Book Review: Invent and Wander

I am not usually a fan of biographies.  The narcissist in me says there is no one better to learn from but myself.  I have always hold in admiration for Jeff Bezos however, having interned for during my university years.  Invent and Wander, written by the man himself, is a great summary of Bezos' philosophies on running his businesses -- namely Amazon, but also The Washington Post and Blue Origin.  In particular, a few points caught my eye: 
  • Go long: is focused on the long term, and I mean really long term.  Bezos even raised the eyebrows of his shareholders on numerous occasions by sacrificing short term profits for what he believed to be worthy long term investments (Marketplace, AWS, Amazon Prime)  
  • Focus on customers: Focus on customers' needs, sometimes even before they know it. If you are obsessed with your customers instead of your competition, you will innovate much more.  This was how voluntary price reductions and refunds came about.  You will win bigger and faster this by focusing on the people who open their wallets for your goods and services
  • Make big decisions only: Bezos prefers his eight hours of sleep each day.  He focuses on making decisions in the most productive hours in the morning, and is happy if he makes three key decisions in a one day.  The reason being executives should be focused on making big decisions while others are hired to make smaller choices.  There are two kinds of decisions.  They are called one-way and two-way doors.  One-way doors are non-reversible and can be fatal if the wrong decision is made.  Two-way doors are reversible and can be corrected by simply going the other route.  Think long and hard about one-way doors, and use multiple analyses and data points to support the decision
  • Hire the right people: Make sure they come with the full package of working long, hard and smart. Missing even one of three is not acceptable. When interviewing, see if you admire the candidate, if they can raise the average standard of the team, and along what dimensions are they a superstar (e.g., national spelling bee champion)  
  • Make bold bets: Bezos loves to experiment with new ideas and is perfectly OK to fail.  For every successful innovation (e.g., Kindle), hundreds of failed experiments came along (e.g., Aamzon Fire).  He knows that is alright because the winners will more than pay for thousands of losers
  • Every day is Day 1:  There is a tone of desperate survival with urgency in the term Day 1, because Day 2 is equivalent to dying a slow death.  In fact, this is a remarkable resemblance to Steve Jobs' live every day as your last.  When we can truly embrace the Day 1 philosophy, then we can remain hungry and desperate in the right way!
Although this book is mostly a collection of Bezos' letters to his employees over the years, it provides a glimpse into Bezos' mind and work ethic.  The book was an enjoyable read.  My only complaint is that some of his points are repetitive across his annual letters.  However, this is just a testament to how Bezos has lived true to his values throughout his illustrious career.   




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