Reflection on the power of reflections

Recent performance discussions with my team prompted me to muse a little bit about reflections and the power of reflective thinking. In my mind, the biggest single value of formal performance discussions is that it prompts us to pause, reflect, and decide what we want to take away and change from those insights. Forget the forms and processes – instead, focus on the insights you can take away.

So here it goes, my reflection on the power and value of (more than annual) reflections.

Reflect to celebrate and be proud

The most immediate benefit we get from reflecting on what happened in the past is usually a feeling of accomplishment and happiness. All too often, we are solely focused on what lies ahead, and we miss recognizing and being proud of what we have already achieved. Especially in today’s busy life, it is easy to look back at a day, week, month, or year and wonder what we had actually done and accomplished during that time.

Continuously and frequently reflecting allows us to balance the scale and not only see what still lies ahead but also be proud of what has already been accomplished. Write those accomplishments down to make them real for your brain; otherwise, they will be forgotten in an instant.

Reflect to celebrate. Reflect to be proud. Reflect to feel accomplished and happy.

Reflect to acknowledge and share appreciation

Similarly, we often forget to appreciate contribution and achievement from the ones who help us move along – family, friends, co-workers. Reflection is an opportunity to pause, think about all the help we received along the way, and express a quick but heartfelt “Thank you”.

We can only succeed together, and the true leader is not defined by what they accomplish but how they engage those around them to boldly go beyond their perceived limitations.

Reflect to say thank you. Reflect to appreciate. Reflect to encourage.

Reflect to learn

Last not least, we all make mistakes all the time. And that’s ok. It’s how we learn and grow.

Reflection helps us to analyze situations in hindsight and with the 20:20 vision that hindsight provides. If we don’t reflect, we are bound to make the same mistakes over and over again. If we reflect, learn, and adjust future actions accordingly, we will embrace those slips and use them as inspiration to grow.

The only thing we can really change is the “Man in the mirror” as the famous philosopher Michael Jackson told us back in 1988 (yep, I know, I just dated myself).

Hindsight is 20:20. However, you can only benefit from this clarity if you look back with the intent to learn.

As you dive into your reflections, find ways to share them. Keep everyone on the same page and take the people in your life along your learning journey. Do this, and you will get double the benefit for the same amount of time and work.

Reflections are a powerful tool, and they are a lot of fun once you get into the habit. You can do them daily (e.g., journals, work logs), weekly (e.g., status updates, learnings, plans for the coming week, this email), annually (e.g., annual discussions, progress on strategic goals, and necessary course corrections, post-mortems), or anywhere in between. The more often you reflect on past experiences and outcomes and let those reflections inform future priorities and corrective actions, the more you will benefit. Personally, I do all three of them.




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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Strategic thinking – You need to drop your established thought models!

thik big

How do you change your mindset from thinking tactical to approaching challenges from a strategic perspective? Heck, what is the difference between the two to begin with?

If you think tactically, you are focused on the next small step from where you are now. You think about the next natural thing to do. Indeed, very often, that’s exactly what you need to do: “do the next right thing” (from Frozen 2 for all of you who have little kids). The challenge is that while you progress with that approach, it will not always be in the direction you should go. You move forward, but not with a clear target in mind.

Thinking strategically turns that model around as it starts from where you want to be in the future. It doesn’t concern itself with the immediate next step but looks at the bigger picture and the more distant future. Strategic thinking asks what that ideal future would look like. Then, and only then, it goes into figuring out how you could get there.

Tactical thinking is our natural tendency – after all, our ancestors had to be much more occupied with finding their next meal than with planning five years ahead. Strategic thinking started as they settled down and needed to think ahead to the fall harvest. It expanded the opportunities they were presented with.

If you want to have true impact, you need to think strategically. Fluency between tactical and strategic thinking makes you a leader.

To think strategically, you need to change your thought models in these three ways:

Always start with the ‘why’ – Before you can even get into what the ideal end state should be, you need to get clarity on what you want to achieve. WHY are you doing this? What is the change you want to drive and why? How is the new situation different, and why does that matter? Understand your WHY, and you will know where you need to go!

Think big and forget what you currently know – Very often, we hold ourselves back by what we know or what we think we know. We subconsciously hold to constraints that are often not real but just assumed. We have solutions in mind that limit how creatively we entertain out-of-the-box approaches. We are afraid of the challenges of taking on big scary goals, and with that, we unconsciously aim a lot lower than we should. Forget about all of those – think about what the end state looks like in an ideal world. If you had no constraints at all, what would you work towards?

