Can’t Say No

November is National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). This post is part of my post-a-day challenge. I have picked a theme for the challenge: song titles. These songs have been featured on live albums from KEXP (an awesome alternative radio station in Seattle), so at a minimum you will hear some great music.

The most important element of creating change is making the change easier for the person or groups that have to make the switch. You create a situation in which someone literally can’t say no.

When I thinking of “can’t say no,” I imagine a sleazy used car salesman. “I’ve got a deal you can’t turn down.” But of course you can turn it down. There are a thousand different places you can buy a used car from and you may have serious concerns about the reputation of the salesperson and what implies about the condition of the car.

What I love about the framework laid out in Switch is that we learn how to make changes easier and this more likely to take root. I’m so excited about this book I am teaching a lunch and learn at work – taking co-workers through the framework and then leading an exercise where we use the framework to create change in the participants lives. I’ll share as much of that as I can.

For today’s post, I wanted to simply provide the framework. Hopefully this get’s you interested in creating changes and learning more about Switch.

The metaphor used throughout the book is one of someone riding an elephant. The rider is the rational side of all of us. The elephant is the emotional side. The rider is calculating and prone to worry. The elephant is emotional and can overpower the rider.

  • Direct the rider by:
    • Finding bright spots (small wins or successes)
    • Scripting critical moves (give details regarding how the change happens – specific behaviors)
    • Point to the destination (why is it worth changing?)
  • Motivate the elephant by:
    • Find the feeling (help people connect emotionally with the change)
    • Shrink the change (make the change seem smaller)
    • Grow your people (give others a mindset of growth – changes are possible)
  • Shape the path by:

I hope you find this outline useful and enjoy the book as much as I have.

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Would That Not Be Nice

November is National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). This post is part of my post-a-day challenge. I have picked a theme for the challenge: song titles. These songs have been featured on live albums from KEXP (an awesome alternative radio station in Seattle), so at a minimum you will hear some great music.

I’ve been reading The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. It provides deep insights into Bezos and his relentless pursuit to delight Amazon’s customers. What if every company you do business with thought like Jeff Bezos. Would that not be nice?

Many companies don’t operate like Amazon because they are beholden to short term results. By investing in features and services that delight the customer, short term results may suffer. Bezos argues that if you take a long term view, the interest of the shareholders and customers align. I think he’s correct – and to date, both amazon customers and amazon investors have benefited from his vision.

For today’s post, I wanted to simply share Amazon’s letter to its shareholders. I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

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To our shareowners:

As regular readers of this letter will know, our energy at Amazon comes from the desire to impress customers rather than the zeal to best competitors. We don’t take a view on which of these approaches is more likely to maximize business success. There are pros and cons to both and many examples of highly successful competitor-focused companies. We do work to pay attention to competitors and be inspired by them, but it is a fact that the customer-centric way is at this point a defining element of our culture.

One advantage – perhaps a somewhat subtle one – of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to. These investments are motivated by customer focus rather than by reaction to competition. We think this approach earns more trust with customers and drives rapid improvements in customer experience – importantly – even in those areas where we are already the leader.

“Thank you. Every time I see that white paper on the front page of Amazon, I know that I’m about to get more for my money than I thought I would. I signed up for Prime for the shipping, yet now I get movies, and TV and books. You keep adding more, but not charging more. So thanks again for the additions.” We now have more than 15 million items in Prime, up 15x since we launched in 2005. Prime Instant Video selection tripled in just over a year to more than 38,000 movies and TV episodes. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has also more than tripled to over 300,000 books, including an investment of millions of dollars to make the entire Harry Potter series available as part of that selection. We didn’t “have to” make these improvements in Prime. We did so proactively. A related investment – a major, multi-year one – is Fulfillment by Amazon. FBA gives third-party sellers the option of warehousing their inventory alongside ours in our fulfillment center network. It has been a game changer for our seller customers because their items become eligible for Prime benefits, which drives their sales, while at the same time benefitting consumers with additional Prime selection.

We build automated systems that look for occasions when we’ve provided a customer experience that isn’t up to our standards, and those systems then proactively refund customers. One industry observer recently received an automated email from us that said, “We noticed that you experienced poor video playback while watching the following rental on Amazon Video On Demand: Casablanca. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and have issued you a refund for the following amount: $2.99. We hope to see you again soon.” Surprised by the proactive refund, he ended up writing about the experience: “Amazon ‘noticed that I experienced poor video playback…’ And they decided to give me a refund because of that? Wow…Talk about putting customers first.” [Here’s the original article.]

