The first was a great interview with Jeff Bezos in the October HBR (just arrived today so no link yet), in which Bezos discussed the approach to strategy at Amazon.
There are a number of good bits here, not least his observations that 1) Critics and analysts have frequently attacked Amazons' new developments as distractions or potentially destructive to the core business, from relentlessly lowering prices to Amazon prime. 2) And Bezos' own empirical observation that most new "seeds" (what he calls new ideas in the interview) take 5-7 years to have a meaningful impact on the economics of the company.
So how do they do it? Not, it turns out, by chasing the latest thing but by focusing on what probably won't change. In Amazon’s case, that means focusing on what Bezos calls consumer ingishts. In other words, what consumer's want and are likley to keep wanting from Amazon: selection, price and fast delivery.
"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 are going to have to change your strategy pretty rapidly too."
Another key factor in this world of increasing transparency was Bezos' deciding to align yourself with the customer, even if it pisses off your partners.
"But when the intellectual conversation gets too hard because of these potential cannibalization issues, we take a simpleminded approach.... Well, what's better for the customer."Of course, these decisions are easier (or possible) when you have Amazon's leverage, a point Bezos acknowledges. But it’s a competitive advantage they’ve developed through years of hard work, creating efficiencies in their operations.
Perhaps most interesting from a planner in the digital age perspective are his descriptions on what Amazon really does. It emerges in his response to another early critic of their revolutionary decision to include negative reviews on their site.
“I would get letter from publishers saying, ‘Why do you allow negative reviews on your website? Why don’t you just show the positive reviews?’ One letter said, ‘Maybe you don't understand your business. You make money when you sell things.’ But I thought to myself: we don't make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions."
The second was the radio. But I'm out of time so I'll save it for tomorrow.