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Agile Marketing Explained

scrum vs sprint

WHAT AGILE MARKETING IS AND WHAT IT ISN’T

If you’ve been halfway tapped into the marketing zeitgeist lately, you’ve seen this phrase: Agile marketing.

Everybody’s talking about it as the “next thing in marketing.” It even has its own manifesto. Despite all this hooplah, however, you shouldn’t feel too bad if you can’t quite put your finger on what Agile marketing is.

Take a look at the Agile marketing groups on sites like LinkedIn, and it becomes clear that more than a few people are a tad confused about it. Is it simply restructuring your marketing and in-house creative teams and their processes to be more nimble? Sort of. Does it just mean streamlining your process and jettisoning any baggage that slows your team down? Kind of.

To give you a nice, clean 20,000-foot explanation of it, Agile is a work management methodology that has been dominating IT work management for the last several years. It has been known to increase teams’ flexibility and ability to react to demand while improving productivity. Now that it’s proven itself effective, the marketing folks have taken notice.

Agile-driven creative teams have reported that their creativity has experienced a major boost once freed from the endless development cycles that can happen in traditional marketing work management. Creative teams have seen their productivity explode by 400 percent and with less fuss. Marketing teams can test and iterate on campaigns faster.

If you’re like most marketers looking for ways to get creative and campaigns on time and with less fuss, here is a quick crash course on Agile and how you can use it to make your marketing and creative teams as creative and effective as they deserve to be…

 

What Agile Marketing is not

Some less-informed marketers will talk about agile marketing (with a lower-case ‘a’) as simply a mindset or philosophy. Their comments focus on streamlining processes or looking for ways to make your team more nimble and faster to react to opportunities. And it’s easy to see where these ideas come from, since they are basically just going off the adjective ‘agile.’ Not coincidentally, these things are some of the biggest benefits of using Agile (with a capital ‘A’) in marketing.

Unfortunately, this confusion can lead to lots of talk on the subject without the power to actually make those benefits a reality. It’s only when you understand what Agile marketing really is that you start to make progress.

 

What Agile Marketing is

Simply put, Agile marketing is the application of a specific work methodology (Agile) to the way marketing projects and non-project work is executed.

Where most creative teams produce projects sequentially from step A to step Z, also known as a waterfall methodology, Agile marketing seeks to put your team’s resources into creating a minimum viable product as quickly as possible. It’s also built not to plod along on a single project for weeks, but to accommodate all of your most important tasks—from multiple projects and even ad hoc requests that can be completed in a short timeline.

To accomplish this, Agile requires that all work be broken down into “stories,” which can be chunks of larger projects or small ad hoc requests. Each story tells your team, in a nutshell, what needs to be created. With that information, your team assigns to the story the number of hours they think it will take them to complete the story. Your team divides their time up into periods of time called sprints, which are a week or two weeks. Naturally, every sprint has a set number of hours which will be filled by stories and is intended to be a period of focused creativity that allows ample time for creative team members to explore a number of approaches to a story before moving forward. Again, the stories are chosen for a sprint based on their priority, and the creative team goes to work. Stories are placed on a public burndown chart, where team members and stakeholders alike can see them move from ‘incomplete’ to ‘approval’ to ‘complete’.

As you can see, Agile is quite different from the traditional workflow most creative teams are used to, but the benefits are undeniable. Agile eliminates the bottlenecks and wasted time in found in conventional methodologies and empowers creative teams to collaborate more, and make on-the-fly decisions about a project’s direction, task order, or priority. Hence the name Agile.

This increased productivity and quality, of course, have a direct impact on the companies that use Agile. In fact, studies show that Agile firms grow revenues up to 37% faster and increase profits as much as 30% more than their non-Agile counterparts.

are you taking self-care seriously ?

are you taking self-care seriously: now is the time to say It’s so busy at work, I can’t afford NOT to take care of myself

Leadership Tip of the week #133

adapted from HBR

Closeup portrait Angry young Boy, Blowing Steam coming out of ears, about have Nervous atomic breakdown, isolated grey background. Negative human emotions, Facial Expression, feeling attitude reaction

You probably already know that sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, physical exercise, human connection, and time to relax are important — but do you actually carve out time for them?

When you consider caring for yourself as unrelated to work, you’re likely to let your business priorities come first. But your resilience is a high-priority business issue, especially when you’re leading a team through the stress of our fast-paced world.

Research shows that our decision-making dramatically suffers when we neglect to properly rest and refuel, so make self-care a daily priority. You don’t need to dedicate hours a day though. You can boost your short-term resiliency by taking a short walk or reaching out to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while just to check in. Investing in yourself isn’t indulgent — it’s mission critical.

It’s time to tell yourself, “It’s so busy at work right now, I can’t afford NOT to take care of myself!

This tip is adapted from “Reframe How You Think About Self-Care,” by Liane Davey

Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

amazon bezos innovation

Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2018

KEY MESSAGE 22/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said ‘Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?’ I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said ‘No, thank you.’”

