I’m no wide-eyed lefty. I understand and appreciate the for-profit model. And I have to say that Amazon’s innovations have made my life easier and more pleasurable. It’s seductively wonderful to hit One Click and get the goods in hours. But there are costs beyond what appears on our credit card bills, especially if/when Amazon’s supercharged, single-focus model becomes the norm for our work environments.
It’s about lost opportunities—for workers, for companies, and for the world.
If we accept that work now requires a relentlessly exclusive focus on work goals, then we lose the opportunities to find and serve deeper, more-meaningful purposes for our lives.
At 73, I know that there’s nothing more important than that our lives be meaningful—that what we do and how we do it be in sync with the priorities at the core of our beings. Probe deeply enough and most of us find that kind of satisfaction in giving back—in making life better for other people, in helping solve significant public problems. We know we’re not just workers (and not just consumers). We’re citizens and social beings, responsible not just for making and buying stuff, but for the broader welfare of the communities, nations and planet where we live.
The current Amazon model makes all this much more difficult.
I doesn’t have to. Corporations like Amazon can have it all-–if they widen their focus and learn to think Big. Really big.
Why can’t Amazon offer some of its passionate and energetic employees the chance—at the company’s expense—to apply their imagination, skills, and hard work in a few new Amazon subsidiaries dedicated to revolutionizing farm-to-market systems in the developing world, cutting the costs of alternative energy sources by half, or creating a viable global system for taking care of war refugees?
Yes, doing anything like this would cost Amazon some money. So let them charge us a little more for our lawnmowers and coffee filters, or get stuff to us a few hours later. I’d be more than willing to pay more to be a partner in their good work and in setting a fine example for how American corporations can do business.
If Amazon did that, they’d have my business forever. They’d also build the trust, morale and allegiance of their own workforce, which would stabilize--fewer burn-outs and less turn-over. And I’d still get my lawnmower in time.
Everybody would win.
So congratulations, Jeff Bezos. You’ve already won the world series of Double A ball. Now you can do something in the Big Leagues. Something that actually matters. Something that will inspire other CEOs to follow your lead. Something that really would change the world in ways that actually matter.