Amazon’s Dangerous Genius

I am marveling at the Genius of Amazon and Jeff Bezos but also concerned about their future direction. 


Traditionally, they have invested for the long-haul!


For years, Amazon never made a dime, actually operating at a loss.


But all the time making long-term investments in infrastructure (warehouses, supply chain, logistics, etc.) and in customer acquisition. 


Their great selection, reasonable pricing, free shipping, and easy return policy lured hundreds of millions of people to drop the brick-and-mortar stores and even other online retailers to go Amazon all the way. 


Most people I know get virtually everything and anything on Amazon these days. 


Of course, the fear always was that Amazon would become such a dominant player and monopoly that no one else could compete. 


For a long time, they didn’t even charge sales tax!


It seems people can’t even imagine not having Amazon–where in the world would they shop and get all their stuff in 2-days or less (Prime Customers) and still be able to return all the crap they don’t even want. 


So here is the rub.


Now that Amazon is so dominant, guess what?  They are raising the Prime Rates and cutting back on returns–with customers actually being banned for returning too much. 


Ah, the lure, bait and switch. 


Amazon got us all as their slave customers–and we let them and love them for it. 


And after they snared us with all the convenience and security of being able to return stuff, they pull the rug and what can you do, but cry foul?


I love Amazon for their genius and what they have done for eCommerce, but I don’t like that they’ve built in a sense a dark empire to prey on their loyal customer base. 


Mr. Bezos, here is my message to you…


Please stay true to your ideals of customer-centricity and long-term investment in the company that has been the foundation for what you have built into such a retail juggernaut.  


Keep valuing your customers and serving them well and not trading them in for short-term profit gain.


In the end, that is a winning strategy that won’t land you in either regulatory hell and/or antitrust action to then force you to bend your knee or your ultimate breakup. 


Remember, you have one chance to make the right decision for Amazon or I fear that it’s not product returns that you’ll be for long worrying about. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Advertisements

Why Worry?

So I had an interesting conversation with a colleague, and they tell me their philosophy about worry, as follows:

Worrying is suffering twice!


I thought this was pretty smart. 


With worry, we suffer when we worry and then we suffer again if the thing we are worrying about actually comes to fruition. 


So in essence, we are doubling up on the suffering.


Yet, worry can be constructive if we use it to spur us to positive action such as in confronting and dealing with challenging situations. 


But when we worry just for the sake of worry because we can’t control our anxiety and moreover, it actually may paralyze us with fear, then this is obviously a bad thing. 


Do I worry?


Sure do, but like my dad, I use worry to try and think out-of-the-box, to plan, to problem-solve, to figure out coping mechanisms etc. 


Worry is suffering for sure. 


However, if we can channel the worry to positive impact, then the worry can be worth the pain it inflicts on us. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Teambuilding S-Cubed

Awesome day today with my team at work. 


We had a half-day team building. 


Started off with a Play-Doh exercise where we had to answer things like what we’d like to accomplish as a team in the new year. 


This was my representation with a S-cubed for the new program implementing process improvements and enterprise service management using:


– Strategy


– Structure


– (Customer) Service


We followed up with a great team luncheon and then a game of Monster Mini Golf.


We broke into two teams and one team came in “first place” and the other team were the “winners.”


I suppose whenever we genuinely come together as a team to appreciate each other and work collaboratively as a unified whole–greater than the sum of our parts–then we truly all come out as first place winners! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

NATO Is Asleep At The Wheel

So this is the dumbest military strategy I have ever heard. 


NATO is planning a “rapid deployment force” of at least 30,000 troops, 30 naval ships, and 360 planes to fight off a Russian invasion.


Sounds good?


The only problem is that this rapid reaction is planned to occur “within 30 days” of being put on an alert. 


Gee, a lot can happen in 30 days. 


It took only a little over two weeks for Russia to invade and annex Crimea in 2014 in a blitzkrieg that completely took the West by surprise. 


NATO continues to be shockingly unprepared for a Russian land grab.