Takeaway

Businesses are great at putting plans together. When they know exactly what needs to be built, many companies can execute on their ideas.

Where it gets messier and riskier is when you don’t know exactly what should be built. This is the most fertile and profitable territory for a business, according to Bezos.

To him, wandering — away from the obvious, away from old ideas — is key to Amazon’s success.

Challenge

When you’re a small company, virtually everything you try is an experiment. The bigger you get, though, the more you have to lose, and the less tolerant to risk-taking you can become.

For Bezos, it’s not enough for big companies to prioritize taking risks and “wandering” as much as smaller, more nimble companies do.

It’s that big companies need to scale everything up, “including the size of their failed experiments,” he writes.

“Wandering” isn’t an efficient practice for a business, but it isn’t random. It requires a culture of builders. It requires a deep customer obsession. And it requires an understanding that you should always listen to the people who use your products, but you ultimately must imagine and invent on their behalf. This is inevitably risky. But great companies, he argues, must take those risks.

Solution

For Jeff Bezos, the key to staying innovative and growing is constantly urging employees to “wander” — to pursue creative ideas that, while they might sound odd or useless today, stand to deliver extraordinary value to your customers.

Some experiments will fail: the bigger you are, the bigger your failures should be. But one big success can often make up for all those failed experiments, and more.

“Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency,” he writes. “You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries – the ‘non-linear’ ones – are highly likely to require wandering.”

Bezos traces Amazon’s history of hiring “builders” back to the early days of the company. Year by year, Amazon pushed the online retail space forward, and it grew from an online bookstore to a big box retail store competitor to a global e-commerce juggernaut.

That constant innovation, according to Bezos, came mostly out of Amazon’s willingness to “wander” — to imagine and build the new things that customers might love.

For proof, he points to Amazon Web Services. Today a pillar of Amazon’s business, AWS was at one point nothing more than a hunch. No customer asked for it, but it found immediate demand upon its release. “That same pattern has recurred many times,” he writes, citing Amazon’s development of tools like DynamoDB, Amazon Aurora, ElastiCache, Amazon Go, and the Amazon Echo.

“No customer was asking for Echo,” Bezos writes, “This was definitely us wandering.”

Market research won’t tell you about most of the great inventions that your customers want, Bezos warns, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. “It’s critical to ask customers what they want, listen carefully to their answers, and figure out a plan to provide it thoughtfully and quickly (speed matters in business!). No business could thrive without that kind of customer obsession.”

But while customers can tell you what they want, they can never tell you what to build.

“The biggest needle movers will be things that customers don’t know to ask for. We must invent on their behalf,” he says. “We have to tap into our own inner imagination about what’s possible.”

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

 

culture ripple effect

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The Culture Ripple effect

Leadership Tip of the week #132

adapted from HBR

By the age of six months, a baby begins to understand that his actions can affect his environment.

It’s amazing how as adults we quickly unlearn this.

As business leaders when we talk about shaping or changing company culture we sometimes forget to own the fact that we are the culture. Culture is not something that is laid down in a strategy document, or changed in the blink of an eye at an offsite event designed to rally the troops. Culture is how we act every day. It’s impacted by how we as individuals choose to behave and evidenced in the ripple effect that our actions catalyse.

When we seek change we often start by looking to see what we can change in others, forgetting that the ripples begin right where we are.

We must walk the walk and Talk the talk

Move fast and focus on outcomes

amazon day 1Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2016

KEY MESSAGE 18/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Takeaway

Companies that get complacent die.

Bigger companies are even more at risk because growth and scale make it harder to move quickly when you spot an opportunity.

To stay alive, big companies must strive to make decisions and act faster than startups.

Challenge

At Amazon, it is always Day 1— it’s a powerful refrain that has featured in every shareholder letter since the original.

Day 1 represents originality, enthusiasm, and an eagerness to delight customers.

Day 2, for Bezos, is a powerful concept that embodies everything he fears could happen to Amazon and that does happen to many large organizations.

It is the idea that all of the tools you used to grow, all of the processes you used to scale, and all of the work you did to get to where you are become the company’s undoing. People get stuck in their processes.

Day 2 is the failure to adapt. And the bigger an organization gets, the harder it needs to work to stave off complacency.

Solution

  1. measure yourself by your customers. They are always “beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied,” in Bezos’ words, and if you focus on always trying to make them happier, it’s hard to go wrong.
  2. Bezos warns against allowing process to turn into proxy. When you abstract a task into a process, it’s easy to start managing to the process rather than to the outcome you want. Soon, you have people getting the wrong end result and justifying their actions by saying they “followed the process.”

Bezos suggests that you always keep one eye on the outcome, not whether someone has ticked off every box on a list of steps.

 

Amazon has responded to emerging trends in part through acquisitions, like Whole Foods ($13.7 billion) and Souq ($750 million).

