Jeff Bezos says a 3-word phrase can help you make decisions quickly and become a better leader

career smarts bannerSamantha Lee/Business Insider

Jeff BezosCliff Owen/AP ImagesJeff Bezos, pictured, doesn't have to support every decision the company makes.Cliff Owen/AP Images

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos champions the "disagree and commit" strategy to make sure everyone's ideas are heard, but a decision is still reached.
  • He shared this strategy in his 2016 shareholder letter.
  • The approach appears to trace back to Intel co-founder and former CEO Andy Grove.

"Disagree and commit."

According to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, this simple phrase is key to organizational efficiency.

In his 2016 letter to shareholders, Bezos cited the disagree-and-commit strategy as a way to stave off what he calls "Day 2." Bezos constantly reminds his staff that it's still Day 1 for them, meaning they should never get complacent with their success. According to Bezos, Day 2 symbolizes stasis - and eventual death.

Day 1 companies make high-quality decisions quickly, Bezos writes in the letter. That's where disagreeing and committing comes in. He writes:

"If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there's no consensus, it's helpful to say, 'Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?' By the time you're at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you'll probably get a quick yes."

Read more: Jeff Bezos uses a smart tactic to make seemingly impossible decisions very easily - here's how it works

This approach appears to trace back to the late Andy Grove, co-founder and former CEO of Intel. According to Grove's biographer, Harvard Business School professor Richard S. Tedlow, one component of Intel culture urged staff to "get as many ideas as you can - but once you do, come to a decision and create what Andy the engineer calls a strategy vector."

As Business Insider's Julie Bort reported, disagreeing and committing is used to help decide which new Amazon products to pursue (like Alexa and the Echo). It's part of a broader Amazon leadership principle called "have backbone": Everyone working on a new product is obligated to share their opinion.

Amazon's website describes the principle this way:

"Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly."

In the 2016 letter, Bezos shares a personal anecdote about disagreeing and committing. He wasn't convinced that a certain Amazon Studios original was worth it; his team was all for it. So Bezos told the team, "I disagree and commit and hope it becomes the most watched thing we've ever made."

 

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