Amazon’s 6-page memos; How does it work?

Product Management

Amazon’s 6-page memos; How does it work?

Why memos over Powerpoint? Amazon famously has execs write 6-page narrative-driven memos instead of Powerpoint decks. The practice began in 2004 when Jeff Bezos noticed nothing was being decided after 60-minute long meetings with his inner circle (AKA S-Team).

1/ Amazon is well-known for its writing culture: ◻️ “Mock press releases / FAQs” for new product pitches ◻️ “6-page memos” instead of Powerpoint It force clear thinking and encodes a specific approach to innovation (especially for a post-Bezos world). Here’s a breakdown 🧵
2/ The “Working Backwards” philosophy Instead of creating a product then finding customers, Amazon asks “What does the customer need?” and works *backwards* toward the product. ✔️Customer need –> Create product ✖️Create product –> Find customer
4/ Press releases force big thinking You don’t write a press release for an incremental improvements. Creating a product worthy of a press release means really solving a customer problem and going after markets with large total addressable markets (TAMs).
5/ Include an FAQ in each “press release” Addressing every potential customer question can help identify hurdles to getting something to market…and also uncover other potential opportunities.
6/ Why memos over Powerpoint? Amazon famously has execs write 6-page narrative-driven memos instead of Powerpoint decks. The practice began in 2004 when Jeff Bezos noticed nothing was being decided after 60-minute long meetings with his inner circle (AKA S-Team).
7/ Memos > Powerpoint #1: More info density People read faster than people can talk meaning that — for a 60 minute meeting — reading a memo before discussing an issue conveys much more information (10x more per a former Amazon exec). Narratives are also much more memorable.
8/ Memos > Powerpoint #2: Ideas instead of charisma In Powerpoint presentations, a great presenter can sell a bad idea. Conversely, a poor presenter may be unable to sell a great idea. In a memo, the idea wins.
9/ Memos > Powerpoint #3: Better analysis Powerpoint’s hierarchical (and sequential) structure is not ideal to address complex issues. Narrative-driven memos can be multi-causal and provide a 360-degree view on a topic.
10/ Memos > Powerpoint #4: Focusses a meeting If every meeting participant spends the first 1/3rd of a 60-minute meeting reading, there is a huge transfer of information. It’s a forcing function to get everyone on the same page and makes the remaining 40-minutes high quality.
11/ Memos > Powerpoint #5: Shared understanding Whether or not one agrees with everything in a memo, focussed reading of a document provides a shared knowledge base with which to begin discussions. Further, someone can quickly “get up to speed” by reading past memos.
12/ Memos > Powerpoint #6: Decisions need narrative Powerpoint and Excel are great at communicating data. However, at the executive level, you are making complex decisions and leading. This requires a mastery of narrative (AKA memo writing) to persuade stakeholders.
13/ Writing is crucial for a company scale At 20 employees, Bezos could be in every meeting. At 1k+ employees, he needed a way to “inject his lens of thinking” into the organization. An archive of writing (e.g. annual letters) encodes thinking, especially now that he’s gone.

Newsletter

Newsletter

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.