Always Day 1

leadershipI read with interest how Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, described his philosophy around “Day 1.” When asked what Day 2 looked like he described it as “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that’s why it is always Day 1.”

Personally, I love this approach. I mentioned it recently to a group of entrepreneurs in the Emerging Leaders class here in Seattle and it seemed to fit in perfectly with what they are working on. They have all been in business for 3 or more years and are now creating new strategic growth plans for their businesses of the future. In order to do this without all the “constraints” that experience and beliefs dictate are “true,” we have to look at it as Day 1, and then consider – what will you do differently?

Think of it like Groundhog Day. You get to keep doing it over and over again but with a different template, different knowledge, and a different environment. If you were recreating your business, what would Day 1 look like now? Who’s to say you can’t give it a try?

This philosophy seems to have two elements. The first is the practical or the plan. Much like in the class, each entrepreneur is envisioning a future that is different than today. Pulling off the constraints of today’s world and creating a future that fuels their passion. Next, creating a roadmap to get there, starting with the big strategic objectives that need to be accomplished. As we do in the class, the growth plan is an iterative process. It will never be finished. Each action moves it forward, learning, growing stronger and creating the subsequent action, objective or priority. In the class, we go through 4 iterations until they reach the plan they present. But that is only the beginning, there will be many, many more iterations as they go, creating a process instead of a plan.

Day 1 to me looks like a shortened debrief process – what went well, (against the stated goal), what did not, what will we change going forward. Can you imagine how good your organization would be if you started each day like this? How long could it take, 5-10 minutes at most? Wouldn’t this be the most valuable time of your day?

The second element to “Day 1” is attitude. Believing that anything is possible, that we are not stuck by decisions or results that happened yesterday. We have an opportunity to begin again, only better. Yes, this is a very optimistic view and can be difficult for entrepreneurs faced with the obstacle course that is growing a business but what’s the alternative? To believe that you’re stuck with yesterday? I don’t think so.

Clearly, we can’t argue with Bezos’ success. We may not agree with the model or tactics but Day 1 as a philosophy has produced amazing results. So, what’s the harm? Give it a try for a week or two and see how it feels. I’m guessing it might be liberating.