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Jeff Bezos Loves a Good Story
For the first 20 minutes, everyone just sits silently.
In preparation for leadership meetings, Amazon executives prepare six-page strategy documents with a narrative structure. Everyone spends the start of the meeting closely reading the documents and taking notes before diving into a discussion.
No flashy decks, no bulleted memos, but fully crafted narratives designed to make a compelling argument for the exec’s proposed strategy.
Bezos’ focus on in-depth structured writing has become leadership lore recently amid his claims that Amazon has “outlawed PowerPoint.”
For Amazon executives, the benefit of the narrative essays is two-fold.
For the creator, the writing is an opportunity to hone the idea and craft a compelling argument. Any effort that would have gone toward slide transitions and delivery can go toward solidifying the strategy.
It also forces stakeholders to take in the whole idea. It’s a chance for careful reflection rather than gut reactions.
According to Bezos, it’s been a game changer.
“A junior executive comes in, they put a huge amount of effort into developing a PowerPoint presentation, they put the third slide up, and the most senior executive in the room has already interrupted them, thrown them off their game, asking questions about what is going to be presented in slide six, if they would just stay quiet for a moment…”
Changing the Narrative
Bezos’ push for prose relies on a tight structure, and he suggests people work through multiple drafts with feedback and breaks to revisit the material.
Amazon developed seven writing rules to maximize the impact of these memos.
There’s no doubt that a full narrative isn’t right for every communication effort. Sometimes a short, punchy recap, compelling graphic or well-structured PowerPoint deck is the way to go.
But for Bezos and Amazon, there’s no substitute for a good story.