Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently shared why he doesn’t like the term “work-life balance,” why companies should strive for consumers’ trust and his career transition from investment banking to entrepreneurship, among other topics, during an interview in Berlin. Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, interviewed the mogul, who also received the Axel Springer Award 2018 at the event.
You can watch the full interview below, but here are some of the points that stood out from the chat.
On why he thinks “work-life balance” is a “debilitating phrase”
“This work-life harmony thing is what I try to teach young employees and actually senior executives at Amazon too. But especially the people coming in. I get asked about work-life balance all the time. And my view is, that’s a debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off. And the reality is, if I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy. And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy.
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“It actually is a circle; it’s not a balance. And I think that is worth everybody paying attention to it. You never want to be that guy — and we all have a coworker who’s that person — who as soon as they come into a meeting they drain all the energy out of the room. You can just feel the energy go whoosh! You don’t want to be that guy. You want to come into the office and give everyone a kick in their step.”
On the implications of how companies manage “data security and privacy”
“I think with customers one of the reasons we have been able to extend into new business areas and pursue new product categories. Going way back, we just sold books, and then we started selling music and DVDs and electronics and toys and so on, and then we extended into electronic reading with Kindle. The reason customers have been receptive in large part to our new initiatives is because we have worked hard to earn their trust with them.
“Earning trust with customers is a valuable business asset. And if you mistreat their data, they will know, they will figure it out. Customers are very smart. You should never underestimate customers.”
On why he switched from investment banking to entrepreneurship
“I think I always wanted to do it, even since I was a kid. I had the idea. I was one of those people who every time I looked at something it looks like it could be improved — there’s something wrong with it. So I’d go through, like, how could this restaurant be better? So I’ve always had that kind of idea.
“I think the great thing about humans, in general, is we’re always improving things. And so if entrepreneurs and inventors follow their curiosity and they follow their passions, and they figure something out and they figure out how to make it. And they’re never satisfied. You need to harness that. In my view, you need to harness that energy primarily on your customers instead of on your competitors.”