> At both Viaweb and YC, every minute I spent thinking about competitors was, in retrospect, a minute wasted.
> It may be useful for some companies to think about competitors. That's why I didn't phrase it as a general rule. In particular it may be useful for more established companies to. If a startup has to, though, they're probably doomed.
Also a quote from Jeff Bezos:
> “If you want to get to the truth about what makes us different, it’s this: We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long-term oriented, and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not those things. They are focused on the competitor, rather than the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don’t work in two or three years, they will move on to something else. And they prefer to be close followers rather than inventors, because it’s safer. So if you want to capture the truth about Amazon, that is why we are different. Very few companies have all of those three elements.”
As a side note, I added […] in the title to show this isn't the complete text but it got scrubbed then removed.
Back around the mid- or early '90s there was a management theory trend of working to identify institutional best practices and of formally benchmarking https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benchmarking institutions against peers (often competitors). I don't recall much detail about it at all, because I was only a teenager at the time and I only heard about it from the summaries you'd see in magazines like the Economist. But what I do seem to recall is that (like many another management-theory trend) it went through a phase of red-hot excitement to widespread skepticism and moderate disillusionment, and partly for the obvious reasons: benchmarking competitors usually can't on its own deliver much insight into how to outperform the current leader in any given area, and doesn't usually offer much of an insight into future opportunities or challenges. So (it seems) even for established companies there are limits to how competitor-focussed it's usually advisable to be.
(AFAICT—and again, I'm just someone who read about this stuff in magazines as a child—this kind of management-theory/theory-of-the-firm study and experimentation really was much more prominent in the public eye twenty-five or more years ago, and has faded from popular awareness since; maybe because the work itself is less common, and less influential on institutions, nowadays too. I think that's a pity, because it seems relevant to some supposedly-new things you see generating excitement nowadays, especially in the vicinity of the tech industry. For example the whole Valve structureless-or-notionally-structureless-organisation effort is probably pretty well prefigured in the work of a generation of management consultants who looked at and tried out all kinds of institutional structures or absences of structure beside the traditional corporate model, generally in pursuit of much the same ends—more innovation, more amenability to change, better decision-making—and with similar mixed-to-disappointing results.
That's all for now kids. Next week, the X-Files. ;) )
There are some cases where I think we've failed at it, speaking for myself and not the company of course, but the concept is still the driving force behind a lot of what goes on. "Start with the customer". Amazon Go is a pretty big recent example where the company is really proud internally of the customer obsession that went into it.
Bias note: I've been an Amazon dude a long time now.
It makes a lot of sense for any company to operate this way (most I've seen already do) and explains how they can be genuinely customer-obsessed while still seeming like at times they don't have the average consumer's best interest at heart.
Also, the warehouse processes at least are heavily designed around catching mistakes like mislabeling, but less so intentional fraud like fakes (or - they were a few years ago, imo). And they tend to treat fraud like a big data problem ('what can we do to lower this statistic') instead of case-by-case: 'we need to get rid of every fraudulent seller'. Which, like, if you try really hard to move a needle from, say, 80% to 95%, that ultimately means you are vocally okay with 5%, which is stupid.
> Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
Listed first on both https://www.amazondelivers.jobs/about/culture/ and https://aws.amazon.com/careers/culture/
But Ads ? They only harm customers.
So yes, they're less customer centric.
And The Customer doesn't have to mean the person who buys stuff from an Amazon listing.