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Jeff Bezos: We Need To Have Billion Dollar Scale Failures

“At Amazon, we still take risks all the time,” says Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “We encourage it. We talk about failure. We should be failing. Our failures have to grow with the company. We need big failures if we are going to be moving the needle. We need to have billion dollar scale failures. If we are not, we are not swinging hard enough.”

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, discusses how to be a successful entrepreneur by being customer obsessed in a conversation at the Amazon re:MARS conference in Las Vegas:

The Most Important Thing Is To Be Customer Obsessed

If you want to be an entrepreneur, the most important thing is to be customer obsessed. Don’t satisfy your customers, figure out how to absolutely delight them. That is the number one thing whoever your customers are. Passion. You have got to have some passion for the arena that you are going to develop and work in. Otherwise, you are going to be competing against people who do have compassion for that. They are going to build better products and services.

You can’t be a mercenary. You have to be a missionary. Missionaries build better products and services. They always win. The mercenaries are just trying to make money. Paradoxically, the missionaries always end up making more money.

We Need To Have Billion Dollar Scale Failures

You have to pick something that you actually have a genuine passion for. You have to take risks. You have to be willing to take risks. If you aren’t going to take risks, if you come up with a business idea where there are no risks there, those ideas are probably already being done. There being done well by many many people. So have to have something that might not work. You have to accept that your business is going to be in many ways an experiment. It might fail. That’s okay. That’s what risk is.

At Amazon, we still take risks all the time. We encourage it. We talk about failure. We should be failing. Our failures have to grow with the company. We need big failures if we are going to be moving the needle. We need to have billion dollar scale failures. If we are not, we are not swinging hard enough.

Disagree and Commit

If I have a new idea and I want to see it pursued I do have to build support for it. You need very smart people to embrace the idea and move it forward. We have a framework at Amazon, it’s one of our leadership principals, it’s called disagree and commit. That is extremely useful. After you discussed an idea, you do need to make a decision and move forward. The whole team needs to really commit to that. When I really feel strongly about something and the team disagrees with me I have a helpful phrase that I look to use which is, “I want you to gamble with me on this.”

The truth is when you are in a position like that nobody knows what the right answer is.  You’re not saying I’m right on this. Go do this. You’re saying I want you to gamble with me on this because I don’t know if it is right either. I disagree and commit all the time. I promise the people when I do it, I’m very clear in saying, “I don’t agree with this. I think it is probably not going to work. But I will never say I told you so and I’m going to be on your team. I will do everything I can to make it work.”

Broadband Access Is Going To Be a Fundamental Human Need

A recent big bet (we’ve taken at Amazon) would be Project Kuiper. This is our LEO satellite constellation. The goal here is broadband everywhere. One of the things this does, it’s just the way the systems work, you have equal broadband all over the surfaces of the earth. Not exactly equal, it tends to be a little bit more concentrated toward the poles, unfortunately. You end up servicing the whole world.

It’s really good because by definition you end up accessing people who are under bandwidth including rural and remote areas. I think you can see going forward that access to broadband is going to be very close to being a fundamental human need as we move forward.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: We Need To Have Billion Dollar Scale Failures

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