Jeff Bezos? Wolfgang R. Schmitt? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Business leaders in technology-based companies are often asked for ten year predictions of change. Apparently, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, once responded by spinning the inquiry. He said there was a more important question:
What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?
He argued that the answer was crucial because a company foundation must be built upon things that do not change. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: In October 2007 “Harvard Business Review” published an interview with Jeff Bezos. He stated that expanding into new areas was vital, but a nascent enterprise required five to seven years of nurturing before it could make a meaningful contribution to company economics. He was asked how he maintained confidence that such an investment would pay off: 1
It helps to base your strategy on things that won’t change. When I’m talking with people outside the company, there’s a question that comes up very commonly: “What’s going to change in the next five to ten years?” But I very rarely get asked “What’s not going to change in the next five to ten years?”
At Amazon we’re always trying to figure that out, because you can really spin up flywheels around those things. All the energy you invest in them today will still be paying you dividends ten years from now. Whereas if you base your strategy first and foremost on more transitory things—who your competitors are, what kind of technologies are available, and so on—those things are going to change so rapidly that you’re going to have to change your strategy very rapidly, too.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 2007 October, Harvard Business Review (HBR), Article: The Institutional Yes, (Interview of Jeff Bezos conducted by HBR editors Julia Kirby and Thomas A. Stewart; interview was published in the magazine and on the website), Description: Magazine and website about management published by Harvard University of Massachusetts. (Accessed hbr.org March 3, 2021) link ↩