Posts Tagged ‘jeff bezos’

Some Advice from Jeff Bezos

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jeff bezos

Jason Fried over at the popular Signal v. Noise blog has a fantastic post about Jeff Bezos stopping by the Basecamp offices to talk product strategy with the Basecamp team. The floor was opened up to a 45-minute Q&A session, in which Bezos shared an interesting opinion:

He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today.

He’s observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.

I’m no Jeff Bezos, but I have been noticing the same thing.

The world is not black and white, and there are very few absolutes, especially in discussions about complex systems or proposals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an idea, strongly held, that eventually withers away into a new idea in the face of new evidence or more nuanced information. This is why I’ve learned to become a big fan of brainstorming and ideation meetings: even if you reject 80% of what comes up during these discussions, the other 20% modifies (often dramatically) the opinions you held before the meeting began.

When I meet someone who holds stringently to an idea and is not willing to consider other points of view, I see someone who’s only interested in one narrative. The truth, while interesting, represents a cost that will somehow be unaffordable to his or her personal bias or ideology.

To me, growing personally and professionally means understanding that absolute views aren’t ideal, and opening your mind to perspectives that you might not consider agreeable. I see this phenom a lot in politics or the fitness world, where polemics are the norm: people clinging to one side of the debate or the other, like a tribal chant, 100% unwilling to consider, even for one second, information or discussion coming from “outside” their camp.

Fantastic, thought-provoking advice from Bezos.

Inside an Amazon Warehouse

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Dave Smith, writing for International Business Times:

By storing items randomly instead of categorically, the warehouse has a much better flow of material. Even without robots or automation, Amazon can compile a “picking list” that locates where each item needs to be taken off the shelf and scanned again before it can be shipped.

The real advantage to chaotic storage is that it’s significantly more flexible than conventional storage systems. If there are big changes in a product range, the company doesn’t need to plan for more space, because the products or their sales volumes don’t need to be known or planned in advance if they’re simply being stored at random. The Best Roofers Palm Beach FL are trusted roofing providers in providing excellent roofing services in the state.

Furthermore, free space is much better utilized in a chaotic storage system. In a conventional system, free space may go unused for quite a while simply because stock is low or there aren’t enough products to begin with. Without any kind of fixed positions, available shelf space is always being used.

Don’t miss the photos, either.

The Great Tech War of 2012

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Utterly fantastic article in Fast Company by Farhad Manjoo about the greatest tech showdown of our time, all likely going fully thermonuclear next year. With players like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon in the mix, this isn’t the minor leagues. Who winds up on top here controls the innovation economy moving forward, and there are sane arguments for each as the winner. The following excerpt sums up the vast power and influence these companies have over our technological lives:

To state this as clearly as possible: The four American companies that have come to define 21st-century information technology and entertainment are on the verge of war. Over the next two years, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will increasingly collide in the markets for mobile phones and tablets, mobile apps, social networking, and more. This competition will be intense. Each of the four has shown competitive excellence, strategic genius, and superb execution that have left the rest of the world in the dust. HP, for example, tried to take a run at Apple head-on, with its TouchPad, the product of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm. HP bailed out after an embarrassingly short 49-day run, and it cost CEO Léo Apotheker his job. Microsoft’s every move must be viewed as a reaction to the initiatives of these smarter, nimbler, and now, in the case of Apple, richer companies.


According to Nielsen, Android now powers about 40% of smartphones; 28% run Apple’s iOS. But here’s the twist: Android could command even 70% of the smartphone business without having a meaningful impact on Apple’s finances. Why? Because Apple makes a profit on iOS devices, while Google and many Android handset makers do not. This is part of a major strategic difference between Apple and the other members of the Fab Four. Apple doesn’t need a dominant market share to win. Everyone else does.

If you asked me to list the four biggest players in the tech space, this is the list I’d jot down.  And the scary thing? I’m a customer of each.  In Google and Facebook’s case, I am the product itself.

