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The Amazon Effect: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Each year, Jeff Bezos, the mastermind and business innovator behind Amazon shares a letter with his shareholders. These letters, dating back to 1997, serve as a goldmine of independent and innovative thinking for today’s business leaders. Our series, The Amazon Effect, focuses around these letters – and today we’re discussing how to expedite corporate decision-making.

In his letter from 2015, wrote a little bit about how as his company grew in size, the scope and scale of decisions increased with it. He found there to be some decisions that were “one way door” decisions: choices that were very consequential, that would affect a lot of people, could be difficult to accomplish and would be even more difficult to reverse.


These big decisions require time to deliberate, with as many high level thinkers and leaders involved as possible. You might think with a behemoth like Amazon, most of the decisions would be of that variety.


Bezos actually shares that it’s quite the opposite.


He says that most decisions aren’t that weighty and shouldn’t take that much time to figure out even for Amazon. Instead, he believes most decisions are easy to reverse and easy to enact - “two way doors”.


For those decisions, he wants them made quickly by high judgment individuals in the organization or small groups. Think of it this way: if Amazon bogged itself down with sending every decision of any consequence up the flagpole, they would not be able to move nearly as freely and create quickly as they are able to.


Amazon wouldn’t be nearly as innovative, and thus, might not exist today as it does.


Now consider your business. How much time do you waste on small choices and easily reversible decisions? Is your team empowered to make these calls on their own? Many small businesses reach a point where they can trip themselves up over the smaller details - the temperature of the lobby, the part time schedule, etc.


All decisions have consequence, but don’t waste your time deliberating on something that can easily be rectified or reversed.


When making a decision or empowered someone to make one, ask yourself if the decision is a one way or two way door.


For a one way door, you might want to stop and think for a while. But for two way doors, let the ideas fly. You can always change it if it doesn’t work. Let smaller teams, or one or two team members with good judgment have the autonomy to quickly make the two way door calls themselves.


You’ll find your business will quicker, and you’ll find yourself innovating more.

Thanks for reading our series, The Amazon Effect. We hope you found it as inspiring and informative as we have!

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