I’ve linked before to pieces about Amazon’s culture of long-form writing and memos in place of PowerPoint for meetings and conveying new business concepts. In their case, the discipline around this kind of thoroughness comes from the top. In this piece by Jean-Louis Gassée, he references Bezos’s own writing in his famous annual shareholder letters. I read these every year. It’s a great example of a practice I value — using writing and long-form narrative to explain the ins and outs of an idea. Bullets, outlines, and emails leave too much room for ambiguity, and therefore don’t force the level of detailed thinking through of an idea.
I love this bit from his 2010 letter, on the ideas that eventually evolved into AWS:
In 2010, he penned a tribute to Amazon’s engineers by explaining, and not just in layman’s terms, what they do. The tone was just right, neither disingenuously geeky nor overtly tongue-in-cheek:
“The diversity of products demands that we employ modern regression techniques like trained random forests of decision trees to flexibly incorporate thousands of product attributes at rank time… Now, if the eyes of some shareowners dutifully reading this letter are by this point glazing over, I will awaken you by pointing out that, in my opinion, these techniques are not idly pursued — they lead directly to free cash flow.”
What he was doing, although we may not have fully appreciated it at the time, was giving a brief tour of AWS, arguably Amazon’s most important technology.
He has an enviable ability to communicate in narrative format that everyone should strive to get good at.