One of the things that make Amazon stand out from all the competition is the long-term mindset instilled by Jeff Bezos. Another is the companies ability to fail well.
Their willingness to try a lot of things, knowing they’ll fail at most of them, is what drives Amazon’s success. The reason is that the few rare things that don’t fail have a chance at becoming hugely successful because of that long-term mindset.
Jeff Bezos sat for a Summit event last week to discuss, among other things, failure, regret, long-term thinking, and an inventors mindset. His brother moderated the discussion, making it a trip down memory lane for the two of them.
I pulled a couple of things that stood out during their conversation. The video is posted below.
On his decision to quit a good job and start Amazon:
The best way to think about it was to project myself forward to age 80 and said, “Look. When I’m 80 years old, I want to have minimized the number of regrets that I’ve had.” I don’t want to be 80 years old, in a quiet moment of reflection, thinking back over my life and cataloging a bunch of major regrets.
And I think regrets — our biggest regrets, in most cases…our biggest regrets turn out to be acts of omission. It’s paths not taken. They haunt us. You wonder what would have happened… So that’s the frame of mind I put myself in. And once I did that — once thought about it that way, it was immediately obvious to me. I knew that when I’m 80, I would never regret trying this thing that I was super excited about and it failing.
On long-term thinking:
Long term thinking is a lever. It lets you do things that you could not do or couldn’t even conceive of doing if you were thinking short term… At Amazon we probably do — most of things expect to get some results in five, six, seven, eight years. But we find a lot of our — other companies that compete against us in verious ways, they’re often trying to get things done in two or three years.
So we can do things — you know, if everything has to work in two to three years, then that limits what you can do. If you can give yourself the breathing room to say, “Okay. I’m okay if it takes seven years.” All of a sudden you have way more opportunities.
On the inventor’s mindset:
If you want to be an inventor of any kind — inventing a new service offering for customers or new product or anything — being an inventor requires, because the world is so complicated, you have to be a domain expert. In a way, even if you’re not at the beginning, you have to learn, learn, learn, learn, learn enough so that you become a domain expert.
But the danger is, once you become a domain expert, you can be trapped by that knowledge. So inventors have this paradoxical ability to have that ten thousand hours of practice and be a real domain expert and have that beginner’s mind — look at it freshly, even though they know so much about the domain.
And that’s the key to inventing. You have to have both. And I think that is intentional. I think all of us have that inside of us and we can all do it, but you have to be intentional about it. You have to say, “Yeah, I am gonna become an expert and I’m gonna keep my beginner’s mind.”
*** No posts next week due to the holiday. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone! ***
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