April 25th 2007

Jeff Bezos on Company culture (from Change or Die -Alan Deutschman)

In 1995 Bezos was first building up Amazon. His colleagues brought in job candidate after job candidate. Bezos refused to hire any of them, even though the company was desperately short -staffed and growing exponentially. Bezos knew that he wanted people who were frugal, resourceful, who loved to analyze information, try new things and take big risks, like himself. It was ridiculously difficult to get a job there in the earliest days. After he hired the first few dozen people they established a culture that was self-perpetuating. (Then he could let others do the hiring. )The early personalities established a cultural DNA , a replicating genetic code. Newcomers would come to a place that had its own well-defined set values, beliefs, practises, skills, quirks, and even delusions. They would then model their behavior on people around them, becoming either a good fit or choosing to leave. Bezos says,” Cultures evolve from that early set of people. Once it is formed it tends to become extremely stable, it stays around. It ends up building on itself”.

Lesson learned would be for you to look around your company to “see, hear and feel” your culture that has grown from those early days/hires. If you want to change the culture, its again all about the people you bring in. In the early  days its all up to you.  And Speed kills.

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