Further, the 4,600 troops stationed on “forward deployment” and the 5,000 additional “spearhead force” to come to their aid “within 10 days” is again completely inadequate and ridiculous. 


Israel won the 1967 War in just 6 days against invading armies from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, and Israel again halted the advancing Egyptian army in the 1973 Yom Kippur War in just 3 days. 


With modern weaponry, Wars are fought and won in days–not months and years anymore. 


The long deployments we’ve had in Iraq and Afghanistan are not traditional wars, but wars of attrition again terrorism and dictatorships. 


If and when there is a war with the “Great Bear,” it will be fought and won–OR lost in days–as well. Russia will act with stealth and speed and a ferocity that we remain blind to. 


And I fear that when we are ready to fight back, it will be way too little too late–like in Crimea–and all that will be left–after the European lands are gone–is more meaningless sanctions that Russia will retaliate against, tit-for-tat, anyway. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Our Forefathers Were Planners And So Are We

Thank you to Rabbi Haim Ovadia for his speech today at Magen David Synagogue on the topic of how our forefathers in the Bible were planners and so are we today. (Note: some of the thoughts below are directly from Rabbi Ovadia and others are added by me.)


In the Biblical story of Jacob, there are numerous examples teaching us the importance of planning.


1) Shepherds vs Hunters:  Jacob was a shepherd versus his brother Esau who was a hunter.  Shepherds have a long-term outlook with their animals, tending to them and caring for them over the long-term, while hunters go out for the kills to eat for that day. 


2) Working for Rachel and Leah vs. Selling the Pottage:  Jacob worked for 7 years for Rachel and another 7 for Leah–this was the long-term view and commitment to work for Lavan in order to marry his daughters. In comparison, Esau came in hungry from the field and sold his birthright for the immediate gratification of a bowl of pottage.


3) The Plan to Take Esau’s Blessing: Rebekah worked with Jacob to prepare meat for Isaac and put hair and clothes on Jacob that made him look and seem like Esau, so Jacob could get the blessing from Isaac, while Esau was still out hunting in the field. 


4) Dividing his Camp in Two: Jacob sent messengers (i.e. reconnaissance) to see and plan for what Esau was doing in coming to meet him. When the messengers returned with word that Esau was coming with 400 men, Jacob planned for the worst, dividing his camp in two, so should one peril the other could survive. Additionally, Jacob prayed and sent rounds of gifts to Esau and also presented himself to Esau before his beloved wife Rachel and son Joseph in the safety of the rear. 


Long-term planning has been fundamental to the Jewish people throughout history and to modern times:


1) “People of the Book” – The Jewish people are known as “the people off the book” for the devotion to Torah study, learning, and continually investing in education, which is a view for long-term investment and success.   


2) Good Deeds to Inherit The World To Come – Fundamental to Jewish belief is that this earthly world is just a “corridor” to the World to Come.  We do charity and good deeds, not only because it’s the right thing to do (certainly!), but also because we believe that these merits will help us long-term when we pass, and go to the spiritual next world, Heaven. 


3) Believing and Praying for the Return to The Promised Land – For 2,000, the Jewish people never gave up hoping and praying on the deliverance of G-d’s promise to return them from exile to the Promised Land.  This was a long-term view that helped sustain the Jewish people throughout their far-flung exile and through millennium of persecution and genocide.

Ezekiel 11:17: “Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”

4) Waiting 6,000 years for the Messiah: For 6,000 years, the Jews have maintain faith and plan for the coming of the Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple and the ultimate redemption of the world.  

“(Ani Ma’amin) I believe in complete faith in the coming of the Messiah…Even tough he may tarry, none-the-less, I will wait for him.”

Like our forefathers, it is critical to maintain faith in the Almighty and practice long-term planning as keys to success in life. 


If we take the long-view, we can overcome so many short-term challenges, obstacles and even suffering–believing, praying planning, and doing for a better, brighter future. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Wrapped In Bubble Wrap

So I thought this was an interesting risk management strategy…


One colleague joked with me that:

“Everyone should just wrap themselves in bubble wrap!”

