Amazon.com’s Chief Lean Thinker
This week I’ll be blogging about various things I’ve found around the internet. Of course, the volume of content continues to increase. I sometimes wonder if the rate of increase of garbage outpaces the good stuff. But there is plenty of good stuff as well.
I’m always on the lookout for entrepreneurs that secretly double as lean thinkers. Many great entrepreneurs are not – they are focused on their product or service and do a fantastic job of it. There is nothing wrong with that. But on the whole, I believe that lean thinkers can make an entrepreneur even better, because they add process thinking which really can help them build a stronger organization.
I’ve already written about Jason Fried, who I think is a fantastic lean thinker, and recently wrote a book (which I haven’t gotten to read yet) called Rework (affiliate link below).
Fortune: In the past, you’ve said that a company learns just as much as by its failures as it does by its successes. Do you still believe that?
Bezos: Well, the key is that the company has to experiment, and what you want to try and do is reduce the cost of experimentation so you can do as many experiments per unit time as possible so you can do as many experiments per week, per month, per year as you can –and they’re not experiments if you know they’re going to work.
So you want to do a lot of these experiments, and many of them will fail, and that’s okay. Because if you’re doing enough of them, there will be some winners. That’s the only mindset you can have if you want to invent. At Amazon, we’re very focused on invention. If you look at the things we focus on, we’re never trying to create a “me-too” product offering.
And by the way, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with “close following.” It’s a very common business strategy. You just say we’ll wait. Let all of our competitors do all the experiments. Most of them will fail, but we’ll watch very carefully, and as soon as something looks like a success, we’ll follow very closely. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just happens to not be our strategy.
Lean is about problem solving and learning, which I’ve said many times, more than it is about waste elimination. Building a learning organization is both about the process of experimentation, naming treating process improvement as experimentation, but also the pace of experimentation. Jeff clearly articulates the benefit of rapid experimentation.