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The Customer is Always Right
Dec 30, 2009

"There are two ways that companies can extend what they're doing. One is they can take an inventory of their skills and competencies, and then they can say, "OK, with this set of skills and competencies, what else can we do?" And that's a very useful technique that all companies should use.

But there's a second method, which takes a longer-term orientation. It is to say, rather than ask what are we good at and what else can we do with that skill, you ask, who are our customers? What do they need? And then you say we're going to give that to them regardless of whether we currently have the skills to do so, and we will learn those skills no matter how long it takes.

Kindle is a great example of that. It's been on the market for two years, but we worked on it for three years in earnest before that. We talked about it for a year before that. We had to go hire people to build a hardware--engineering team to build the device. We had to acquire new skills. There's a tendency, I think, for executives to think that the right course of action is to stick to the knitting—stick with what you're good at. That may be a generally good rule, but the problem is the world changes out from under you if you're not constantly adding to your skill set. "  So says Jeff Bezos in an interesting interview in this week's Newsweek.

Wayne Gretzky called it "skating to where the puck is going." The lesson learned through Amazon's Kindle's success is just that ; listening and understanding where the customer is going, their future needs, their lifestyle adaptations and then having the business sense and courage to change direction despite how secure you may feel you presently are.

The future really belongs to those who help reinvent it doesn't it.


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"How You Do What You Do", by Bob Livingston

 
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