Amazon Prime has more than 100 million members; Bezos outlines tips to teach high standards

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' 2018 shareholder letter has a few key disclosures as well as some management tips to ponder.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Prime now has more than 100 million paid members globally.

The milestone, outlined in Amazon's annual shareholder letter, was used an example of the company's innovation and knack for finding new markets.

Bezos' annual letter has become a business and technology must read given Amazon's success.

Prime, AWS and Alexa were held up as examples of how high standards are teachable, but you must recognize the opportunities.

Here's a look at a few management takeaways from Bezos for 2018:

1. High standards are required because customer expectations only increase.

Bezos noted:

One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static - they go up. It's human nature. We didn't ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday's 'wow' quickly becomes today's 'ordinary'. I see that cycle of improvement happening at a faster rate than ever before.

2. To stay ahead of expectations, you can't be afraid to fail.

3. You can teach high standards.

Bezos said:

I believe high standards are teachable. In fact, people are pretty good at learning high standards simply through exposure. High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they'll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true. If low standards prevail, those too will quickly spread.

4. Standards are domain specific.

You'll need to learn high standards in every arena of interest. That approach has paid off for AWS, Alexa and retail.

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5. You need to recognize what good looks like as well as what'll it take to achieve the desired result.

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6. Standards don't come via PowerPoint.

Bezos said:

We don't do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of "study hall." Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum.

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