Applying the Amazon Mindset

Recently, Jeff Bezos announced his upcoming change in roles at Amazon. He has orchestrated his online bookseller into a multitude of businesses, grown into a mega-retailer, and continues to expand into new areas, from climate-related to AI to grocery.

While we all like to “think big” and have plenty of “what if” moments, in the world of content management, among slow movers or organizations that have not been interested in change, there are more “I only wish we could” moments — and an unsynched mindset from the employee to the employer — than reinventing the way they do work.

Just like it was unimaginable a short time ago that your go-to retailer would be online with the ability to deliver your order to your home in hours, eventually, it will be unheard of to deal with paper mail, paper documents, wet signatures and manual, paper-based processes as businesses will finally embrace digitization.

If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.

— Jeff Bezos, Excerpt from his email to his employees, Feb. 2, 2021.

I love this quote.  It makes me laugh when I think of so many things people used to marvel about: who has a color TV, who can listen to music in stereo, or how you could use a payphone to make a call for a dime. (Although it’s not meant to be funny, I always laugh when actors in an older movie say, “Quick, find a phone!”) Invention and innovation are happening at the speed of thought.  And, before you know it, all the things we are solving for today will become ho-hum and of no consequence tomorrow.

It’s a mindset

If you are a follower of my blogs, you know I mention mindset a lot: the Fixed, Open and, most recently, the Tunnel Mindset.  Now, we see the Amazonian Mindset, where new innovative ideas – however unbelievable – are not discounted, but considered. It is a refreshing way to take the ideas of the “what-if” dreamer and see if they can indeed become something.

Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.

 — Jeff Bezos, Excerpt from his email to his employees, Feb. 2, 2021.

When I think about operations in the business world, I reflect on what Amazon has built. Aside from what they offer, their logistics and delivery model has continually improved and given the customer a better experience over time. Plus they have set a high standard that challenges other online retailers. This continuous improvement is something every business should do – even with small steps.

Continuous improvement

As I shared in my last blog on upstream heroism, the continuous improvement ideology is tied to the overall idea of reviewing how your business operates by embracing change. But, it also includes looking at your business with fresh eyes every day.  If you fall into a slump where you grind through your day the same way every day, you risk that tunnel mindset instead of embracing change. When it remains Day 1 every day, then you use that renewed vision to recognize how things can change for the better.

It remains Day 1

There are hurdles to embracing change, such as:

  • broad understanding of the benefits
  • necessary budgets to make the change
  • timeframe for the completion of the project
  • training to ensure everyone is on board and comfortable with the change
  • prospective new employee opportunities that result from the change

We are leaders in areas as varied as machine learning and logistics, and if an Amazonian’s idea requires yet another new institutional skill, we’re flexible enough and patient enough to learn it.

— Jeff Bezos, Excerpt from his email to his employees, Feb. 2, 2021.

There are three points to consider from Bezos letter to his employees, and I think, as we look at these ideas through the lens of our own businesses with their technology gaps, process improvements needs, time-wasting activities and unproductive staff stuck with tedious tasks, we can understand the leap of faith that is needed to make significant change:

  • Don’t dismiss a new idea because it requires training/learning and an adoption mindset

 The Amazonian way is to be patient, and take the time to learn what is needed to adopt what you need. We have seen companies abandon their initial efforts to learn new technology for a new content management platform. The staff found the change insurmountable instead of looking at the big picture and the daily incremental gains. It does take the right mindset that is willing to accept change, learn and adapt.  It also takes committed leadership with the right set of training tools and patience.

  • Be flexible

This is a significant challenge. Whether it’s management or staff, there is often a great reluctance to let go of a process that you may have perfected. It’s the need to be open-minded and accepting of change.

  • Persevere

There is a lot of failure for the people who continually push for new ideas. Some ideas work and some do not. Often, we only know of the great successes of an innovator, and we never know how many times a person had to fail. Elon Musk is another great example of an innovator who embodies perseverance. It took eight tries before his Falcon 1 Rocket was a success, and a few more tries before they perfected the turn-around-and-dock feature. But, he was determined to do it, and to make space travel less expensive so it could flourish. (Is it a ho-hum idea yet?)

I marvel not only that it was done, but that he even thought of it.

“Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up … Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough … Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and keep questioning yourself.”

Elon Musk

What is really interesting about Bezos’ three thoughts is how they apply to everyone in a business, from leadership to worker.

  • Being quick to dismiss an idea or a change because time is needed – is an unfortunate mindset.
  • Lacking flexibility will hamper collaboration and improvement.
  • Perseverance: it is always good to strive for success and promote a new idea.

The Amazonian message is twofold – encourage innovation and don’t give up the challenge.  I encourage all business owners to take a renewed look at their operation. A lot has been learned with time out of the physical office, but since we are talking about a mindset, it is all about affecting change. Are your processes antiquated? Where are you with your digital transformation? Is your staff ready for the change that automation can bring to your operations?  And, as a business leader, are you ready to grab hold of a new way of doing business that gives your team access to information from anywhere?

It is an open mindset, an innovator’s view and an Amazonian way of looking at your people and their ideas, your process and their problems and your future challenges and the benefits you can get by effecting digital change in your organization.

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is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for ECM.