3. trends like AI and machine learning are big today and will be bigger tomorrow. While it’s not always easy to incorporate these kinds of trends into the work that you do, avoiding them means fighting that future.

4. keep up fast decision-making as you grow. Make a point to “disagree and commit” so you can keep things moving forward even in ambiguous, debatable situations.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

 

Daydreaming (With a Purpose) Can Recharge Your Mind

cycling andrew

Daydreaming (With a Purpose) Can Recharge Your Mind

Leadership tip of the week #132

adapted from Harvard Business Review

Resisting distractions seems like an intuitive way to be more productive, yet research shows that excessive focus exhausts your brain.

To tap into your “default mode network” — an unfocused state in which your brain activates old memories, enhances self-awareness, and imagines creative solutions — use positive constructive daydreaming.

  1. I begin a low-key activity, like cycling or gardening , and allow my mind to wander.
  2. But don’t simply slip into a daydream or rehash old worries. Instead, imagine something playful, like running through the woods.
  3. Hold the wishful image in your mind while continuing the low-key activity. In this unfocused state, your mind will recharge, connect ideas, and even find long-lost memories.

The associations your mind makes during positive constructive daydreaming should enhance your sense of self, making you a more confident leader.

So when I’m out on the Pennine hills cycling with Alastair & Mark , or digging my garden I’m really working hard recharging my mind.

Adapted from “Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus,” by Srini Pillay

Build high standards into company culture

Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2017

KEY MESSAGE 20/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“How do you stay ahead of ever-rising customer expectations? There’s no single way to do it — it’s a combination of many things. But high standards (widely deployed and at all levels of detail) are certainly a big part of it. We’ve had some successes over the years in our quest to meet the high expectations of customers. We’ve also had billions of dollars’ worth of failures along the way. With those experiences as backdrop, I’d like to share with you the essentials of what we’ve learned (so far) about high standards inside an organization.”

Takeaway

Great companies, like Amazon, are built on high standards.

Bezos argues that despite common thinking that high standards are intrinsic to certain people, high standards can be taught in virtually any domain. And if a company wants to stay competitive, it must teach high standards.

As you grow, you need to make an effort to not just get your own standards up, but to build an organization that can develop and recruit new people with high standards.

Challenge

Today, when people are shopping, they can read reviews of items, compare prices across stores, and research products from their mobile devices with unprecedented ease. The customer is more empowered than ever, and as a retailer, that means you’re never safe from your competition.

Big companies like Amazon are especially at risk in this kind of environment. They need to get technologically ahead of more nimble startup competition — who often have hyperfocus, and little to lose — and do it with far larger organizations.

Solution

To stay competitive, companies need to ensure that standards internally don’t stagnate, but constantly rise along with the customer’s expectations.

Two things hinder the ability to cultivate high standards, according to Bezos:

  • Scope: Employees are able to recognize high quality in the field, but they have an incorrect idea of how long it’ll take to reach that level themselves
  • Recognition: They lack the ability to recognize high quality in the field

Whether it’s creating a great deck or responding perfectly to a customer question, a major prerequisite of high standards is understanding how difficult it will be to achieve greatness.

For Bezos, it’s possible to become great at virtually anything, if you can both recognize the level you need to get to and accurately estimate how long it will take to make it.

“To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be,” writes Bezos.

The second ingredient is recognition, or being able to understand the difference between bad, good, and great.

If you have leaders who can help the people on their teams both recognize quality and understand scope, Bezos concludes, you will end up building better products and services for your customers.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

 

Deliberately Encourage & Reward Collaboration

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Deliberately Encourage & Reward Collaboration

Leadership Tip of Week #131

adapted from HBR

There are a lot of reasons why someone might refuse help from a colleague.

Some employees prefer to be self-reliant, others don’t want to feel obligated to return the favor, and still others don’t trust their coworkers’ motives. But these attitudes can increase employees’ risk of burnout and hinder social connections at work.

As a leader, you can encourage and recognize collaborative efforts by calling attention to them and explaining how they contribute to the organization’s goals and mission. Be sure to demonstrate your willingness to accept help when you need it; colleaguess are more likely to do it if they see their leaders doing it.

And be careful not to send mixed messages: If employees who go it alone advance more quickly than those who give and receive support, people will pick up on that discrepancy — and they’ll go back to looking out for number one.

Adapted from “Why We Don’t Let Coworkers Help Us, Even When We Need It,” by Mark C. Bolino and Phillip S. Thompson

Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

amazon bezos 2

Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2015

KEY MESSAGE 18/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors — and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. . . . But most decisions aren’t like that — they are changeable, reversible — they’re two-way doors. . . . [These] decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.”

Takeaway

Big companies stop being creative because, in large part, their decision-making processes become slower and more drawn out as they scale. Caution creeps in, and people are less likely to move quickly or place risky bets.

