You have arrived at the web home of Noah Brier. This is mostly an archive of over a decade of blogging and other writing. You can read more about me or get in touch. If you want more recent writing of mine, most of that is at my BrXnd marketing x AI newsletter and Why Is This Interesting?, a daily email for the intellectually omnivorous.

September, 2021

2xTuesday: Bezos Decisionmaking Framework

Making good decisions depends on understanding whether they're reversible or not.

Welcome to another edition of 2xTuesday, our series that brings you one 2x2 every week.

Are your decisions reversible and consequential?

Today's 2x2 comes from none other than Jeff Bezos. It's all about understandin the kind of decision you're making and the best tools and speed with which to make it. The Y-axis is about how reversible the decision is—can it easily be changed down the road? The X-axis is focused on how consequential, or important, the decision is. Irreversible/consequential decisions should be handled with time, care, and research, but reversible decisions can be approached differently. Understanding what kind of decision you're making can both increase the speed with which you can make it and the quality of the outcome.

The 2x2 comes from a 2016 letter to shareholders in which Bezos laid outhow Amazon goes about making good decisions as quickly as possible in its effort to be an "invention machine":

We want to be a large company that’s also an invention machine. We want to combine the extraordinary customer-serving capabilities that are enabled by size with the speed of movement, nimbleness, and risk-acceptance mentality normally associated with entrepreneurial start-ups.

Can we do it? I’m optimistic. We have a good start on it, and I think our culture puts us in a position to achieve the goal. But I don’t think it’ll be easy. There are some subtle traps that even high-performing large organizations can fall into as a matter of course, and we’ll have to learn as an institution how to guard against them. One common pitfall for large organizations – one that hurts speed and inventiveness – is “one-size-fits-all” decision making.

Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.
September 21, 2021
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