Incremental thinking – The last and hardest mindset shift is to let go of incremental thinking. This is super hard. At Amazon, it took me about a year to train new – highly educated – employees to make that mental leap. We all tend to “think forward” from what we have. What is the next set of improvements to the toolset we currently use? What are the next adaptations to the process? While this is nice and good for continuous improvement efforts, it precludes disruptive changes – and disruptive changes are what really moves you ahead. You must avoid incremental thinking as the actual new ideal end-state might require you to give up what you currently have.

Don’t start from what you have. Start from where you want to be and then figure out how you could get there.

Thinking strategically, or “thinking big” is one of my three favorite leadership principles at the core of Amazon’s approach to challenges and opportunities. Here is how the official definition goes:

Think Big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.


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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Don’t get stuck in your plan

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After talking about scenario planning last week, I will now talk about the need to be willing to let go of your plans at a moment’s notice. More specifically, while your overall strategy will likely persist, I bet you that your tactics will need to adapt as you go from planning and envisioning to execution and reality check (or “WTSHTF” as they say).

Have a plan but don’t get stuck in it.

Having a plan is critical. You have to start somewhere. It’s even better if you thought about multiple different scenarios and have plans for each of them. Still, reality will be different from what you envisioned, and your plans need to adjust – right away and in realtime.

“No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891)

That is not to say that one should not plan. As a matter of fact, special forces are known for locking themselves into a room before a mission and then meticulously planning out for any scenario and complication they can possibly imagine. However, when it’s go-time, they must modify their plans, adjust, or completely give them up. They get new data, situations change, and they must improvise on the spot. Business consultants would say that they need to be “agile”.

The other day I played chess with our 9-year-old son. He had set a ‘trap’ and waited for me to go into it. In fact, he waited for the whole game while I took his other figures off the board one by one and finally forced him to give up. It wasn’t that his plan was bad – he just didn’t realize that the situation changed. Insisting on his initial assumption and plan got him from a promising position to a hopeless one.

Have a plan, but keep your mind open for what happens, be flexible, adapt. Don’t try to enforce your plan at all costs. – Plan thoroughly, and then be flexible.

While you should start with a plan, you need to keep your mind open to recognize change and adapt or discard your plan if needed.

Traditional martial arts pushes that notion to the extreme, where mastery means not thinking about what you’re doing but just letting it happen, reacting naturally. In martial arts, the goal is to have so much training in advance (i.e., scenario planning and practicing) that reactions in challenging situations become intuitive, and you don’t need or even want a preconceived plan. You perceive with a relaxed mind and react to the inputs you will get.

Build a plan, play scenarios through in your head, draw confidence that you have answers for many of the possible challenges. Then stop ruminating and start executing. Don’t try to enforce your plan – it would break. Observe what’s happening, see what changes, and do what’s needed.

Bruce Lee would say: “Be like water.”


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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

The difference between scenario planning and worrying about the future

We live in times of constant change. Things that were true and known yesterday aren’t any longer, and the future often holds too many unknowns to plan for what’s coming confidently.

That constant change can cause a feeling of uncertainty and even anxiety. However, I prefer to see changes as opportunities. Change means that current approaches are being revisited. It means uncertainty, but it also brings the opportunity to get rid of old structures and behaviors that didn’t work as well as we thought.

How we approach change is the key to how we perceive it and how it impacts us.

First of all, we need to ensure that the majority of our mental energy is spent in the now, not the tomorrow or yesterday. What-if and what-could-have-been musings are only of value if we use them as learning opportunities for what we are doing right now. Otherwise, they quickly become wasted energy and distractions.

Now, as we think about coming changes and uncertainties (e.g., political developments, potential upcoming regulations, organizational changes), it is essential to avoid dwelling and being stuck in the phase of uncertainty and anxiety. We can guess endlessly as to what a specific change might mean for us. We won’t know until the dominos fall, and things get in motion. All along, we could have spent a lot of time feeling helpless and miserable until that decision day comes.

A much more productive approach is scenario planning: think about what the possible (plausible) outcomes could be, what those would mean for you, and what actions you would take. Think through your plan, then put it away until you need it and focus on the NOW again.

The point of scenario planning is to have done the mental homework and put it then away and not be stuck in the future what-ifs. Don’t be the deer in the headlights.

List possible scenarios – The starting point for scenario planning is to list all likely future outcomes. Given a particular unknown, what could happen, and what would the new circumstance be once the dice fell? What are the different options for how a situation could shake out? Try to make a complete list of all outcomes that are likely (not all that could be, or you will never stop adding to your list). Three to five possible scenarios usually is a good number.

