- Jeff Bezos believes that the best leaders are “right a lot.”
- The CEO of Amazon was asked about this unusual belief at the Amazon re:MARS conference on Thursday.
- He explained that the people who are right a lot have a lot in common. And one of the most important traits is that they change their minds a lot.
- If that sounds like those people are simply wishy-washy, here’s why Bezos believes it’s actually a vital skill.
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Some of these company credos are fairly well known: Amazon’s customer obsession or its frugality, for instance.
But on Thursday, Bezos was asked about one of the odder company principles; the one that he has called his favorite: that leaders “are right a lot.”
Bezos was speaking on stage at the Amazon re:MARS conference in Las Vegas, a gathering devoted to AI, robotics and space tech. He was being interviewed by his employee, Jenny Freshwater, who is Amazon’s director of forecasting.
“Yeah, I like people who are right a lot,” Bezos laughed when Freshwater asked him about it.
But then he admitted that simply proclaiming that good leaders are right a lot “is not super helpful. It’s an obvious desire.” To actually be consistently correct requires other important qualities. And Bezos said that he’s detected some common patterns among that group of people.
“People who are right a lot, they listen a lot. They also change their mind a lot,” he said.
Have the discipline to “disconfirm” your biases
Changing your mind a lot is not something that’s always viewed as a good quality, Bezos acknowledged. In politics for instance, a person who changes their mind a lot is labeled a “flip-flopper” – something that’s considered a negative trait.
But the Amazon CEO sees value in having a change of mind.
And while tech companies like Amazon are famous for relying on data to make quantitative decisions, Bezos stressed that this isn’t just about data. In fact, people that are right a lot often do it without any new info, he said. They simply sleep on what they’ve heard and sometimes come to a new decision.
There’s also some simple math involved. “The world is so dynamic that if you don’t change your mind a lot, you’re just, by definition, going to be wrong a lot,” Bezos pointed out.
So does that mean that people who are right a lot are really just wishy-washy? Succeeding more by chance than by smarts?
Not the kind of people that Bezos is talking about.
He’s talking about people who very deliberately and willing question their own assumptions. “They work very hard to discipline themselves, they want to disconfirm their foundational biases and things. And this is very unnatural for human beings. We are very selective in our evidence gathering.”
We prefer to look for evidence to confirm the bias. “It’s a very human thing to do,” he says. But people who are right a lot can see the beliefs they “hold firmly” and they “actively try to look for evidence that disconfirms that idea.”
He said, ‘If you can do that, you are going to be right more often.”