Day 1

There’s a story about how U2, the Irish Rock band, always described themselves as “arriving.” They believed that the moment they “arrived” as a band would be the moment they became irrelevant. I thought of the “arriving” analogy as I read Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders and his insistence that it is always Day 1 at Amazon. Below are a few of my favorite parts.

Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?” That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic. “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.

I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.

Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.

Use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes.

Recognize true misalignment issues early and escalate them immediately. Sometimes teams have different objectives and fundamentally different views. They are not aligned. No amount of discussion, no number of meetings will resolve that deep misalignment.

Every one of these are courses in management and leadership.

There are many companies that aspire to acting like its “Day 1.” But, few have our trust. Jeff Bezos has been walking the talk since 1997 (It is why I’m confident Amazon will be the world’s first Trillion dollar company). It illustrates That’s why integrity is at the root of trust. You are trusted when you make commitments and keep them.

I find the idea of Day 1 incredibly relevant to my writing here. It is at the heart of the learning mindset that this blog is about. But, every time I have a lapse and forget that, it is nice to be able to turn to Jeff Bezos and be reminded of why it matters.

Thanks Jeff.