9 min read

50+ Jeff Bezos Quotes on Innovation and Company Building

This post doesn’t list every single quote Jeff Bezos has ever made.

Instead, I have selected and organized quotes by the most important principles he used to build Amazon. These are the principles he used to create a company with over $500 billion in revenue, 1.5 million employees and $1 trillion in value.

Put together, these are a masterclass on innovation and company building.

Let’s get to it.

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Business

"Your margin is my opportunity."

“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.”

"We've done price elasticity studies, and the answer is always that we should raise prices. We don't do that, because we believe -- and we have to take this as an article of faith -- that by keeping our prices very, very low, we earn trust with customers over time, and that that actually does maximize free cash flow over the long term."

"If you're long-term oriented, customer interests and shareholder interests are aligned."

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Company Building

“There are two ways to extend a business. Take inventory of what you are good at and extend out from your skills. Or determine what your customers need and work backwards, even if it requires learning new skills.”

"I strongly believe that missionaries make better products. They care more. For a missionary, it's not just about the business. There has to be a business, and the business has to make sense, but that's not why you do it. You do it because you have something meaningful that motivates you."

"All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you're Woolworth's."

"In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts."

"There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second."

"If you only do things where you know the answer in advance, your company goes away.”

"A company shouldn't get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn't last."

“Luck plays an outsized role in every endeavor”

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Customer Obsession

"We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient."

"If you're competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering."

"You can have the best technology, you can have the best business model, but if the storytelling isn't amazing, it won't matter. Nobody will watch."

“There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.”

“Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design.”

“I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.”

We invent before we have to. These investments are motivated by customer focus rather than by reaction to competition. We think this approach earns more trust with customers and drives rapid improvements in customer experience – importantly – even in those areas where we are already the leader."

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Customer Service

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”

"One advantage — perhaps a somewhat subtle one — of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we're at our best, we don't wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to.”

“There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it.”

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Decision Making

“If I have three good decisions a day, that’s enough.” “They should just be as high quality as I can make them.”

"All of my best decisions in business and in life have been made with heart, intuition, guts... not analysis.”

“Sometimes we measure things and see that in the short term they actually hurt sales, and we do it anyway.”

"We are comfortable planting seeds and waiting for them to grow into trees."

“One common pitfall for large organizations – one that hurts speed and inventiveness – is 'one-size-fits-all' decision making...The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention. We’ll have to figure out how to fight that tendency."

"The smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they'd already solved. They're open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking."

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Long-Term Thinking

"Friends congratulate me after a quarterly-earnings announcement and say, 'Good job, great quarter.'" "And I'll say, 'Thank you, but that quarter was baked three years ago.'"

"We don't focus on the optics of the next quarter; we focus on what is going to be good for customers.”

“‘Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?’” “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” “To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.”

“Day 2 companies make high-quality decisions, but they make high-quality decisions slowly. To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1, you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions.”

“People who are right a lot listen a lot, and they change their mind a lot. People who are right a lot change their mind without a lot of new data. They wake up and reanalyze things and change their mind. If you don’t change your mind frequently, you’re going to be wrong a lot. People who are right a lot want to disconfirm their fundamental biases. “

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Innovation

"You have to be willing to be misunderstood if you're going to innovate."

"We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent."

"Market research doesn't help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said, 'would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?' I guarantee you they'd have looked at you strangely and said, 'No, thank you.'"

“I do get asked, quite frequently: ‘what’s gonna change in the next 10 years?’ I rarely get asked, and it’s probably more important — and I encourage you to think about this — is the question what’s not going to change? The answer to that question can allow you to organize your activities. You can work on those things with the confidence to know that all the energy you put into them today is still going to pay dividends in the years to come.”

“Failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it's going to work, it's not an experiment.”

"I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out."

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Invention

"If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you're going to double your inventiveness."

"Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort. When you receive criticism from well-meaning people, it pays to ask, 'Are they right?' And if they are, you need to adapt what you're doing. If they're not right, if you really have conviction that they're not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It's a key part of invention."

"To get something new done you have to be stubborn and focused, to the point that others might find unreasonable."

“If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunities on the table.”

“No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help.”

“Development of the Fire phone and Echo was started around the same time. While the Fire phone was a failure, we were able to take our learnings (as well as the developers) and accelerate our efforts building Echo and Alexa.”

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Competition

“When [competitors are] in the shower in the morning, they're thinking about how they're going to get ahead of one of their top competitors. Here in the shower, we're thinking about how we are going to invent something on behalf of a customer."

“If you're watching your competitors, you're unlikely to invent a bunch of stuff on your own.”

“Me-too companies have not done that well over time.”

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Risk Taking

“Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight.”

“Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow.”

“To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.”

“Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

"We take risks all the time, we talk about failure. We need big failures in order to move the needle. If we don't, we're not swinging enough. You really should be swinging hard, and you will fail, but that's okay."

“We all know that if you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’re also going to hit some home runs.”

“The difference between baseball and business, however, is that baseball has a truncated outcome distribution. When you swing, no matter how well you connect with the ball, the most runs you can get is four. In business, every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs.”

“When you look at something like, go back in time when we started working on Kindle almost seven years ago…. There you just have to place a bet. If you place enough of those bets, and if you place them early enough, none of them are ever betting the company. By the time you are betting the company, it means you haven’t invented for too long.”

“As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures.”

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Resilience

"If you're not stubborn, you'll give up on experiments too soon.”

“If you're not flexible, you'll pound your head against the wall and you won't see a different solution to a problem you're trying to solve."

"If you never want to be criticized, for goodness' sake don't do anything new."

“Companies are rarely criticized for the things that they failed to try. But they are, many times, criticized for things they tried and failed at.”

“We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right. When this process works, it means our failures are relatively small in size (most experiments can start small), and when we hit on something that is really working for customers, we double-down on it with hopes to turn it into an even bigger success."

Jeff Bezos Quotes on Life Choices

“When you think about the things that you will regret when you’re 80, they’re almost always the things that you did not do. They’re acts of omission. Very rarely are you going to regret something that you did that failed and didn’t work or whatever.”

“You can have a job, or you can have a career, or you can have a calling.”

“If you can somehow figure out how to have a calling, you have hit the jackpot, cause that’s the big deal.”

“Where you are going to spend your time and your energy is one of the most important decisions you get to make in life."

“In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.”