Jeff Bezos Strategy Retreat

Jeff Bezos hopes to “outbook the book” with Kindle – Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device. If you are involved in the cutting edge of technology and business you would want to watch Bezos conversation with Charlie Rose (posted here below) for the following four reasons:
1. Bezos’ narrative about where we are in the Internet revolution says we are clearly only in its early days. He points out that like electricity in the early 20th century, the Internet is still talked about as “vertical phenomena” instead of realizing that it is, like electricity was, a “horizontal enabling technology.” It is a “word-of-mouth-accelerator that benefits all things.” I suggest that you take notes while watching this conversation and ask yourself: how will these ideas and trends impact the business I am in?
2. The second reason is Bezos 70-30 rule: “In the old world you might have put 30% of your energy, dollars and time into building a great product or service and then you would put 70% of your energy, dollars and time into shouting about that service. In the new world that inverts. You better put the bulk of your time, energy and dollars into building great a service.” In a transparent world quality shines through!
3. Third, watch Bezos energy and excitement and passion for what he does and for his customers’ experience. He clearly is having a lot of fun (I made this same observation about Jeffery Immelt).
4. Fourth, pay attention to Bezos work practices. Specifically, he takes quarterly retreats where he isolates himself and locks himself away from everything for two-three days to reflect on what’s on the cutting edge. This allows Bezos to be creative and come up with new strategic themes and directions, which he writes up as a memo for himself. These themes and ideas guide his next conversations with the executive team at Amazon. Some of the important developments at Amazon resulted from Bezos quarterly strategic retreats.

Bill Gates has a similar practice where he takes his now-famous twice yearly week-long retreats to think, read and reflect “and not do email.” During these times of reflection Gates has come to some of his most important realizations and revelations, including the need to focus Microsoft on the Internet (he almost missed the boat), making the shift to refocus on security and trustworthy computing, and then his decision to focus more on the Gates Foundation.

It is evident from these stories that time for reflection is an essential part of success. However, Most people are not disciplined enough to engage in reflection on their own; they don’t know how to design their retreat, frame the right questions or start a practice of reflection. Few executives could design for themselves an effective strategic retreat. This is why we are seeing the return of facilitated leadership retreats and strategy summits.

© Aviv Shahar

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