Arrogance and Amazon: Two Powerful “A” Words

I've read or listened to most of the public statements Jeff Bezos has ever written or spoken. And I’m here to say this:

a tinge of Arrogance is built into the psyche of Amazon.

It's one of its first principles. A 2011 shareholder meeting crystallizes this point.

I believe if you don’t have that set of things in your corporate culture, then you can’t do large-scale invention. You can do incremental invention, which is critically important for any company. But it is very difficult — if you are not willing to be misunderstood. People will misunderstand you.

All normal so far, right? This seems fine.

However when Amazon gets off track, it stops engaging its critics.

Some might say this is an arrogant bird …

Some might say this is an arrogant bird …

Let's continue in the same answer.

Any time you do something big, that’s disruptive — Kindle, AWS — there will be critics…There will be well-meaning critics who genuinely misunderstand what you are doing or genuinely have a different opinion. And there will be the self-interested critics that have a vested interest in not liking what you are doing and they will have reason to misunderstand. And you have to be willing to ignore both types of critics. You listen to them, because you want to see, always testing, is it possible they are right?

And here we have it. Jeff intuitively knows you do have to listen, but if he has to choose, you can tell, it's just not quite as important as bring stubborn.

Like if this were an agile manifesto-type list of principles, you would see something like:

If given a choice between doubting yourself based on new information or staying true to your original idea, we value the latter over the former.

In the worst case scenario, this devolves into not seeking out new information.

Even Amazon is not immune to the troubles of big companies. In this case, how to instill Jeff’s nuanced response of listening to critics in each and every employee? Instead what comes across is arrogance, bullying or the worst kind of tone-deaf.

As far as examples…

Nothing in particular comes to mind.

Really nothing.

Rick Watson