Jeff Bezos: 24 Rules Of Corporate Coolness

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

If you’re invited to meet with Jeff Bezos, always prepare to reach for a larger purpose. Not long ago, he met with his senior team to discuss the latest customer metrics, but typically, he hijacked the session to talk about something more interesting: why do customers fall in love with some companies and move away from others, as if they gave off an odor?

He attributed this tendency to something less measurable than customer service or product quality. A variety of factors come into play but, at the same time, it is a dimension unto itself.

It’s called corporate reputation or in BezosSpeak, corporate coolness.

“Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.”

Companies do have some control over these attributes, although surmounting them depends on good information systems and a quick response to early warning signs. Companies like United Airlines, Uber, and Equifax are prime examples of what happens when that isn’t the case.

Bezos wrote down 24 reputation factors that can determine whether we let a company into our personal space or not. His thoughts could have been taken from Lincoln’s famous comment about public engagement:

“With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.” — Abraham Lincoln

The Jeff Bezos Coolness Hierarchy:

  1. Rudeness is not cool.
  2. Defeating tiny guys is not cool.
  3. Close-following is not cool.
  4. Young is cool.
  5. Risk taking is cool.
  6. Winning is cool.
  7. Polite is cool.
  8. Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool.
  9. Inventing is cool.
  10. Explorers are cool.
  11. Conquerors are not cool.
  12. Obsessing over competitors is not cool.
  13. Empowering others is cool.
  14. Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.
  15. Leadership is cool.
  16. Conviction is cool.
  17. Straightforwardness is cool.
  18. Pandering to the crowd is not cool.
  19. Hypocrisy is not cool.
  20. Authenticity is cool.
  21. Thinking big is cool.
  22. The unexpected is cool.
  23. Missionaries are cool.
  24. Mercenaries are not cool.

(source of Bezos’ memo: Brad Stone, The Everything Store)

Jeff Cunningham is Chief Executive magazine's editor-at-large and a professor of leadership at Arizona State University/Thunderbird School of Global Management, where he has also endowed the Cunningham Global Fellowship for next-generation leaders. He also is the founder of Thunderbird Opinions poll of business trends. He was previously publisher of Forbes Magazine and CEO of Zip2 (founded by Elon Musk). Watch his YouTube interviews at Iconic Voices and connect on Twitter @CunninghamJeff and LinkedIn.