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The founder and chief executive of Amazon has often ruffled investors’ feathers by sacrificing short-term profits to make big bets on new technologies that, he insists, will produce richer returns for the company’s shareholders in future. He laid out this philosophy in his first letter to shareholders, penned in 1997, which was entitled “It’s all about the long term”.
As companies grow, there is a danger that novel ideas get snuffed out by managers’ desire to conform and play it safe. “You get social cohesion at the expense of truth,” he says. He believes that the best way to guard against this is for leaders to encourage their staff to work on big new ideas. “It’s like exercising muscles,” he adds. “Either you use them or you lose them.”