If You Hesitate, You’ll Always Be Behind

This my third and final (promise!) post regarding Jeff Bezos’ 2017 letter to shareholders. I’ve already written about his high-velocity decision-making and his Day 1 philosophy. Today’s topic is “embracing external trends early,” and it’s an interesting coincidence that yesterday’s big news was about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. If Prime Pantry was dipping a toe into the grocery business, then Whole Foods is cliff diving.  But sometimes cliff divers come up with pearls.

Much of Bezos’ success can be chalked up to his willingness to take risks and his unwillingness to take too much time making decisions. He writes, “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.” Amazon has certainly embraced, as well as invented, a lot of trends—with undeniably good results.

In the letter, he argues that for Amazon, machine learning and artificial intelligence are the most powerful trends that Amazon is currently embracing. Prior to this, of course, they’ve been embracing innovative delivery methods such as autonomous drones, and Amazon appears to be at the forefront of all of these trends.

Companies can put their heads in the sand and try to ignore powerful trends. When Amazon was founded in 1997, Microsoft was going through its sort of forty days (actually several years) in the desert of having missed the internet for what it really was. They had taken the position that the internet was something sort of interesting but probably not a giant initiative in itself.

Clearly, you can be too early, and you can respond to a trend that turns out to be a blip and not a real trend, but at Amazon, this is not a problem. Because of their high tolerance for failure, they’ve been willing to go where no one else has gone. Embracing external trends early is one way of maintaining a Day 1 culture and a Day 1 philosophy. For Bezos, it’s all about the customers’ delight, which is the cornerstone of his philosophy.

If you’re not in the grocery business, it will be fun to watch the coming disruption and see how the gamble pays out for Amazon. Meanwhile, ask yourself if you are missing out on any early trends in your own industry. And what is the decision-making process like in your company? Like, love, hate, or fear him, we can all learn something valuable from Jeff Bezos.
photo credit: Charlie Day DaytimeStudios Blue Wave Tails via photopin (license)