Understand the trigger signals – Think about the trigger signal for each scenario. How would you know as early as possible that you are entering one scenario (expected outcome) rather than the other? Early signaling is the critical piece. Once the dice have fallen, you want to make sure you will adapt to the new situation as swiftly as possible.

Know your actions – Think through your best course of action for each scenario. When the chips fall, you don’t want to start thinking about what you will do next. Rather you want to have a plan ready that you can just pull out the drawer as soon as you see one of your early trigger signals show up. Be ready, have plans and actions, and then let go again and turn your attention to the now. Your future plans are only valuable in the future, not the now. If you get stuck in future what-if plans, you lose out on today’s opportunities.

Lay the groundwork (if needed) – If your plans require any groundwork to be laid and the investment is not too high, do it ahead of time. Be ready as much as you can, but find the right tradeoff between investing in things that might never happen and opportunities that you missed because you weren’t ready for them. Finding the right balance on this is the tricky part.

Move back to now – Don’t get stuck in scenario planning and future what-ifs!! Every minute you spend on dwelling in the future is a minute you have missed out on actual current opportunities. If you spend your time getting ready for the future, you will do a crappy job being successful in the now. Remember, only the now and today is what really matters.

Scenario planning allows you to mind-game and strategize an uncertain future that might scare you. Use it for that and do it to the point where you have a decent set of plans. Then stop dwelling in the future and move back to the now and here. That is the true value of scenario planning. Also, remember that no plan survives first contact with reality – more about that next week…

Get your ducks in a row and your dominos lined up. Then move back to the here and now and stop dwelling in future what-ifs. Don’t let potential future circumstances hold you back from what you can achieve TODAY!


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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Developing an Entrepreneurial mindset

‘Entrepreneurial mindset’ is one of those terms that people like to throw around these days. But what does it actually mean? Does it only apply to startups and Silicon Valley companies, or is it something we all should care about?

The short answer is that we ALL should care about it and strive to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset in everything we do. In my mind, ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ or entrepreneurial thinking means that we 1) care personally and deeply about what we’re doing, 2) take a forward-looking and proactive approach to thinking through future challenges and opportunities, and 3) feel committed to do what needs to get done, whether someone tells us to or not.

I recently listened to some courses on LinkedIn that suggested you should revisit your job description regularly to ensure that you are doing what is expected from you and thus advance your career. I think that’s terrible advice! It might work for highly repetitive jobs (think retail checkout person), but not for the majority of jobs we have today and even less for the future’s work requirements. Most job descriptions are written without a complete picture of what needs to be done (yes, managers make mistakes), and even if they were perfect, times and demands change way too fast to keep up with them.

If you want to achieve greatness, you need to do what needs to get done. Not what someone has told you to do. Sometimes you even have to ignore what others are telling you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore your core job responsibilities. Not by a long stretch. What it means is that following those gets you to mediocracy. To be great, you need to go beyond expected and documented tasks and develop your own sense of what matters and what needs to get done.

To be great means to take ownership, to think critically, to propose what needs to get done, and to think beyond what your manager understands – after all, you know your space better than anyone else. To be great means to look at your work as your own business that you want to make successful and exceptional. To be great means taking the entrepreneurial perspective.

Don’t wait for others to tell you what to do. Look at your work as your personal business. Decide what needs to get done (and what doesn’t). Take control!

I saw many of those exceptional behaviors as people stepped up and thought out of the box to deal with COVID. Keep up that mindset, and it will serve you well regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.


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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Be intentional!

Too much on your plate? Feeling busy and overwhelmed? Getting nowhere fast?

It might be a good time to pause, take a deep breath, rethink what’s a top priority and what isn’t. It might be a good time to become more intentional about how you spend your time and energy and what you pay attention to.

It’s all too easy to add stuff to your plate (or get it added by someone else). We start to get busy, and the busier we get, the more we focus on ‘getting stuff done’, rather than thinking about what outcomes we want to achieve and how we can best get there. The more we get into that ‘busyness’, the less time we have to stop, pause, think, and the more ‘normal’ the tactical busyness feels. Ever noticed when you come back from a vacation and you are so much more organized and focused, only to fall back to seemingly random busy-work after a week or two? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Heck, it might even give us comfort and validation to ‘be busy’. However, busyness is not the same as impact. Busyness is not the same as achievement. Busyness is not the same as providing value. It’s just busyness, nothing else. If you want to make a change, if you want to make ’a dent in the universe’ as the silicon valley types like to say, you need to be intentional about where and how you invest yourself. Busyness is not a value. It’s a cost. Outcome and impact are the values.

Don’t be busy, be impactful!

