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Book Review Working Backwards, Inside Amazon

Amazon is an entity which is not just an organization but an institution which has cemented itself as a household name across the planet. Like Google is a synonym for search, Amazon is a synonym for shopping, and much more. That’s what this book is about. A detailed view into How Amazon transformed itself from a book selling website into an institution which is now a conglomerate with diversified and successful lines of business.    

Authors: Colin Bryar and Bill Carr

Why should you read Working Backwards, Inside Amazon?

Curious to know how Amazon built some of its world class products like Kindle, Amazon Web Services, Prime and Prime video? How they set a vision for these products, stumbled, and fell behind but eventually came out on top? This book showcases the strength of enduring practices that enable Amazon to achieve incredible milestones. You will get to learn about these amazing ways of working. Some of these practices are quite unique and you can be rely on and adapt those to suit your context, at a personal or professional level:  

  • undoubtedly, the company’s DNA coded into 14 leadership principles,
  • starting with Customer Obsession and focus on creating differential value for them,
  • frameworks like Bar Raiser, 6-page narratives (No PowerPoint) and PR/FAQ
  • defining and tracking input metrics instead of output metrics
  • single threaded leadership in order to drive accountability and execution  

Content Summary

Overall, the 240 pages of content is structured into 10 brief chapters. Authors, Colin and Bill, who were top executives at Amazon, give a insider view of this organization from its initial days to the period of growth. What I found most compelling is the PR FAQ approach. It is a simple yet powerful tool that helps to create a solid vision of the outcome even before getting started. I like that this is closely aligned to the principle of ‘Begin with the end in mind’ from my favorite book, 7 habits of highly effective people.  

PR/FAQ is about articulating a press release for a proposed product/service as if it has been launched already. Now, in a press release, you are highlighting its value and differentiated appeal for customers. FAQs are addendums which cover simple yet carefully chosen questions that address the key aspects for customers. For e.g. things that a customer would want to know – say quality, price, materials etc.

I tried to apply this technique to some of my ideas and it really helped to create massive clarity! In addition, Amazon’s focus on hiring top talent through a rigorous process, called Bar Raiser is discussed in detail. A chapter each is dedicated to covering the other principles highlighted above.  


The text is easy to read and comprehend and font size is conducive to reading. Examples are straightforward and real as they present opportunities to learn. Writing style is quite direct yet engaging. The authors deliberately create a reverence and awe around Jeff Bezos which is quite understandable. I would recommend this book as a must read for anyone who wants to tickle their brain with some new and easy to implement ideas. Amazon is a bold organization, the stories in this book make that very evident. An organization that loves to take risks and minces no words about their expectations from the employees. Work hard, work long and work backwards! Happy Reading, Cheers!

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