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Working Backwards
Read in 18 min.
Listen in 23 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Colin Bryar , Bill Carr

Working Backwards

Understanding how Amazon really works

The authors of this book have spent a total of 27 years of their working lives at Amazon, holding executive roles, and working closely with Jeff Bezos himself. They lived through the crucial moments of the growth of e-commerce, were in the cockpit when things began to take off, and, along with other high-level executives, helped define the meaning of “being an Amazonian”. Working Backwards tells the story of how this small Seattle company, which sold books online, became the colossal success it is today, with hundreds of thousands of employees, without giving up on its core values: innovation, creating value and obsession for the customer .

Working Backwards
Read in 18 min.
Listen in 23 min.

Jeff Bezos decided to take a chance on the internet, and choose the book market to get his online business started: Amazon.com was launched

Amazon.com opened in July 1995. Jeff Bezos had recently left his role as vice president of an investment fund in New York, and a promising career, to head West with his wife, and start an internet-based business.

The book market is well suited to online sales: they are not heavy items to ship, nor are they bulky, and they are all more or less the same size. An online bookstore can offer a complete and unlimited selection for its customers, and technology also makes it possible to analyse consumer behaviour and create personalised experiences for each user.

Three small rooms in Seattle, with make-shift desks, put together from old doors, and a space of just thirty-five square meters as the first sorting centre: this is how it all began for Amazon.com.

Jeff Bezos immediately makes it clear to his employees that he will accept nothing less than perfection. Embracing these standards means working 60 hours a week, and doing everything possible to satisfy their customers.

Their customer base continued to grow until they realised that they had something very special on their hands; Amazon transferred to a new building because they needed more space.

In the early years, Jeff Bezos was involved in every decision and personally made sure his principles were applied to every step his small team took: customer obsession, innovation, frugality, individual responsibility, willingness to actand high standards.

By the end of the nineties, from a few dozen at the beginning, the number of employees at Amazon had increased to more than five hundred. To maintain high quality standards, everyone had to put the company mission first: customer obsession and creating long-term value.


The key ideas of "Working Backwards"

Jeff Bezos decided to take a chance on the internet, and choose the book market to get his online business started: Amazon.com was launched
The 14 principles of Amazon: the guide that helps keep workers faithful to the company mission regardless of exponential growth
The Amazon Bar Raiser Program: a scalable, repeatable, and formal process which enables you to hire the best employees
Single-threaded leadership for agile innovation: a single person takes care of one single initiative and manages an autonomous team
A typical Amazon meeting starts with a twenty-minute silence, during which participants read a six-page document
“Working backwards”: starting from the desired customer experience then establishing how to create it
Favouring input metrics over output metrics means focussing on everything that is measurable and controllable
The launch of the Amazon Kindle introduced a new reading experience for customers
Amazon Prime revolutionised online shopping forever
Take-home message
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