Nevertheless, during the morning he spent with Forbes outlining how he channels innovation and chooses where to expand, a road map for Amazon's future emerged. Given Amazon's size, it moves both vertically and horizontally, each direction portending a lot more disruption. Even five years ago, Bezos seemed content merely to try to sell everything to everybody, becoming the bane mostly of retailers and wholesalers. But this master innovation artist now has the ultimate palette: any industry he chooses.
For this unconstrained era, the most important word at Amazon is yes. Bezos explains, correctly, the traditional corporate hierarchy: "Let's say a junior executive comes up with a new idea that they want to try. They have to convince their boss, their boss's boss, their boss's boss's boss and so on—any 'no' in that chain can kill the whole idea." That's why nimble startups so easily slaughter hidebound dinosaurs: Even if 19 venture capitalists say no, it just takes a 20th to say yes to get a disruptive idea into business.
Accordingly, Bezos has structured Amazon around what he calls "multiple paths to yes," particularly regarding "two-way doors": decisions that are often based on incremental improvements and can be reversed if they prove unwise. Hundreds of executives can green-light an idea, which employees can shop around internally. "He knows and we know that you can't invent or experiment without some failure," says Jeff Wilke, the long-time Bezos lieutenant who runs Amazon's consumer and retail operations. "Those we sort of celebrate. In fact, we want them to occur all over the place. Jeff doesn't need to review those. I don't need to review those."
The bigger Amazon gets and the more industries it disrupts the greater the potential there is for antitrust advocates to gain traction. Amazon currently accounts for about half of all ecommerce traffic in the USA so it is no exaggeration to state that if you are not selling on Amazon you are leaving half the population untapped. That position lends the company enormous power and the EU is currently investigating how much advantage it gets from knowing product segments its third-party sellers are succeeding in.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top