So how do you get more intentional? Start with gaining clarity on what outcomes you want to achieve and what actions will be most impactful to get there. Then invest your time intentionally in those outcomes and actions. Don’t just go with the flow.

Here are some examples:

Meetings – Decide if a meeting provides value to what you want to achieve and if you can provide value to the meeting and group. Then go or don’t go. If you go, you must make it worth your time and everyone else’s time. Don’t just hang around in the meeting. Don’t multi-task – it doesn’t work anyway. Turn your webcam on for virtual meetings. Be there and engage. If you don’t feel the meeting is important to you, better invest your time in something else and avoid dragging down the energy of the whole group.

Tasks and emails – When you go through tasks and emails, force yourself to be focused. Limit the time you have available for those tasks. You will see that allotting a limited amount of time to getting something done will make you more focused, more efficient, and happier. It will also avoid that you keep working on something beyond the point of diminishing returns (remember the 80:20 rule). Give yourself a challenging time limit, and then force yourself to get all planned work done in the allocated time. Don’t allow any distractions – single-task!

Working after hours – Sometimes we need to get something done in time for a deadline, and work will bleed into the evening or weekend. Those should be the very rare exceptions, though. Be aware of and intentional about those exceptions. Know why you make them if you decide to make them. Don’t let working in the evening become a habit just because you did it the previous evening. It’s easy to get sucked into bad habits if you don’t observe closely what you’re doing. Today there’s a lot of excitement about being always connected, about moving in and out of work and private times, and blended models. I may be old-school, but I don’t believe in that. If you take your work home and don’t set boundaries, you disservice yourself and your loved ones. Be fully at work when you’re at work, and forget all about work when you’re not!

Downtime – This is so critical for our balanced well-being! Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Be conscious and intentional about taking downtimes. Plan them, appreciate them, and protect them. Don’t feel bad for not doing anything (‘do nothing days’ are a real thing). However, don’t waste your downtimes either. Don’t get lost in browsing the web or playing video games. There is a huge difference between planned downtime, or me-time, and mindless procrastination. Don’t get me wrong, if you like videogames, that’s awesome. Enjoy them for the time period that you have decided to spend on them. However, don’t find yourself looking at your clock, wondering where the time has gone, and feeling guilty about it. Being intentional avoids feeling guilty.

Family and friends – Put that smartphone down! Tug away your work problems! Listen, share and engage! Don’t let anything distract you from paying attention to your loved ones during the time you spend with them. It might be annoying at times (yes, let’s be honest, distractions from our kids can be annoying), it might go against your planned task, but you won’t’ regret it in the long run. The number one wish of people in nursing homes is to have spent more time with loved ones. Having gotten more tasks done never comes up in those conversations.

Be intentional about what you do and how you spent your time. You will have more impact, and you will be happier.


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Amazon’s PR FAQs – My tips and tricks

For my Amazon friends: I stumbled upon my old notes on how to write strong PR FAQs.

They are still true and trusted – not only for the specific Amazon PR FAQ document, but more generally for business communication that is targeted to convey a complex idea and convince people of it’s merits (e.g. strategy proposals, business plans).

Start from the WHY!!

  • Get your numbers early! If you have placeholders, you don’t have a business case. You might think you have one but you don’t know! It’s about numbers, not wishful thinking and assumptions.
  • Get the problem statement right! Until you have that, nothing else makes sense. Once you have it, everything else falls in place.

The ONE thing!

  • Focus on the core, the most important thing. There will be many things that you want to achieve – focus on the one that matters the most, move everything else to the appendix. I know it hurts, but you have to do it!
  • Simplify and crisp up your story. Too much information distracts. Focus on the core benefit that you will provide and structure a logical story flow around that one benefit.
  • Data is key, too much data is a problem. Don’t throw in all the data you have, present the data that is critical to enable smart decision making. If you add data that doesn’t support decision making you will only confuse and distract everyone. You will also demonstrate that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Increasing layers of detail and refinement.

  • Follow the Journalistic Pyramid. Your story must be clear and convincing in the first paragraph. Everything after that adds additional layers of detail and perspective. Try reading a newspaper article – if you read it top down you can stop at any point and you will get the most important information. If you read bottom up that won’t work. The most important information is at the top, additional supportive information is at the bottom. Structure your thinking and writing the same way.
  • Develop your story top down. Likewise get feedback on your story in that layered way. First establish alignment on the problem statement. Then come back and do the same on the bullet points of your solution approach. Finally, and only then, start writing narrative and FAQs. If you try to do all at the same time you will spend a LOT of time and energy in completely re-writing your doc several times.
  • What questions are asked in early reviews? Write them down, those are either things you need to fix in your PR, or they will serve as excellent questions for the FAQ.