When you pre-order something from Amazon, we guarantee you the lowest price offered by us between your order time and the end of the day of the release date. “I just received notice of a $5 refund to my credit card for pre-order price protection. . . What a great way to do business! Thank you very much for your fair and honest dealings.” Most customers are too busy themselves to monitor the price of an item after they pre-order it, and our policy could be to require the customer to contact us and ask for the refund. Doing it proactively is more expensive for us, but it also surprises, delights, and earns trust.

We also have authors as customers. Amazon Publishing has just announced it will start paying authors their royalties monthly, sixty days in arrears. The industry standard is twice a year, and that has been the standard for a long time. Yet when we interview authors as customers, infrequent payment is a major dissatisfier. Imagine how you’d like it if you were paid twice a year. There isn’t competitive pressure to pay authors more than once every six months, but we’re proactively doing so. By the way – though the research was taxing, I struggled through and am happy to report that I recently saw many Kindles in use at a Florida beach. There are five generations of Kindle, and I believe I saw every generation in use except for the first. Our business approach is to sell premium hardware at roughly breakeven prices. We want to make money when people use our devices – not when people buy our devices. We think this aligns us better with customers. For example, we don’t need our customers to be on the upgrade treadmill. We can be very happy to see people still using four-year-old Kindles!

I can keep going – Kindle Fire’s FreeTime, our customer service Andon Cord, Amazon MP3’s AutoRip – but will finish up with a very clear example of internally driven motivation: Amazon Web Services. In 2012, AWS announced 159 new features and services. We’ve reduced AWS prices 27 times since launching 7 years ago, added enterprise service support enhancements, and created innovative tools to help customers be more efficient. AWS Trusted Advisor monitors customer configurations, compares them to known best practices, and then notifies customers where opportunities exist to improve performance, enhance security, or save money. Yes, we are actively telling customers they’re paying us more than they need to. In the last 90 days, customers have saved millions of dollars through Trusted Advisor, and the service is only getting started. All of this progress comes in the context of AWS being the widely recognized leader in its area – a situation where you might worry that external motivation could fail. On the other hand, internal motivation – the drive to get the customer to say “Wow” – keeps the pace of innovation fast.


Our heavy investments in Prime, AWS, Kindle, digital media, and customer experience in general strike some as too generous, shareholder indifferent, or even at odds with being a for-profit company. “Amazon, as far as I can tell, is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers,” writes one outside observer. But I don’t think so. To me, trying to dole out improvements in a just-in-time fashion would be too clever by half. It would be risky in a world as fast-moving as the one we all live in. More fundamentally, I think long-term thinking squares the circle. Proactively delighting customers earns trust, which earns more business from those customers, even in new business arenas. Take a long-term view, and the interests of customers and shareholders align.

As I write this, our recent stock performance has been positive, but we constantly remind ourselves of an important point – as I frequently quote famed investor Benjamin Graham in our employee all-hands meetings – “In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.” We don’t celebrate a 10% increase in the stock price like we celebrate excellent customer experience. We aren’t 10% smarter when that happens and conversely aren’t 10% dumber when the stock goes the other way. We want to be weighed, and we’re always working to build a heavier company.

As proud as I am of our progress and our inventions, I know that we will make mistakes along the way – some will be self-inflicted, some will be served up by smart and hard-working competitors. Our passion for pioneering will drive us to explore narrow passages, and, unavoidably, many will turn out to be blind alleys. But – with a bit of good fortune – there will also be a few that open up into broad avenues.

I am incredibly lucky to be a part of this large team of outstanding missionaries who value our customers as much as I do and who demonstrate that every day with their hard work. As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. Our approach remains the same, and it’s still Day 1.

 

LOGO
Jeffrey P. Bezos
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Amazon.com, Inc.
April 2013

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/amazons-letter-to-shareholders-2013-4#ixzz2l2kNhvqM

Wating for the Great Leap Forward

November is National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). This post is part of my post-a-day challenge. I have picked a theme for the challenge: song titles. These songs have been featured on live albums from KEXP (an awesome alternative radio station in Seattle), so at a minimum you will hear some great music.

The past year has been a time unlike any other in my life. I’ve been working so hard to create change and deliver results. A year ago I would have expected my efforts to have paid off in spades by now. The humble coconut has helped me to rethink my expectations.

It would be difficult to visit a tropical isle without seeing a few coconut palm trees. The trees stand tall, rising to over thirty feet. The fruit of the tree is heavy, since a full sized coconut can weigh three pounds. Almost every part of the fruit could be used for something. The coconut palm will produce over thirty coconuts a year – almost 100 pounds of fruit. To summarize, the coconut palm produces a lot of fruit and the fruit is highly valuable. But here’s the catch – it takes time. Coconut palms don’t bear fruit immediately. It takes 7 years for a coconut palm tree to bear any fruit.

Imagine that you have planted a coconut tree outside of your beach house. It is growing taller and taller. You can see evidence that it will one day bear fruit, but at the present time you cannot see any coconuts. What would you do?

