On April 20, I had the opportunity to hear Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, speak at Southern Methodist University Bush Library lecture series.
Jeff Bezos is patient.
Somewhere along the way, possibly during childhood, he decided to take the long view. He made a commitment to remain focused. To hold the line, regardless of what investors thought of his strategies or what Wall Street analysts wrote in their reports.
His focus is singular.
Relaxed, Bezos chatted about various topics while sprinkling tips and advice in conversation. When talking about entrepreneurship, he stated, “In the future, if you are going to do anything new or innovative you will be miss understood.”
The word innovation invokes thoughts of new products, services, and technological software. Yet, taking a routine practice or process and completely rearranging the system is innovation. Think Henry Ford and the assembly line.
At the core of innovation is thinking differently and envisioning the future.
Bezos is always focused on two things – customers and innovation grounded in his determination to take the long view of the business.
Bezos sits in the driver’s seat, observes the road ahead. He looks into the future to consider possible opportunities, potential roadblocks and notes upcoming changes in the landscape.
For any business to remain sustainable, leaders must keep their eye on the road instead of staring down at the dashboard. Refreshing sales and ROI on Salesforce or NetSuite, in an obsessive habit, does not drive innovation, especially if your mind is buried in the numbers or data.
Bezos, looks at the dashboard from time to time, keeping an eye on the process of the business. He cares about developing long-term strategies as indicated by his 2-pizza memo styled meetings. Time is given for everyone to read the memo; this action ensures an informed and educated discussion during each meeting.
Developing good strategy is difficult. It is the non-sexy side of business and requires everyone involved giving their full attention. Exceptional strategy requires asking “why” not the surface “why” which occurs during fun Friday meetings.
The “why” I am writing about is posing difficult questions, at times soul-searching answers about the business now and in the future.
These meetings require individuals to hold two competing thoughts in their mind at the same time. Exceptional strategy requires small teams comprised of different thinkers, visionaries, and professionals who can bring a different perspective to the discussion.
To generate innovative strategy, that will make a profound impact in the future, requires being on the outside of herd mentality. To look away from the dashboard, daydream, ponder why not? and to imagine what is possible on the road ahead.
Last week, I spoke with a tech recruiter who said, “most of the companies I work with are focused on what’s in front of them, the numbers and how they can reach the numbers.” Similar to the obsession with our mobile devices, that we check on average 2,634 times a day, our dashboards can be addicting, requiring a constant need to refresh.
Bezos is looking out the window. My guess is he is driving an old Ford pickup similar to what his grandfather owned in South Texas.
He’s looking into the future, thinking about Amazon’s customers, thinking how can he help them make a better purchase decision.
With advancing of AI and automation, allocating time for difficult strategy work is crucial. Companies staring down at the dashboard will either be purchased by Amazon or become obsolete.