For Bezos, the problem is that people treat reversible decisions like momentous problems requiring caution. They miss opportunities that nimbler companies don’t.

To remain innovative as you grow, you need to understand which decisions are reversible and should be executed on quickly, and which have lasting consequences and should therefore be mulled over more slowly.

Challenge

Big companies are less tolerant of failure because they have more to lose, especially if they are public and have shareholders. Companies say they want to remain innovative, but they’re often not willing “to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

But it’s a mistake to take the overly cautious approach. “Every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs,” Bezos writes.

The key is figuring out how to marry the innovative spirit with the reality of risk aversion that exists at any large organization.

Solution

Amazon’s success, according to Bezos, is rooted in the company’s acceptance of risk.

“I believe we are the best place in the world to fail,” he writes, “and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.

The way Amazon achieves its risk acceptance mentality, according to Bezos, is through acknowledging which decisions can be easily reversed (and should therefore be decided on by small, fast-moving teams) and which cannot (and should therefore be more carefully considered).

“Failure and invention are inseparable twins.”

He refers to these as two different types of decisions, Type 1 and Type 2.

amazon bezos type 1 type 2 decisions

Type 1 decisions are almost impossible to reverse. They’re “one-way doors.” Type 2 decisions, on the other hand, can easily be reversed. They’re “two-way doors.”

Type 1 decisions should be made slowly and with caution, and Type 2 decisions should be executed quickly.

Mistaking Type 2 decisions for Type 1 slows the team’s pace. It leads to unchallenged risk aversion. And, in the end, it means less innovation.

amazon bezos decision making

Bezos’ advises to figure out what types of decisions your organization is making and treat them accordingly. Don’t treat lighter Type 2 decisions like Type 1 decisions. When you know you can reverse the outcome if you don’t like it, don’t get too mired in details and projections (no one will know the outcome until it actually occurs), and don’t let the project suffer death by committee. Just execute.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

 

 

Maintain focus during back to back Zoom Meetings

zoom meetings

Maintain focus during back to back Zoom Meetings

Leadership tip of the week #130

adapted from HBR

When you’re in a virtual meeting, it’s easy to find your mind drifting away — especially if it’s your fifth one of the day.

  1. To make sure you’re as engaged as possible, take a few moments beforehand to understand the meeting’s purpose and what value you can add.
  2. What is the most critical information you have, and what do you want to contribute? Jot down these points.
  3. If you don’t have a critical role to play, identify exactly what you hope to learn from the call.
  4. Coming prepared with specific questions will prime you to listen carefully.
  5. If you speak during the meeting, acknowledge previous statements so people feel heard, but don’t spend a lot of time re hashing earlier points.
  6. Add something new to move the conversation forward.
  7. And don’t worry if you do zone out: Gently notice what distracted you, and return your attention to the call. If you missed something, don’t be afraid to ask a clarifying question.

 

This tip is adapted from Stop Zoning Out in Zoom Meetings,” by Sarah Gershman

Bet on ideas with unlimited upside

Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2014

KEY MESSAGE 17/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“A dreamy business product has at least four characteristics. Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time—with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don’t just swipe right, get married.”

Takeaway

Be aggressive about placing bets on dreamy business ideas. You’ll have failures, but sufficiently big winners will more than make up for all of your failed experiments.

Challenge

Many relationships, particularly business ones, require bold moves to get going. And to find true success, you have to commit for the long haul. The problem is that these moves don’t just appear risky — often, they’re hard to rationally justify at all.


When your risk tolerance is high, you can make bets all over the map.

Organizations that want to make data-driven decisions often have a difficult time with placing risky bets because those bets often don’t have clear quantitative evidence to support them. If they did, there wouldn’t be a risk of failure, there wouldn’t be experiments, and there wouldn’t be such a big upside.

Solution

Place your bets where your downside is capped but your upside is unlimited.

For Bezos, the best bets are on dreamy businesses. You know you have a “dreamy” business idea when:

  1. Customers love it
  2. It has the potential to become very large
  3. It has the potential of very strong returns
  4. It has the possibility to endure

Each of the three major bets that Bezos mentions in this letter — Marketplace, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Prime — was a risky idea.

With Prime, for example, no one on the Amazon team could point to numbers showing that giving customers free shipping for a yearly fee would ever pay for itself.

Today, each of these three bets is a pillar of Amazon’s business. In fact, in 2017, all of Amazon’s operating income came from AWS, a once-risky bet on a “dreamy” business idea. With almost $17.5 billion in sales in 2017, and about $4.5 billion in profit, it was Amazon’s second-largest source of revenue.

Not every bet that Amazon has ever placed has succeeded. The company was a significant shareholder in both Pets.com and living.com, for example. They lost their investment, but stood to gain so much more if they turned out right.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

how to get buy-in

5 fingers5 Steps to Get Buy-in for Your Next Innovation

Leadership Tip of week #129

adapted from HBR

Everyone wants innovation in their organisation, but getting a new idea implemented can be a challenge, especially when office politics are in play. When you’re trying to get approval for your latest innovation, follow these four steps.

