Saturday, August 07, 2004

Fast Company on Jeff Bezos

Fast Company profiles CEO Jeff Bezos saying, "'s founder is a study in contradictions." An excerpt:
    You have to get past his reputation within the industry as the ultimate quant jock, the by-the-numbers boss who supposedly wants to measure everything with spreadsheets, and base all decisions on data, not judgment or instinct ... What really distinguishes Bezos is his harrowing leaps of faith. His best decisions can't be backed up by studies or spreadsheets. He makes nervy gambles on ideas that are just too big and too audacious and too long-term to try out reliably in small-scale tests before charging in. He has introduced innovations that have measurably hurt Amazon's sales and profits, at least in the short run, but he's always driven by the belief that what's good for the customer will ultimately turn out to be in the company's enlightened self-interest. Bezos sees himself as a "change junkie," and the culture he has created is adept at coming up with innovations, but he's also surprisingly blatant and unabashed about copying ideas from competitors. And while Amazon has benefited from Bezos's forceful convictions, he's remarkably good at listening to outside critics and following their advice when they convince him that he's wrong.

    The seeming contradictions are what make Bezos so unusual -- and so formidable. He's the rare leader who obsesses over finding small improvements in efficiency at Amazon's huge warehouses right now while sustaining an entrepreneur's grand vision of changing the world over decades. Depending on the situation, he can be hyperrational or full of faith, left- or right-brained, short or long term.
From my experience, this is a reasonably accurate characterization of Jeff Bezos. He's sharp, visionary, full of zany ideas, and willing to bet the entire company on any one of them at any moment.

No comments: