Social Cohesion vs Truth-Seeking

Amazon hates social cohesion and loves truth-seeking. Social cohesion means accepting an argument or a viewpoint that you disagree with, for the sake of avoiding conflict.

I look up at the ceiling and state that it’s 12-feet high. In response, you jump on a tall chair and measure the ceiling’s exact height with a measuring tape. Then you come down from the chair and you tell me: “You are wrong, Nick. The ceiling is 11.67-feet high.

Truth-seeking means the opposite: pressing on with an issue until the truth (to the best extent possible) becomes evident.

How high is the Ceiling?

Injecting truth-seeking in the above example would make it look like this: I look up at the ceiling and state that it’s 12-feet high. In response, you jump on a tall chair and measure the ceiling’s exact height with a measuring tape. Then you come down from the chair and you tell me: “You are wrong, Nick. The ceiling is 11.67-feet high.” That is truth-seeking in action and describes Amazon’s appreciation of conflict.

Conflict Creates Truth

Truth-seeking touches on many of Amazon’s Leadership Principles but is best encapsulated by “Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit:” Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

What if no one Knows the Answer?

What Bezos means by saying “will you gamble with me on it?” is another way to describe Amazon’s fail-fast mentality. A quick negative outcome is actually a positive outcome, at Amazon, because it generates data and precludes a hypothesis. Failure is how Amazon learns and how it turned a fiasco like the Fire Phone into a hit like the Amazon Echo.

People must “Disagree and Commit;” “Disagree and Comply,” or “Disagree and Reserve-the-Right-to-say-I-told-you-so-Later,” wouldn’t do.

As you can see, “Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit” is a Leadership Principle with naturally built-in tension. This tension helps shake out social cohesion from decision-making, while, on the other hand, pushes people to iterate when nobody knows the right answer. People must “Disagree and Commit;” “Disagree and Comply,” or “Disagree and Reserve-the-Right-to-say-I-Told-you-so-Later,” wouldn’t do. It must be “Disagree and Commit.” In that case alone, truth-seeking will be both exhaustive, when the answer is known, and iterative, when the answer is uncertain.

This originally appeared on amazonbound.today.

Entrepreneur. Immigrant. Ex-Amazon and Microsoft. ALAW.