1. be clear on the problem you are trying to solve: really understand the internal and customer problem you are trying to solve. this is 80% of the challenge

2. anticipate resistance. If you know what people might object to, you can plan how you’ll address those concerns.

3. understand what objections are truly about. For example, someone might say they object because of a publicly acceptable reason — say, the project is too costly — when their real concern is political, like they’re afraid their team will lose influence.

4. find a champion for the project. This should be a senior executive whose clout and expertise can help you move the project forward.

5. gather a critical mass of supporters. If you have a group of people who believe in the innovation enough to try it, you’ll have social proof that the idea is a good one.

Adapted from “How to Navigate the Politics of an Innovation Project,” by Brian Uzzi

Decentralise decision making to generate innovation

amazon bezos innovationDecentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2013

KEY MESSAGE 16/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“We have the good fortune of a large, inventive team and a patient, pioneering, customer-obsessed culture — great innovations, large and small, are happening everyday on behalf of customers, and at all levels throughout the company. This decentralized distribution of invention throughout the company — not limited to the company’s senior leaders — is the only way to get robust, high-throughput innovation.”

Takeaway

Innovation comes from distributed decision-making. Top-down teams are effective at optimizing existing processes and enforcing the completion of work, but only decentralized, bottom-up teams can consistently generate new ideas.

Challenge

In most big companies, command-and-control is the way that work gets done. Ensuring that important decisions only get made by those at the top maintains a certain level of quality and keeps everything stable.

Building a business that is continuously throwing off new ideas and innovating, on the other hand, requires that your people have leeway. You need autonomous teams that can exercise their own judgment rather than having to submit every idea they have to a committee. It requires your company to recalibrate how it hires, how it takes risks, and the opportunity it offers to even junior employees.

Solution

Its culture of creativity is a large part of why Amazon has been so successful on so many fronts, and why it has risen to the second-largest company by market cap in the world.

That creativity is often actually a function of the proactive way Amazon thinks about customers. Rather than wait for their customers to tell them about something they want, Bezos says, Amazon would always rather create the thing they don’t even know they want yet.

To encourage this kind of innovation inside your company, however, you need to have distributed decision-making and autonomy for more than just your senior staff.

At Amazon, employees who have an idea are encouraged to pursue it, even if they have to upset traditional corporate rules to do it.

Great innovations come from a “large, inventive team” with a “patient, pioneering, customer-obsessed culture” rather than from a small braintrust.

If you’re a junior employee at Amazon and you have an idea for some new way to delight customers, Bezos writes, you’re just as encouraged to give it a try as a senior leader. Experiments can start small. The downside of a small failed experiment is low, but the potential upside can be very high.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Try Silence During Your Next Remote Brainstorm

brainstorm ideas 2

Try Silence During Your Next Remote Brainstorm

Leadership tip of the week #128

adapted from HBR

Research shows that embracing silence during a brainstorm helps teams produce significantly more — and higher-quality — ideas. Silent brainstorming can be particularly useful in remote meetings.

So what does it look like in practice?

  1. Starting with the meeting invite, make sure everyone understands the goals of the brainstorming session.
  2. At the beginning of your meeting, share a working document (such as a Google Doc or use Teams ) with key questions that need to be answered.
  3. Encourage all participants to contribute to the document for 10 to 20 minutes without talking. During this time, attendees can actively ideate and respond to each other in the document.
  4. The leader can also participate, providing direction and asking attendees to elaborate on specific ideas as they’re being formed.
  5. Once the silent phase of the brainstorm is complete, you can begin a discussion if your group is relatively small. If the group is large, you can end the meeting, review the document, and follow up with an email that shares conclusions and next steps. Or, you might consider sending out a quick survey where participants can react or vote on options to move forward.

A different approach to working on ideas but one that creates the workshop capability from before lock down and stops Zoom overload.

This tip is adapted from Break Up Your Big Virtual Meetings,” by Liana Kreamer and Steven G. Rogelberg

Surprise and delight your customers to build long term trust & customer lifetime value

Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust and customer lifetime value 

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2012

KEY MESSAGE 15/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to.”

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

Takeaway

In the short term, spending money to deliver value above what your customers could reasonably expect looks foolhardy — in the long run, it could be your competitive advantage.

Proactively bringing value to your users and delighting them builds attachment and trust. Build enough of it, and you create a connection with your customers that becomes hard to break.

Challenge

On Wall Street, delivering value above and beyond what your customers expect is not considered a sensible decision — especially if it costs money. One early critic of Amazon derisively described the company as a “charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers.” This kind of attitude has become so pervasive that for many businesses, it’s seen as safer to move in lockstep with your competitors, never falling behind but never advancing ahead of them either.

Solution

Building a great customer-centric business over the long-term doesn’t happen when you’re only reacting to your competitors.

