In Just 3 Words, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Taught a Brilliant Lesson in Leadership. It’s a great lesson for the workplace. And outside of it.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently became the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $150 billion. What’s the secret of his success? Every day he asks one simple question: “Are we a Day 1 or Day 2 Company?”
Day 1 Company
A Day 1 Company removes proxies that kill innovation, such as bureaucracy, waste, and outdated attitudes and practices. It has the spirit and agility of a startup whatever its history or size. General Electric calls itself a 125-year-old startup for a reason.
A Day 1 Company embraces intelligent failure. In uncertain environments, stop worrying about the rate of failure, because you can afford a lot of failures if they’re cheap. As the saying goes, “Fail fast, fail cheap, and move on.”
A Day 1 Company adopts a “learn-it-all” culture instead of a “know-it-all” culture and practices 4C leadership (creating, collaborating, changing, and challenging). And it always needs to be in a state of perpetual beta optimizing the present, while creating new growth engines and business models for the future.
A Day 1 Company has a CEO of tomorrow rather than a CEO of yesterday, always disrupting the status quo and anticipating change before a crisis forces it to change. Tesla, Airbnb, UpTake Technologies, and WeWork are all Day 1 Companies.
Day 2 Company
What does a Day 2 Company look like? “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why Amazon is always Day 1,” writes Bezos.
A Day 2 Company is the opposite of Day 1. The mindset is “business as usual,” and the way of thinking is Industrial Age and 2C leadership (command and control). A Day 2 Company is still obsessed with efficiency before innovation, hierarchy before empowerment, and status quo before change.
When you walk into a Day 2 Company, you see an SEP culture (“somebody else’s problem”). It’s endemic in most Day 2 Companies and is the opposite of Day 1. You know the characters: blame throwers, energy suckers, silent assassins, and misery monsters that drag the whole team down. A Day 2 culture means avoidance: excuses, inertia, and lazy back covering. Like a disease that’s airborne, SEP can contaminate a team, a company, and even you.
Day 2 Companies are literally sleepwalking into oblivion. Sun Microsystems, Blockbuster, and Kodak became Day 2 Companies. Who’s next?
Are you a Day 1 or Day 2 Company? Now is not the time to preserve the status quo. It’s time for action: Build a clear vision of the future, scale rapidly, and never stop learning.