Bezos on innovation, customer-focus and long-term thinking

Business Week has a great interview with Jeff Bezos as part of their innovation issue. The interview is entitled How Frugality Drives Innovation, but Jeff talks about far more than frugality. Here’s my favorite bit:

Q: Every company claims to be customer-focused. Why do you think so few are able to pull it off?

A: Companies get skills-focused, instead of customer-needs focused. When [companies] think about extending their business into some new area, the first question is “why should we do that—we don’t have any skills in that area.” That approach puts a finite lifetime on a company, because the world changes, and what used to be cutting-edge skills have turned into something your customers may not need anymore. A much more stable strategy is to start with “what do my customers need?” Then do an inventory of the gaps in your skills. Kindle is a great example. If we set our strategy by what our skills happen to be rather than by what our customers need, we never would have done it. We had to go out and hire people who know how to build hardware devices and create a whole new competency for the company.

Well worth a read. Another great line: “The key is to pick things that you think are really iimportant, and then focus on them.” It seems obvious, but so few of us do it as consistently as we should!

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