Proactively delighting your users costs money, but it pays off when you distinguish yourself — your customers stick around for longer and they pay you more.

The longer a company is able to retain its customers, the less it needs to spend on acquisition or marketing. The more revenue it drives from each customer, the stronger its business.

For Amazon, building a high lifetime value among its customer base through proactive delight has been a powerful differentiator. The average lifetime value of a Prime customer was estimated at $2,500 in 2017, well over the $150 average in e-commerce.

956DBAFA-3883-445C-A78C-C8DCC255CA04

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

How to increase your versatility

darwin survival of fittest

How to increase your versatility

– the best leaders are versatile ones

Leadership tip of the week #127

adapted from HBR

Versatility is a key leadership trait.

Managers must have the capacity to read and respond to change with a wide repertoire of skills and behaviors.

So how can you actually build this ability?

  1. Start by soliciting feedback from trusted colleagues. Ask a simple question like, “What should I start doing, stop doing, or continue doing to be a more effective teammate?”
  2. You might also take a more systematic approach and complete a personality assessment to gauge your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Follow up by asking colleagues if they agree with the results.
  4. Finally, learn some new habits from people you respect. Set up a meeting with a colleague who has different strengths than you to pick their brain. Your goal is to learn to see things from their perspective, so come with an open mind. You might even ask what they are reading, how they learn, or what their day-to-day routine is.

Try to adopt some elements from their approach — it just might make you a more flexible worker and versatile leader, and more adaptable to change.

Keep listening keep learning

This tip is adapted from “The Best Leaders Are Versatile Ones,” by Robert B. (Rob) Kaiser

 

self serve platforms unlock innovation

 

Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2011

KEY MESSAGE 14/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“I am emphasizing the self-service nature of these platforms because it’s important for a reason I think is somewhat non-obvious: even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation. When a platform is self-service, even the improbable ideas can get tried.”

Takeaway

A platform that other people can use to generate value will always be more powerful than a controlled, walled garden that you control and populate with your own content.

Incentivize people to use your self-service platform, and you can build a much larger business than you could even as a well-meaning gatekeeper.

Challenge

The main impediment to platform creation today is technology. Companies that do not invest in technology that can turn their work into a platform are going to fall behind.

Solution

Amazon has disrupted traditional publishing similarly to how it disrupted traditional retail: by building a platform for other people to use to sell their wares.

In publishing, agents and editors decide what is quality and what’s not. They only have the resources to produce and market a certain number of books every year, so they can’t publish everything that comes across their desks.

With Kindle Direct Publishing, authors can set their own list prices for written work, control their rights, and get their books in front of readers around the world in less than 48 hours. No gatekeeper needed.

Amazon provides the same type of self-service platform for internet companies through AWS and merchants via Fulfillment by Amazon. “These innovative, large-scale platforms are not zero-sum — they create win-win situations and create significant value for developers, entrepreneurs, customers, authors, and readers,” and of course, Amazon.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

 

Don’t Let Video Calls Drain Your Energy

ZoomCatFinalShadow

Don’t let video calls drain your energy

Leadership tip of the week #126

adapted from HBR

Let’s face it, continuous video calls are exhausting.

But there are a few things you can do to conserve your time and energy.

1. avoid multitasking. It may be tempting to try to get other work done while you’re listening in, but switching between tasks can cost you as much as 40% of your productivity.

2. cut down on distractions. Close your browser tabs, put your phone away, and stay present. You can take short breaks during longer calls by minimizing the video, or just looking away from your computer now and then.

3. Do you really need a video meeting? take a step back and ask yourself whether you even need a video meeting. Check your calendar to see if there are any conversations that you could have over Slack or email instead. don’t feel obligated to make every conversation a video call. Especially when you’re talking to people outside your organization, a phone call is probably just fine.

Taking these steps may feel hard at first, but they will help prevent you from feeling drained at the end of another workday.

This tip is adapted from “How to Combat Zoom Fatigue,” by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

Should that item really be on your list?

goals

Should that item really be on your to-do list? 

Leadership tip of the week #125

adapted from HBR

Not every project or task you take on requires your immediate attention.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself a few questions to help you prioritize your to-do list.

  1. why is this task necessary? If there’s no clear answer, it’s probably not urgent.
  2. what would happen a month from now if you don’t get this done? It’s tempting to barrel through your list for the sake of crossing things off, but before you spend time on a task, visualize its future impact on you, your stakeholders, and your business. If you don’t see a long-term impact, consider passing.
  3. are you the right person to do this task? If not, consider whether you can delegate to someone else.
  4. did you agree to take on this task for the right reasons? You may have told yourself, “People will think I’m rude if I say no,” or “My direct reports are too busy to do this.”If you said yes for the wrong reasons, chances are you’re the wrong person for the Job

Don’t do every task: we’ve learnt in the recent health crisis that if you focus on the important things, that’s what matters

This tip is adapted from If You’re Overworked, Learn Which Tasks to Hand Off,” by Sabina Nawaz

R&D should pervade every department

 

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R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2010

Key message 13/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“And while many of our systems are based on the latest in computer science research, this often hasn’t been sufficient: our architects and engineers have had to advance research in directions that no academic had yet taken. Many of the problems we face have no textbook solutions, and so we — happily — invent new approaches.”

