Jeff Bezos is one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. He started Amazon from scratch, and over the course of two decades, made it one of the most valuable companies in the world. Through his journey, Bezos must’ve made thousands of decisions, big and small, that shaped the course of his company.
Jeff Bezos’ one-way door and two-way door decisions
Jeff Bezos has a unique approach to decision making. He categorizes decisions as one-way doors and two-way doors. “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,” Bezos says.
“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,” he adds.
Bezos says that most decisions are Type 2 decisions, but organizations and companies spend time thinking on them as though they were Type 2 decisions. “As organizations get larger, there seems to be a tendency to use the heavy-weight Type decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions,” he says.
Bezos says this results in companies becoming slow and mediocre. “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,” he says.
Bezos’ decision making framework allows for quick decision making, regularly checking on progress, and then updating decisions if needed. Crucially, it enables organizations to make quick decisions, without getting bogged down with too many details. And this approach seems to have worked for Bezos — Amazon has displayed extreme agility as it has become one of the most valuable companies in the world.