Every leadership meeting at Amazon starts the same way: complete and utter silence for up to 30 minutes. You walk in, say hello, and then sit in silence while you consume an in-depth, six-page memo. Only when everyone is finished does the meeting begin in earnest. It’s a strange approach to meetings, but like many other things in Amazon founder, CEO, and president Jeff Bezos’s meteorically successful empire, it’s superbly effective. Bezos introduced in-depth memos several years ago after becoming frustrated with ineffective meetings packed with incomprehensible PowerPoint presentations and reams of indigestible data.
Bezos wanted meetings built on character and narrative—the stuff humans are hardwired to understand. So he insisted that each meeting’s organiser write a long, narratively structured memo. Memos don’t just help participants understand the meeting’s content. The act of crafting a long, narratively structured document helps leaders process information and arrange their thoughts.