Takeaway

Software is eating the world, and that means that technology should infuse everything that you do as a company, no matter your core competency.

With the speed at which technology advances and improves, investing in becoming a tech company will let you move much faster than your competition.

Challenge

Shareholders, executive teams, and boards aren’t always aware of the most up-to-date advances in infrastructure technology, machine learning, and software architectures. It’s not necessarily easy to explain why you’re doing your own cutting edge research on these kinds of topics rather than focusing on your company’s main line of business.

Solution

You can’t expect to progress technologically if you’re siloing your company’s technology work in some kind of R&D department, Bezos writes.

At Amazon, technology pervades everything — every process, every decision, and every businesses.

Because of this approach, it can point to any product or line of business in the company and show how its dominance is rooted in technology, from the site’s search engine to Kindle.

 


Even Amazon Web Services — today one of Amazon’s main pillars and its largest driver of profit — was born from a piece of internal technology.

B02FEA4A-0ED3-4827-81B8-96B6D54A626D

Technology isn’t just something that Amazon invests in so it can keep up with their competition. It’s how it tries to make core products better.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

 

Use curiosity to break a bad habit

curiosity

Use Curiosity to Break a Bad Habit

Leadership Tip of Week #124

adapted from HBR

Why is breaking a habit so difficult?

It’s because habits are made up of three components:

  1. a trigger (for example, feeling stressed),
  2. a behavior (browsing the Internet),
  3. a reward (feeling sated).

Each time you reinforce the reward, you become more likely to repeat the behavior. The key to breaking this cycle is to become more aware of the “reward” reinforcing your behavior.

First, figure out your triggers. If the habit is procrastination, for example, pay attention to the circumstances surrounding you when you put things off. Do you have a big project you’re trying to avoid? Do you have too much on your plate? Then, try to identify the behaviors you engage in when you procrastinate. Do you check social media instead of working? Do you take on unimportant tasks instead of what you should be doing?

The next step is to clearly link action to outcome. Ask yourself what you get from surfing the internet for pictures of cute puppies. How rewarding is it in the moment, especially when you realize that it isn’t helping you get your work done?

Lastly, replace the reward with curiosity. Being curious helps you acknowledge the sensations you’re feeling — boredom, distraction — without acting on them.

Focus on inputs – the outputs will take care of themselves

12 bezos focus on inputs

Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2009

Key message 12/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“Senior leaders that are new to Amazon are often surprised by how little time we spend discussing actual financial results or debating projected financial outputs. To be clear, we take these financial outputs seriously, but we believe that focusing our energy on the controllable inputs to our business is the most effective way to maximize financial outputs over time. . . . Our goal-setting sessions are lengthy, spirited, and detail-oriented. We have a high bar for the experience our customers deserve and a sense of urgency to improve that experience.”

Takeaway

When you’re setting goals for a business or a product, focus on inputs you can control, not on financial outputs.

Over the long term, investing your effort in the parts of the customer experience that you can control is what generates success for your company financially.

Challenge

The majority of large, public companies benchmark success by quarterly and annual financial results. They know their boards will assess them using these numbers, so they focus their teams on hitting financial goals. The problem is that incentivizing a team to hit certain numbers doesn’t always incentivize them to do the right things for their customers.

Solution

Instead of setting goals and judging your company’s efforts using financial outputs, work on perfecting your inputs, and trust that the outputs will handle themselves.

In this letter, Bezos mentions several key inputs he and his team assessed throughout 2009, including:

  1. The # of reviews added to Amazon products
  2. The # of new product categories available
  3. The # of different items available for immediate shipment on Amazon PrimE

1. The more reviews added to Amazon products, the better a new customer’s understanding of whether that product is worth buying or not, and the more trust they can place in the platform.

2. The more product categories and products available the more likely customers are to use amazon as go-to retailer.


3. The more items available for immediate shipment on Prime, the more choice a customer has, and the less likely they are to go somewhere else to find an item the next time.

If you can choose inputs that correlate with a great experience for your customers, then working on those will likely bring financial outputs up over the long-term.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Working parents, help each other recharge

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Working parents, help each other recharge

Leadership tip of the week #123

adapted from HBR

It’s been a blast for working parents in last weeks of lockdown. They have spent more time with their children, and many admit to quite liking them !

But it’s not always easy for working parents to communicate their own needs, but it’s worth discussing with your partner how you can each make time for self-care.

Before having the conversation, take a few minutes to make a list of what would most benefit you.

