotechnology, the way in which we do things will be changed by new technology.

Amazon is embracing trends such as AI and machine intelligence to deploy algorithms that make its supply chain and customer experience systems more effective.

Much of this is invisible and quietly but meaningfully improves core operations.

Things just work – and customers are happy.

Many companies, even large, established ones, do not know which strategy will work out of a number of options.

Many companies default to the opinion of the highest paid person – which is okay in some cases, but most of the time we are better off taking decisions fast and experimenting.

Bezos’ uses the term disagree and commit – when we’re not sure give people permission to have a go rather than shutting down an approach just because we think it won’t work.

Finally, and this is something we must have all experienced, it’s easy for approaches to get misaligned.

If groups of people have fundamentally differing views, for example making a choice between doing a service in-house or outsourcing it, then no amount of arguing can resolve this.

It needs to be kicked upstairs, escalated to a team that can make the decision and make it stick, correcting misalignment quickly.

The Day 1 approach appears to have kept Amazon lean and focused despite now being a huge and dominant player.

It also worked for them when they were starting up and small – and perhaps it’s a model that many other firms can use as well.

Time to take a step back from Day 2 to Day 1, in that case.

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