Naturally, you would continue to nurture the tree and watch it grow. This progression towards fruit is slow and steady. There is no great leap forward. Just daily progression towards fruit.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Suzanne Pellican in June of this past year. I was introduced to her by some of my friends at the d.school. Suzanne and her colleagues at Intuit created a group called Innovation Catalysts and have done some amazing things with innovation and design thinking. (My friend Roger Martin tells the story here in the Harvard Business Review.)

I sat down for coffee at Intuit’s headquarters in Mountain View and began to tell her about some of my experiences over the past year. I told her about my life changing experiences at the d.school and how we were starting to implement design thinking. I mentioned the small wins we were seeing with behavior and culture shifts. She smiled the entire time I talked. I was a newly planted tree and I desperately wanted to bear some fruit. And then Suzanne gives me a reality check.

“You are at the start of a seven year journey. When we started Innovation Catalyst we told everyone it would take us seven years before we would see a payoffs.”

“Seven years? Really? I want to change things right now and I want it to be easy and fun,” I thought to myself. I just smiled right back at Suzanne.

It turns out she was right. Change is hard and it takes time. But don’t mistake a lack of fruit for a lack of growth. I believe I have grown more this year than any other in my working career. I have written more, read more and grown my network more than the past ten years combined.

Just like the coconut palm, I am convinced that fruit is coming. Like Suzanne predicted, substantial changes will take time, but I am committed to continue to grow.

I believe the lesson from Suzanne’s journey was to be patient as those around you grow. Nurture the tree and value growth. It takes a lot of patience to see and taste the fruit.

Recycled Air

November is National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). This post is part of my post-a-day challenge. I have picked a theme for the challenge: song titles. These songs have been featured on live albums from KEXP (an awesome alternative radio station in Seattle), so at a minimum you will hear some great music.

If you have read much of my blog, you know that everything I write is inspired by my experiences – a book I’ve read, a conference that I attended, a talk I am giving, etc.

But recently it feels more like recycled air. I’m ok with this as long as the original experience was a good one. There are probably bigger wastes of your time than reading my thoughts on a wonderful book (for example).

That said, I am aiming for more original content and less recycled air. Stay tuned.

Kissing The Lipless

November is National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). This post is part of my post-a-day challenge. I have picked a theme for the challenge: song titles. These songs have been featured on live albums from KEXP (an awesome alternative radio station in Seattle), so at a minimum you will hear some great music.

The creation of art involves taking a risk. There is a real risk that what you make will be ridiculed by your peers, your friends and even your family. To truly appreciate art, you have to understand that the artist puts a portion of her soul into her craft. You should appreciate the risk that was undertaken, it’s not all about the creation that you can see with your eyes. There is real value in the journey because it is making the artist stronger. We learn much more from failures than we do from successes.

Showing art to those that don’t appreciate your craft is like kissing the lipless. It might have to be done, but the kiss is much better if the recipient has the appropriate anatomy to receive the kiss. In the case of art, that anatomy is the understanding of the pain and pleasure that goes into making real art.

Everyone can be an artist if you approach your work in an artistic manner. Help the artist around you out – appreciate their journey and be mindful of your own.

Brighter Than Sunshine

November is National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). This post is part of my post-a-day challenge. I have picked a theme for the challenge: song titles. These songs have been featured on live albums from KEXP (an awesome alternative radio station in Seattle), so at a minimum you will hear some great music.

I met someone the other day that had a great smile. It was infectious. It was brighter than sunshine.

How you project yourself outwardly is more important than you think. I’m not one to advocate acting excited when you’re not. I believe in being true to emotions. But in the absence of a strong emotion, it’s difficult to go wrong with a solid smile.

You’ll spend well over 100,000 hours at work over the course of your life. Why not spend much of that time with a positive outlook and creating smiles on the faces of those around you?

See who you can make smile tomorrow.

Young Folks

November is National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). This post is part of my post-a-day challenge. I have picked a theme for the challenge: song titles. These songs have been featured on live albums from KEXP (an awesome alternative radio station in Seattle), so at a minimum you will hear some great music.

I love being around young folks. In many cases, people younger than me push me with new ways of thinking and they tend to be more receptive to change. I love the optimism associated with those who are just starting out in their careers, or with my children, just starting out in life.

I want to say to them “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.”

The other aspect of young folks that I appreciate is that they need me. They may not always know that (especially my kids), but I have real life experience to share. I can contribute to their advancement in real and meaningful ways.

I want to be known as someone who cares about developing young folks. I have had (and continue to have) many people in my life who spend time mentoring me. I want others to count on me in the same way.

Surround yourself with young folks. Watch them push you and give back where you can.