  • Is it taking 15 minutes after work to decompress before jumping into child care responsibilities?
  • Maybe it’s enjoying a couple of hours on a weeknight to read a novel. Choose one or two things that are feasible and would truly recharge you.

When it’s time for you and your partner to talk, make sure you’re both free of distractions, relatively calm, and not overtired. During the conversation, remember that you’re playing for the same team. Use “I feel” statements that focus on your own experience instead of accusatory “You always” statements. Listen to your partner’s needs, and be willing to make concessions.

You’ll both benefit if you approach the conversation with empathy and an open mind.

This tip is adapted from How to Communicate Your Self-Care Needs to Your Partner,” by Jackie Coleman

work backwards from customers needs to know what to build next.

Work backwards from customer needs

to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2008

Key message 11/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“’Working backwards’ from customer needs can be contrasted with a ‘skills-forward’ approach where existing skills and competencies are used to drive business opportunities. The skills-forward approach says, ‘We are really good at X. What else can we do with X?’ That’s a useful and rewarding business approach. However, if used exclusively, the company employing it will never be driven to develop fresh skills.”

Takeaway

Some companies figure out what to build next by thinking about what they’re already good at doing today — a good approach in some cases, Bezos says, but not always.

If you want to delight and amaze your customers and develop fresh lines of business, you need to think backwards from what your customers need.

Challenge

As a company, it’s more straightforward to rely on a skills-forward approach. Over time, you develop expertise in certain fields. Deciding what to do next based on the expertise you’ve already developed is often a good way to leverage your competence in one area into new successes.

The problem is that this method will never bring you new skills or capabilities. You’ll never learn how to do new things, and that will ultimately hurt your ability to innovate.

Solution

To take your business to the next level, start by thinking about what your customers want or need, and work backwards to figure out what you can build.

When the Kindle project started, the vision was simple — the capability for any book ever printed to be accessed in less than 60 seconds. That was it: the product was no more determined than that.

Although Amazon had never built a hardware device before, the team focused on fulfilling that vision. They hired people with the right skills to engineer that vision, rather than trying to create a product better suited to Amazon’s existing skills.

The Kindle software and hardware emerged organically out of the Amazon team’s attempt to answer that product vision, and the result became another powerful arm of Amazon’s business.

Thinking backwards from customer needs rather than seeking the path of least resistance at each juncture allows Amazon to be both successful and creative. That’s what has allowed them to reinvent the company time and time again.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Reach out to people you miss

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Reach Out to Those Casual Friends You Miss

Leadership Tip of the week #122

adapted from HBR

On an average day, we interact between 11 and 16 times with casual acquaintances — Meeting new people at work or catching up with acquaintances casually for a coffee.

Now that we live in an era of social distancing, these once-common interactions have disappeared, and we no longer have physical reminders that we are part of a wider social network. Reaching out to show someone that you’re thinking of them will make you both feel a bit closer during this challenging time.

  1. First, think of the right way to reach out — is it a text, a phone call, an email, a Facebook message? What will put the least amount of pressure on the recipient?
  2. If you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. Think about this interaction as similar to smiling at a colleague in the hallway: Sometimes you might stop and chat, and sometimes you might not.
  3. Instead of expecting a reply, enjoy the knowledge that your message is likely to deliver a little hit of happiness for the recipient.
  4. Set an expectation for a short and simple conversation — it will help avoid the feeling that socializing is another item on your to-do list.
  5. And if you do end up talking, share something about yourself — maybe a photo of your pet or child doing something funny — to help build positive rapport.

It may feel awkward at first, but reaching out to an acquaintance will create a spark of joy for both of you while you’re out of each other’s sight.

Let’s all reach out to one extra person a day for the next week?

This tip is adapted from Why You Miss Those Casual Friends So Much,” by Gillian Sandstrom and Ashley Whillans

adapt your leadership style

Apple Developers Conference

adapt your leadership style to your situation

Leadership tip of the week #115

adapted from HBR

There’s not one leadership style that works for all contexts. Steve Jobs was not just a great leader he was a situational leader, with flexibility in his leadership styles.

For example, in some situations, it’ll make sense to tell people what to do, whereas asking open-ended questions will work better in others.

You might need to adjust goals as new information emerges, or, under certain circumstances, stick exactly to the plan.

You should adjust your style based on the people you’re managing, the context in which you’re leading, and the outside pressures you’re under.

To navigate tensions like these, you need a good deal of self-awareness. So understand your natural tendencies. What’s your default position? Do you tend to be more of a traditional leader, or do you align with a more adaptive, fluid style?

If you’re not sure, get feedback from others.

Then learn, adapt, practice.

The goal is to develop a portfolio of micro-behaviors you can employ when the situation demands you use a different style. And look to your employees for signals on when it’s appropriate to favor one approach over another

This tip is adapted from Every Leader Needs to Navigate These 7 Tensions,” by Jennifer Jordan, Michael Wade, and Elizabeth Teracino