Don’t waste the reviewer’s time.

  • Be clear about the state at which your thinking is. If you want to solidify the problem statement, be clear about that and ONLY bring the problem statement. Once you need structural feedback, bring bullet points, not the narrative. When those are ready, only then start writing narrative. It’s super frustrating to review narrative, if you’re not even sure you understand and agree with the problem that is to be solved. Set proper expectations for everyone in the room (including yourself) or everyone will be frustrated! Don’t bring a narrative if you’re not yet clear on the problem statement or structure – it simply doesn’t work.
  • Implement the feedback!! Nothing is frustrating me more than if I spend 30-60 mins to give thoughtful feedback on a document, only to see that it was ignored in the next version. At points I played with the thought of just leaving a review meeting when I see that – I think in the future I will. If you ask for feedback, you MUST work on it. If you don’t want feedback, don’t ask for it and don’t waste people’s time (good luck though with that approach, you better be extra-smart).

Think big, think backwards!

  • Don’t think forward, don’t think incrementally. That is the hardest one, but it’s also what makes Amazon what it is. We all are trained to think forward and incrementally by the previous jobs and companies we worked in. We know what we have, and we think what we can add to it in order to make it better. Don’t! Free yourself from what you have, and think about where you want to be with your product in 3 years. If you would be starting from a green field, what would you build? Don’t think about how you can make your car float if you actually need to buy a boat. It’s hard, but this is the key to being successful at Amazon and in your career.
  • Gather data, then form an opinion. Get lots of inputs, data and opinions from stakeholders, partners and users. Listen to their thoughts, reflect upon them, let them influence your opinion. Then lock down and go do. Don’t try to write a document that makes everyone happy, write a document that YOU think is right and addresses the most important problems and points. Identify the point in the process at which your opinion counts the most – it’s your document and idea – and everyone else only has inputs. Identify the point where brainstorming and seeking alignment ends, and you start owning a document, setting a bold vision and leading change.

Writing PR FAQs is a muscle.

  • Like any muscle, it needs to be exercised to be developed. Write early, write often. Write documents that you only review with your peers or your manager. You don’t want the first document that you ever write be one that goes straight to a VP or SVP (unless you love to be in a world of pain).
  • It’s not about the document, it’s about the thinking. We don’t write PR FAQs to produce pretty papers. We don’t review to show people how smart we as reviewers are. We do both to REFINE IDEAS. PR FAQs help us to explain an idea and then bring the best minds together to poke, polish and refine. Any given idea gets better through the review and debate process. It’s painful at times, but it’s always worth it.

Good luck and enjoy the intellectual challenge!


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Working backwards

A recent presentation on Journey mapping reminded me of a different approach for designing solutions that I learned at Amazon:

Working backwards (from the customer experience).

Amazon uses this process for every single project. If there has ever been a secret sauce to what Amazon does, it’s the working backwards process.

The idea is to not start from the current situation and constraints, but rather to forget all that for a while and start from the end state. What SHOULD the perfect customer experience be? What is the perfect end state? What would we do if we were in an unconstrained situation?

Changing your mindset to that view before kicking off a project or designing a solution will allow you to think outside the box. You will think about what the right approach is, not what the easiest next step will be. You will think about what’s right for the customer, not about how hard it is to make necessary changes.

After you have clarity on the end state, you start working backwards. In order to get to that end state, what interim state do you need to reach before? What’s the stage before that? – Rinse and repeat until you reach all the way back to your current status quo.

The HUGE benefit is that you start from where you want to be in the future as opposed to what the next incremental state is from where you are now. You will find that you will end up in vastly different places with these two approaches.

Don’t be frustrated though. In my time with Amazon, I found that working backwards is the hardest mental model to teach. Every single new employee struggled and it took them many attempts until they actually worked backwards from an ideal end state. This could take months of intellectual struggle. We were all raised to think incrementally, and those thought patterns are burned into our brains.

Stop thinking incrementally – think backwards!

So, how does Amazon do the working backwards process?

They start with a press release. The very first thing one does when pitching or starting a project is to write what the press release at launch should look like. How is this new solution different, what is the new customer experience, what are the new benefits?

This is one page – never more. If it generates enough excitement, the work begins, digging into constraints, problems to overcome, and investments that will be required. The important part is that you have to drop all your knowledge of constraints or challenges when writing the one-page press release.

That’s how Prime, one-day shipping, Alexa, and everything else you’ve ever seen from Amazon were born.


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Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9781077278929

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If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.