2012 will be anything but dull.


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Set the Kindle Free!

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Some interesting rumors floating about regarding Amazon’s wildly popular Kindle, most notably that given its price reduction history, it will be free in November of 2011.  This is what Kevin Kelly is predicting: that Amazon will be soon handing out free Kindles, perhaps to Amazon Prime members.

In October 2009 John Walkenbach noticed that the price of the Kindle was falling at a consistent rate, lowering almost on a schedule. By June 2010, the rate was so unwavering that he could easily forecast the date at which the Kindle would be free: November 2011.

Since then I’ve mentioned this forecast to all kinds of folks. In August, 2010 I had the chance to point it out to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. He merely smiled and said, “Oh, you noticed that!” And then smiled again.

Jason Kottke comments on this:

The Kindle has never been knock-it-out-of-the-park great…it looks like Amazon’s strategy is not to build a great e-reader but to build a pretty good free e-reader.

I don’t think that’s Amazon’s angle.

If Amazon is to eventually make the Kindle free, it’s not about how good it’s e-reader is.  It’s about having the market flooded with devices that drive book (and media) business through Amazon itself.  In that regard, the Kindle will become a virtual storefront for Amazon, just like iPods and iPhones and iPads are storefronts for iTunes.

Other e-readers are trying to direct traffic through the e-commerce pipes of their respective masters, so right now it’s all about dominating the market and marginalizing the competition.  Guess who’s got the UX chops and budget to do that?

You got it.

It’s all about the books and making it easy for customers to browse, research and buy books from Amazon.  Amazon already has the most simple and delightful e-commerce user experience in the world, so to tie that to a massively popular device like the Kindle?  Touchdown.

On a side note – and if you’re not doing this already – shelling out $79/year for Amazon Prime is the smartest thing you’ll do all year.  Every Christmas, my Prime membership pays for itself a few times over.


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Jeff Bezos Apologizes for Sudden, Unannounced Removal of Books from Kindles

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Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

Admirable.  Here’s a leader who comes out in plain English and owns the mistake his company made.  No word-mincing, no BS, no corporate double-speak.  Powerful illustration of the chief executive’s character and what he expects out of his organization.

Other companies take note: this courage reaps rewards.  Just look at the 200+ follow-up comments.

Friday nonsense: How to be happy in business plus assorted (but very useful) links

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I’ll begin with Bud Caddell’s smart Venn diagram illustrating how to be happy in business:


…to which Caddell appends the following:

Over the years, I’ve found myself facing the following scenarios. (and I’ve added my two cents on how to move forward)

We can’t determine how to make enough money from the things we want to do, and do really well. I’m constantly surprised at what can be monetized. And on the web, there’s a market for almost anything. But this problem requires you to rapidly iterate your positioning and the type of clients you serve. Often, we’ll get transfixed on a single direction early on (because we’re desperate to solidify our business) and we’ll miss our chance to radically experiment with the market.

We’ve found things we want to do, and can be paid for, but we’re not the best game in town. Mediocrity is not a sustainable strategy. Being able to recognize your own weakness is a profound strength, and acting to improve what you do is key to any kind of long term growth and stability. Find the best talent and steal them. Learn how your competitors run their businesses, and copy what works.

We’ve come across things people want us to do, that we do well (or at least better than the competition) that we really don’t want to do. This is perhaps the most fatal trap for any business I’ve worked in. These are the sirens calling you to shipwreck. You’ll hemorrhage your best people, you’ll stop loving what you do, and you’ll lose the passion that built your business in the first place. Start saying ‘No.’

Finally, an assortment of random thoughts and links, in no particular order because it’s Friday and who really orders lists on a Friday?

Really, truly finally, I leave you with two videos that squarely insult the intersection of human capability and Newtonian physics.  Happy Friday.

Inspired Bicycles — Danny MacAskill

Damien Walters, freerunning showreel, 2009