Key Principles for Creating Retail Disruption Shared at The NATSO Show


Since it was founded, Amazon has disrupted the retail market and changed the way consumers shop. The ability to drive that disruption stemmed from a handful of key principles, that John Rossman, Author of The Amazon Way, said other business leaders can follow to drive innovation in their own industries.

Rossman made his remarks while addressing attendees at The NATSO Show 2017 in Savannah, Ga. He drew on his first-hand experience at Amazon and the 14 principles that make up “the Amazon way.”

Rossman told attendees the first principle is “Obsess Over the Customer” and said Amazon works vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. “When everything is equal, this breaks the tie,” he said.

Another is “Invent and Simplify.” “Simple is important from a customer experience. Simple process, simple roles and simple definition of requirements scale better,” Rossman said, adding that Amazon will ask itself, ‘What is the worst customer experience,’ and then try to improve it.

While at Amazon, Rossman said employees “practiced not only what decisions we were going to make but why we were going to make them.”

Focusing on underlying decisions can help businesses compete differently and best determine where to allocate resources, and there are a handful of key principles that can aid business owners as they prepare for the future. 

One key leadership principle at the online retailer is “Have a Backbone—Disagree and Commit.” “Vigorous debate is great, but when we make a decision, we buy into it and move forward,” Rossman said.

Amazon employees focused on writing out plans in narratives when considering new ideas or avenues to pursue. The narratives, which were two-to-six page, thoughtfully crafted documents, allow others to reflect on the objective when planning. “Teams would absolutely scour over the articulation of what they’re proposing to have done. That was a great way to get cross functional or collaborative,” Rossman said. “Think about how you develop your plans. Force the clarity, which will come by writing it out.”

An operational leader at Amazon also has the notion that there is no ‘no.’ “They create an environment and hire people who can figure out how to get to ‘yes,’” Rossman said.

Rossman urged attendees to consider applying some of the principles to their own businesses as they prepare for the future. “As you think about how to compete differently and where to allocate your precious resources…think about the underlying decisions. By doing that you’ll make better decisions on a regular basis and create a lower bureaucracy organization,” he said. 

Photo credit: Brittany Palmer/NATSO 

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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