Working Backwards Book Summary - Working Backwards Book explained in key points
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Working Backwards summary

Colin Bryar

And Other Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon

4.4 (143 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

Working Backwards by Colin Bryar is an inside look at Amazon's culture of innovation and their unique approach to problem-solving with real examples and practical advice.

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    Working Backwards
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    Amazon’s leadership principles are the foundations of its success.

    Amazon’s story starts with one man. In 1994, Jeff Bezos worked for a New York hedge fund. That year, Bezos learned that in the coming years, the user base of the internet was predicted to grow by over two thousand percent annually. Soon after, he made a bold decision that embodied the leadership principles that would come to define Amazon’s philosophy: he quit his hedge fund job and made plans to start his own Internet-based business. 

    Bezos realized that books were the perfect product for an e-commerce business. Even the biggest bookshops could only carry tens of thousands of titles at a time, whereas over a million books were in print in the United States alone. By offering an online bookstore, Bezos would be able to offer almost every book that was available. 

    The key message here is: Amazon’s leadership principles are the foundations of its success.

    Bezos’ visionary thinking exemplified Amazon’s Invent and Simplify principle. Amazon leaders are always searching for new and innovative ways to get things done. 

    By quitting his job, Bezos also demonstrated another principle: a Bias for Action. Amazon leaders believe that speed is crucial to business success. Even if you make a mistake by acting too hastily, you can usually recover. Rather than spending a lot of time studying your options, it’s better to take a calculated risk, like Bezos did when he left the hedge fund. 

    Additionally, by daring to be part of the Internet revolution, Bezos wasn’t afraid to Think Big. This is a key principle for Amazon’s leaders, who understand that dreaming small only leads to small achievements. Instead, the people at Amazon envision a bright, bold future, and it’s this vision that inspires their incredible results. 

    When Bezos started his online bookstore, the company’s first offices were in a cramped basement in Seattle. Instead of proper desks, they used old doors nailed to four-by-fours. This embodied the principle of Frugality that still exists at Amazon. Leaders are celebrated for getting more done with less, and there are no prizes for rising headcounts or budgets. 

    Finally, although Amazon told its customers that their books would be sent via first-class post, in fact, each book was sent via priority mail. This cost the company more, but it delighted customers when their books arrived much sooner than expected. Today, an Obsession with Customer Experience still lies at the heart of every decision Amazon makes. 

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    What is Working Backwards about?

    Working Backwards (2021) tells the story of how Amazon changed the way people live. It explores founder Jeff Bezos’ leadership philosophy, and reveals how this philosophy has informed Amazon’s most iconic products and services

    Working Backwards Review

    Working Backwards (2021) by Colin Bryar is a fascinating book that provides valuable insights into the inner workings of Amazon and its unique culture. Here's why this book is well worth reading:

    • With its behind-the-scenes look at Amazon's leadership principles and customer obsession, it offers practical lessons that can be applied to any business.
    • The book shares firsthand accounts from senior Amazon leaders, providing a deep understanding of how the company operates and innovates.
    • Through its compelling anecdotes and examples, it brings the Amazon story to life, keeping readers engaged and eager to learn more.

    Who should read Working Backwards?

    • Executive coaches looking for fresh insights
    • Entrepreneurs hoping to turbo-charge their business
    • Managers wanting to boost their teams’ performance

    About the Author

    Colin Bryar spent twelve years as a senior leader at Amazon, and served as chief of staff to Jeff Bezos. 

    Bill Carr is a former Amazon Vice President of Digital Media. Carr managed the launch of Amazon Music as well as Prime Video. Bryar and Carr are cofounders of Working Backwards LLC, an executive coaching firm that teaches business leaders how to implement Amazon’s management practices.

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    Working Backwards FAQs 

    What is the main message of Working Backwards?

    The main message of Working Backwards is how Amazon built and maintained its culture of innovation and customer obsession.

    How long does it take to read Working Backwards?

    The reading time for Working Backwards varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Working Backwards a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Working Backwards is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in learning from Amazon's approach to business. It provides valuable insights and actionable strategies.

    Who is the author of Working Backwards?

    The author of Working Backwards is Colin Bryar.

    What to read after Working Backwards?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Working Backwards, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Why Motivating People Doesn't Work ... and What Does by Susan Fowler
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