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Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, With an Introduction by Walter Isaacson Hardcover – November 17, 2020
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In Jeff Bezos's own words, the core principles and philosophy that have guided him in creating, building, and leading Amazon and Blue Origin.
In this collection of Jeff Bezos's writings—his unique and strikingly original annual shareholder letters, plus numerous speeches and interviews that provide insight into his background, his work, and the evolution of his ideas—you'll gain an insider's view of the why and how of his success. Spanning a range of topics across business and public policy, from innovation and customer obsession to climate change and outer space, this book provides a rare glimpse into how Bezos thinks about the world and where the future might take us.
Written in a direct, down-to-earth style, Invent and Wander offers readers a master class in business values, strategy, and execution:
- The importance of a Day 1 mindset
- Why "it's all about the long term"
- What it really means to be customer obsessed
- How to start new businesses and create significant organic growth in an already successful company
- Why culture is an imperative
- How a willingness to fail is closely connected to innovation
- What the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us
Each insight offers new ways of thinking through today's challenges—and more importantly, tomorrow's—and the never-ending urgency of striving ahead, never resting on one's laurels. Everyone from CEOs of the Fortune 100 to entrepreneurs just setting up shop to the millions who use Amazon's products and services in their homes or businesses will come to understand the principles that have driven the success of one of the most important innovators of our time.
Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos is co-published by PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, and Harvard Business Review Press.
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From the Publisher
Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, With an Introduction by Walter Isaacson
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
About the Author
About Contributors Jeff Bezos and Walter Isaacson:
This book is a collection of writings and public statements by Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. Bezos is also the founder of aerospace company Blue Origin, which is working to lower the cost and increase the safety of spaceflight, and he is owner of the Washington Post. In 2018, he founded the Bezos Day One Fund, which focuses on funding non-profits that help homeless families, and on creating a network of tier-one preschools in low-income communities. Bezos graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University in 1986, and was named TIME Magazine's Person of the Year in 1999.
Walter Isaacson is the author of several books, including The Innovators and Leonardo da Vinci.
- Publisher : Harvard Business Review Press; 1st edition (November 17, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1647820715
- ISBN-13 : 978-1647820718
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #49,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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And I'm excited to share with you this new book, Invent & Wander, the collected writings of Jeff Bezos. It includes an introduction by Walter Isaacson. This book is a compilation of all of the Letters to Shareholder Jeff Bezos has written over the last 22 years. Part 2 includes additional information and transcripts from interviews Bezos has given over the years.
The Amazon.com website went live in July of 1994. Bezos began by selling books online, something that hadn't been contemplated before using this new thing at the time, called the internet. After great initial success, in May of 1997, Amazon filed for an initial public offering (IPO) to raise additional capital to support their already fast growth. The initial stock price was $18 per share, and they raised about $54 million Amazon would use to fund their continued growth. If you had invested $10,000 in 1997, it would be worth about $12 million – a phenomenal 120,000% growth.
Jeff Bezos wrote his first 1997 letter to shareholders published in April of 1998. Bezos wrote a new letter every year for the last 22. He renamed shareholders to shareowners in a subsequent letter.
Bezos shared his secret sauce for growing Amazon – hidden in plain sight – in each of these letters. The best way to highlight what you will get out of reading these letters is to highlight what Isaacson said in his introduction. "Here are the five that I think are most important:"
Focus on the long term. Bezos talked about this in the 1997 letter. It's what I call, Apply Long Term thinking. At Amazon, we will make decisions based on long term investment. Meaning we're not going to do short term Wall Street quarterly earnings thing we look to the future and are planning and investing for the future, number one number two.
Focus relentlessly and passionately on the customer. Bezos calls this Obsess over customers and invent on their behalf.
Avoid PowerPoint and slide presentations. It is interesting Isaacson included this as a key point. I believe this is one of the keys to Amazon's ability to continue to invent. This process has come to be called the 6-Page Narrative, which is described in the 2017 Letter. In 2004 Bezos send an email to his senior leadership team called the S-team, and said, No longer will PowerPoint presentations be allowed in our senior leadership team meetings. Instead, people will write a narrative and hand it out at the document at the beginning of the meeting. I believe it is one of those critical components to Amazon's invention toolkit they continue to use today.
Focus on big decisions. Or, what I call, generate high-velocity decisions. Bezos goes into detail in the 2005 Letter. As an organization grows, it tends to slow down decision making to the point that it negatively impacts growth. So to continue growing, you need to be making decisions quickly. He identifies two types of decisions, Type one and Type two. Type one decisions are big bet the farm decisions, and they should be made slowly deliberately with lots of data. Most decisions in large companies are not Type one decision. They are Type two. Type two decisions are easier to change. You can change your mind and decide to change directions. You can turn around and go back through that door, make another decision, change direction.
Hire the right people. In the 1998 Letter, Bezos describes three questions to ask about anyone interviewing for a job. 1) Do you admire this person? 2) Will they raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they are entering? 3) What other dimension do they bring to the job besides skills and experience?
So this is just a small synopsis of the book. I recommend you read the shareowners Letters (Part 1), like a book. Then start reading through Part 2 and listen as Bezos adds depth and dimension to the principle he shares in the Letters.
Be sure to take notes along the way. There is a lot to learn.
Ease of reading: Very high. Short chapters, fast narrative.
After the excellent intro by Walter Isaacson (and who wouldn’t want to read that), Part 1 includes every Amazon shareholder letter from 1997 through 2020. Reading all 24 letters, one after the other, is remarkable for two reasons. First, this isn’t revisionist history. Every word of these letters was written and published in that year. No spin by Bezos or anyone else. Second, it is striking both how clear and how consistent the vision for Amazon was. Unlike other companies that meander through different missions or focus areas over 24 years, Amazon’s customer focus never changed, and its big bets around AWS, Marketplace, Fulfillment, Kindle, Prime, and others all tie to each other. You read the progress on these initiatives over the years, and the repetition of these topics across many years of letters reinforces the importance of doing a few big things really well to make your company successful.
I liked his views on decision-making: Executives are paid to make a small number of high quality decisions; not all decisions can be made in a “math-based” way and require judgement; most decisions should be made with 70% of the information you wish you had - if you wait for more, you’re being too slow; and most decisions are “two-way doors”, meaning if they are wrong they can be corrected without significant consequences.
I found the shareholder letters in Part 1 more interesting than the speech summaries in Part 2, but overall this is an easy, information-rich read that gets you close to the mind of one of the most successful businesspeople of our generation.
Top reviews from other countries
A lot can be learned from Bezos ( a bit of an odd ball ) but at the top of his game for sure.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on February 11, 2021