Irrelevance, Excruciating Painful Decline & Death

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos constantly reminds his people of the biggest enemy being irrelevance, then excruciating, painful decline and death. So when the CEO of one of the world’s fastest growing, disruptive and successful companies speaks that way, the tone should touch a nerve with other CEOs, and motivate them into taking a closer look at their digital portfolios.

While most companies are digitising, too many are simply creating fast caterpillars, which are simply a better version of the past. The Great Digital Illusion is a growing phenomenon that well-intentioned firms are falling foul of, and the consequences (if they don’t snap out of it) could well be the irrelevance, excruciating, painful decline, and death that Jeff Bezos warns of.

In his annual letter to shareholders, Bezos provided some insight to his thought process and what drives him more than two decades since he set up Amazon in his garage in Seattle. He starts with …

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.

I’m interested in the question, how do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organisation?

Read the full Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders

Then reflect on whether your organisation is being lulled into a false sense of security having falling prey to The Great Digital Illusion – or whether it oozes the characteristics that have made Amazon what it is today.