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- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained during an on-stage interview on Friday the strange meetings Amazon holds.
- Every meeting requires a well-crafted six-page memo which the whole room sits and reads at the start of the meeting.
- Bezos banned PowerPoint years ago and explained why the memo-driven meeting is far superior.
If you go to work as an executive at Amazon, no matter what your expertise, you will be required to become a good writer, and a good reader, in order to lead the meetings necessary to do your job.
And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos fully admits that this will likely be ‘weird,’ he explained during an on-stage interview at the George Bush Presidential Center on Friday.
“No PowerPoints are used inside Amazon,” he said. “When we hire a new executive from outside [we warn], this is the weirdest meeting culture you ever encounter.”
He explained, “For every meeting, someone from the meeting has prepared a six-page, narratively structured memo that has real sentences and topic sentences and verbs. It’s not just bullet points. It’s supposed to create the context for the discussion we’re about to have.”
Everyone then sits and reads the memo silently, which often takes a good half-hour. And then they discuss the memo.
These meetings are “so much better than the typical PowerPoint presentation for so many reasons,” he said. He didn’t go into the reasons why on stage, but he had discussed his views on memo-driven meetings in his recently published annual letter to shareholders. (And he has, in years past, explained his ban on PowerPoint.)
In the letter, he explained that writing a brilliant, long memo requires the writer to understand the subject well. It also requires the writer to “improve results through the simple act of teaching scope.” By that he means doing a great job requires effort, not speed. “A great memo probably should take a week or more” to write, he said in the letter.
On stage on Friday, Bezos explained that since it takes so much time to create a great memo, he uses a foolproof method to ensure everyone reads it.
“We read [the memos] in the room. Just like high school kids, executives will bluff their way through the meeting as if they’ve read the memo. So you have to carve out time so everyone has actually read the memo – they are not just pretending,” he said.
Ultimately “a brilliant and thoughtful” memo will “set up the meeting for high-quality discussion,” he explained.
There might be another reason for this “weird” meeting culture. Bezos is a book lover who started Amazon as an online book store. Reading is in the company’s DNA.