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Outlier’s Path

What’s Not Going to Change?

One of my favorite Jeff-isms is his answer to a question at an Amazon all-hands meeting. An employee asked a seemingly straightforward question to the founder of a pioneering company, “what’s gonna change in the next 10 years?”

Jeff replied in his usual unconventional way, “I do get asked, quite frequently: ‘what’s gonna change in the next 10 years?’ I rarely get asked, and it’s probably more important — and I encourage you to think about this — is the question what’s not going to change? The answer to that question can allow you to organize your activities. You can work on those things with the confidence to know that all the energy you put into them today is still going to pay dividends in the years to come.”

At AWS: Reinvent 2012, Jeff elaborated further starting at 4:30 of his fireside chat with Werner Vogels. We know customers want low prices, convenience, and selection today and we know that is true ten years from now. There is no world where a customer will want to have less choice, pay more for the same product when they can pay less, or want a product delivered to them more slowly versus more quickly. This simple insight led to Amazon’s focus on low prices, convenience, and selection and its long-term success in e-commerce.

In a world of accelerating change, we do our best to keep up with outlier founders who have novel and compelling insights that lead to innovative products and services. At the same time, it is around the things that do not change that we can build a long-term strategy, business, and company that will stand the test of time.

This is an important reminder that no matter how much or how quickly things change to focus on the enduring.