After reading the recent New York Times article Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace it occurred to me that the article wasn’t really about Amazon being a difficult place to work but rather the story of Amazon being the place to be to prepare for tomorrow’s workplace.
In the not too distant future most companies will be run by computers. Yes there will still be people managing the computers but most of the work will be done by the machines, which will replace many of the current employees.
Amazon is one of the most advanced companies in the world regarding automation of business processes and decision making.
Based on the New York Times article it appears that Amazon has already implemented many processes that future companies will be managed by. While many tech companies appear to be moving in this direction, I believe Amazon has advanced the most towards the future company employment world.
Data and algorithms drive much of the decision making at the company. Virtually all the pricing and product display decisions you see on the Amazon website are solely made by algorithms.
Amazon is where you could be trained to be the next generation executive.
At Amazon you will learn how to outshine, outperform and outsmart all your coworkers. In essence to compete and win in corporate America.
Amazon will also teach you how to create highly profitable and high growth fully automated businesses.
Maximizing revenues in these future organizations will be best handled by those best versed in optimization software and AI. Perhaps we’ll see a CAO, Chief Algorithm Officer alongside the CEO and CFO.
Those experienced in creation and management of the fully automated enterprise will be highly sought after employees.
Amazon could offer you the opportunity to learn the skills to position yourself to become a CEO of a major company by the time you are 30.
However, be advised that if you do choose to take a job at Amazon there is a high probability your employment won’t be long term as most people won’t succeed at Amazon. During your time at Amazon you will also be subject to a lot of stress.
But don’t let this discourage you as this is the new employment paradigm and it’s just that, new and still being optimized.
There will be far fewer employees at these automated organizations; to keep your job you will need to be at the top of your game every day from 9 am to whenever you finish.
If you do last long enough to become a top performer you may become one of the elitist few that are positioned for success in the new global fast track high performance economy.
Why do I believe all this? Just keep reading and you will see that since inception Jeff Bezos has designed Amazon to be a business machine. While you may think you are great at multi-tasking you have no chance against an algorithm.
The most successful employees of the future will know how to harness the algorithms and to maximize their output based on the organizations KPIs. Those still trying to compete with the computers will fail miserably.
Optimizing Human Algorithms
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Founder and Chief Executive has always been a big thinker. He knew back in 1995, when he started the business that he needed to do more, lots more if he was to achieve his big dream.
“You can work long, hard or smart, but at Amazon you can’t choose two out of three” according to Jeff Bezos’ 1997 letter to shareholders.
Many years later his philosophy is in full force.
In a recent New York Times article, Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace reporters interviewed 100 current and former Amazon employees as to what it’s like to work at the company.
While many sordid stories were told; employees recovering from life threatening diseases given performance warnings, such a high level of stress that Bo Olson, a former book marketer stated “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”, the overall sense was of a company looking to maximize employee performance.
Even rebuttals to the article by Amazon employees confirm the core philosophies:
“An Amazon spokesman previously confirmed that the company seeks to manage out a certain percentage of its work force every year; the size of the goal varies from year to year.”
Also, according to the New York Times article “Company veterans often say that the genius of Amazon is the way it drives them to drive themselves. “If you’re a good Amazonian, you become an Amabot” said one employee, using a term that means you have become at one with the system.”
Employees at Amazon warehouses are monitored to ensure they are packing enough boxes each hour.
In its offices Amazon uses a more psychological approach with a self-reinforcing set of management, data and psychological tools designed to encourage its thousands of white collar workers to do lots more.
“The company is running a continuous performance improvement algorithm on its staff”, according to Amy Michaels, a former Kindle marketer as noted in the New York Times article.
Amazon’s management system is designed to use lots of data as well as pressure and stress to push employees to perform at the highest levels. The leadership has sanctioned a culture of rigorous, constant performance feedback and incessant competition among peers who fear missing a potential problem and all who race to be the first one with the right answer.
At Amazon data drives much of the decision making. Employees are responsible for keeping up with a staggering set of metrics and data which regularly culminates in intense weekly and monthly business review meetings.
As little as 2 days prior to the meetings employees receive upwards of 60 page print outs which they need to learn thoroughly as they may be questioned on any or all of the thousands of numbers.
As in “survival of the fittest”, those not fit for any reason (knowledge, sickness or whatever) will not make the grade and most likely will be washed out.
When one looks at all of these comments cumulatively it almost sounds like a computer program or algorithm. The only difference is these are rules for people not computer programs. The programmers are the Amazon leadership.
In digital parlance they call this optimization. The only difference at Amazon is they are optimizing human performance as opposed to algorithmic performance.
Amazon, the Future is Here Today
Amazon has set very high targets for itself. The company has created and is managing hundreds if not thousands of different businesses.
Imagine trying to manage all these businesses; you would first have to understand all the different businesses. Not an easy task as Amazon has wide range of b2b and b2c businesses some of which range from enterprise cloud hosting to consumer products like Kindle, is both a hardware manufacturer and book publisher, Amazon produces TV Shows, sells HDTVs and now is testing hot food delivery.
How do they do it? Data. Humans start the businesses and then gradually integrate the software into the businesses. Humans guide the software development and aid the software in learning and studying the businesses. In the final stages the software will be running, optimizing and growing the businesses overseen by a limited human staff.
Perhaps in the future Amazon may become the first company that is substantially run by computers.
The Human Opportunity
Amazon is not there yet. That’s the good news as you can be part of the transformation and benefit from the learning.
You will have two key types of learning; First you’ll be learning how to use data and software to create, learn and optimize businesses-how to create an automated company. The second type of learning will be how to thrive in the new highly competitive corporate world where there will be far fewer jobs.
Future companies will be expected to achieve extremely steep revenue and profit growth. In order to compete humans just won’t cut it. We’re too slow. Computers are far faster at processing data. Computers will enable companies to scale growth exponentially.
Eventually the AI, artificial intelligence, systems will be able to create businesses on their own and companies will need far less people.
I would estimate the window for this “Amazon Training” to be between 5 and 10 years. Perhaps shorter.
If you are in your 20’s now you should be doing whatever it takes to get a job at Amazon, in your 30’s it is still valuable and if you’re 40 or older you may want to ask yourself if you want to work in that kind of competitive and stressful environment before moving forward.
The future will arrive whether we’re prepared or not. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t get “trained” at Amazon someone else will. Currently Amazon is the only company I would consider for this training but I’m sure there will more companies soon.
In the future companies will need less employees so the competition for jobs will be very intense. Those who have been on the battlefield will be better prepared and more experienced in how to succeed in the new corporate world.
This article is not a satire. It is my prediction. You may want to read the New York Times article and then tell me how realistic you think my future predictions are.