Reminded me of that game where people put on big wearable inflatable bumpers and then smash into each other for fun.


The problem though is that sometimes we put on the bubble wrap, bulletproof vest, or seat belt, but then we get stupidly overconfident. 


We think we are protected, but nothing human in impenetrable. 


So the person with the seat belt and air bag drives too fast and off a cliff and still gets him/herself killed. 


Or the person with the bulletproof vest gets shot with a high caliber armor piercing shell or in the back of the head.


Like on many cars, where the mirror says, “objects in mirror are closer than they appear,” we need not over rely on safety, protective, and risk measures and still do stupid things.


One guy told me, he backed up into the wall in the garage, because he thought there was more room and that’s not how things looked in the mirror. 


Let’s face it, there is no bubble wrap that can fully protect us from life. 


Everyday we face risks out there, and we need to manage them with common sense or else… 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Deterrence Alone Is Not A Strategy

 

High Wire Act.jpeg

So there is a military doctrine that has been in place for decades. 


– MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction 


If you attack the USA with weapons of mass destruction, you’ll get an overwhelming responses that will totally destroy your country. 


This was what supposedly held the USSR at bay during the cold war. 


And even recently, President Trump threatened North Korea that they would be “totally destroyed” if they try anything on us. 


The problem is that the MAD doctrine of deterrence assumes incorrectly that you are always dealing with rational actors and not with madmen.


Let’s face it, their are plenty of crazies out there, and some of whom may be willing to go down in a “blaze of glory” as long as they stand up to the United States and die a heroes death for their radicalized or “subjected” people. 


Whether it’s Iran or North Korea or others–we may not know what we are really dealing with here until it’s too late. 


Life is not everything to these people–remember many a terrorist has died a martyrs death with the promise of 72 virgins in heaven awaiting them. 


To some, as Prime Minister Gold Meir stated:

“Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us!”


Hate by virtue of perceived injustice, required Jihad or “holy war,” brainwashing or threats and the desire for a “glorious death” standing up to the infidels or the “great Satan…any of all of these can contribute to ignoring the consequences. 


Israel has tried to deter horrible homicide bombers/and other mad terrorists from performing their evil misdeeds on the civilian population by for example, demolishing the terrorist homes as a potent consequence that they know going into it, yet many terrorists still wear the explosive vests and detonate anyway.


Similarly, North Korea despite the President’s threat that they “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” brushed it off and shot off more volleys of ICBMs and threatened to engulf Guam in fire. 


– The point is that deterrence alone is not a strategy!


If our enemies can hit us with a devastating attack–whether WMD, cyber, EMP, or quantum attack— that can inflict immeasurable harm on us–they may actually choose to take their best shot, rather than wait for us to hit them or continue to feel disrespected, subjected, inferior, and hopeless.


To someone on the radical fringes or the mental edge, maybe–just maybe–they will do the unthinkable and surprise us.


What good will our fire and fury counterstrike do us, when our cities are in ruin and our people dead and dying en masse. 


Revenge isn’t so sweet when your family, homeland, and virtually everything you know and held dear is gone.


The only real military strategy is to be able to defend ourselves and AVOID getting a homeland catastrophe!


We need massive investment and expertise in missile defense, bio defense, cyber defense, quantum computing, and expansive hardening of our critical infrastructure.


Unfortunately, as naysayers to the threats abound, we are no where near where we need to be in protecting the homeland.


If one person falls from the high wire and smashes their head, what good is it that the other person falls and suffers similarly or worse. 


The point is not to fall, not to get hurt, not to die, not to have our country and way of life destroyed.


Deterrence does not guarantee this security to the country–especially when dealing with no shortage of radicalized nuts out there. 


Only a genuine defense that can STOP and counter the threats BEFORE a devastating attack happens and hits us is a strategy worth pursuing …and THEN you can punch the other person squarely in their devil’s face!


Without an adequate defensive strategy, get ready, because every high flying act eventually falls to the ground and hits their head hard. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)