E-commerce giant Amazon has its hands in dozens of businesses: publishing, television, hardware, the cloud, logistics, meal kits, and grocery, to name just a few.
“We try to create separable single-threaded teams,” he said, adding, “If we can keep it separable, we can focus energies.” He explained that the teams essentially don’t work on anything else—for example, the person who owns Alexa thinks about nothing but Alexa. “We’re as pure as we can be,” he said. If an employee is focused on too many things, it gives them less time to notice the things that aren’t going well, he explained.
To figure out what a new business should be, he said that the company starts by writing a press release and FAQ that imagines what a service or produce would look like at launch.
He said it’s Amazon’s job to “wander the world with divine discontent” and that the company is constantly looking for what that next press release could be. “We accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time,” he said.
Wilke also discussed the company’s pending acquisition of Whole Foods, explaining that “we’re fans” and that its focus on the customer seemed like a good match. He also noted that if you just look at the demographics, it appears that the two companies have a lot of overlap.
Wilke has a personal connection to the company. He grew up a “meat and potatoes guy” in Pittsburgh, but he learned to eat in a different and healthier way when we moved to the West Coast. Whole Foods, he said, “invented the natural and organic category.”