November 28, 2012
"There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking."

Fine, I’m a writer, so obviously I’d be taken with Jeff Bezos’s management technique, described in the Fortune cover story, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: The Ultimate Disrupter. Still, there’s something terribly compelling about his habit of forcing the company’s leadership team to sit in silence and read six-page “narratives” before any discussion. As he points out in the quote above, there’s no room for sloppy thinking in a six-page memo. Not one that you want your boss and all your managers to read, at least. The whole of this story is worth a read and all.

[Story via Jessi Hempel.]

July 24, 2012
"Amazon will pay up to 95% of the tuition, textbook and associated fees up to a maximum of $2,000 per year for four years."

"At Amazon, we like to pioneer, we like to invent, and we’re not willing to do things the normal way if we can figure out a better way," writes Jeff Bezos in a letter to customers that currently inhabits the home page of the online retailer. The Amazon Career Choice Program encourages employees who’ve been with the company for three years to invest in vocational training, regardless of whether these skills are related to Amazon’s own business or not. “It can be difficult in this economy to have the flexibility and financial resources to teach yourself new skills,” Bezos continues, describing the program as focusing entirely on areas that are “well-paying and in high demand.”

I thought it was bold of Bezos to call out innovation within the company’s fulfillment centers at the top of his letter. That is an area that’s been the subject of criticism in the past, notably in a devastating piece published in The Morning Call. The message here is that top brass aren’t worried about that, and continuing to do things its own way. We all know that education in the United States is in a terrible state, and doing something constructive is the only way to emerge from the economic crisis with any hope at all. So while in-house tuition programs are hardly new, this is certainly an interesting model, and one to monitor. 

[Story via Alex Kinnebrew]

July 11, 2012
"I have an experienced customer service rep sitting next to me helping me because otherwise I would probably give really bad service… It’s not that easy."

— Wonderful quote from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who’s noted as a fierce believer in the theory that a) customer service is king with the firm caveat that b) customer service should be so invisible that said customers don’t actually notice they’re being served. As such, when he takes his yearly stint on the call lines to field the gripes of grumpy customers, it’s a given that the calls are going to be tricky to solve. The Bezos Doctrine of Ruthless Pragmatism contains this gem and several other stories of how the Seattle giant is using technology to innovate backwards and forwards up the supply chain.

April 27, 2011
"Invention is in our DNA and technology is the fundamental tool we wield to evolve and improve every aspect of the experience we provide our customers. We still have a lot to learn, and I expect and hope we’ll continue to have so much fun learning it. I take great pride in being part of this team. As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. Our approach remains the same, and it’s still Day 1."

Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders is a paean to the value of R&D, as well as the Amazon chief’s oblique reassurance not to worry about this quarter’s less than stellar results. The original letter of intent he refers to is also well worth a read, as is his explanation of the research structure within Amazon’s by-now-vast organization. “Technology infuses all of our teams, all of our processes, our decision-making, and our approach to innovation in each of our businesses,” he writes. “It is deeply integrated into everything we do.” Not for Bezos the silos often found in innovation. Also note his still-hungry sign-off. “It’s still Day 1.” An amazing attitude all would do well to foster.