Bias for Action Amazon Example (with 3 Great Stories)

Bias for Action Amazon Example and how to apply it in your day-to-day worklife

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If you are looking for bias for action Amazon example, you are in the right place. In this post, we will discuss the leadership principle “bias for action” that Amazon has and expects from its employees. Notably, it is a principle they like to assess in job interviews. So, if you are interviewing for a job with Amazon or AWS, this is a post you should read.

Bias for Action Amazon Example

A definition of “Bias for Action”

Before we can start to dive into some amazon example of bias for action, let’s spend a few words to understand what bias for action is all about. First, it is a leadership principle. For Amazon, leadership principles are values that shape the way their employee think and approach work. The list of leadership principles evolved throughout time, and some more were added as the company got bigger.

Nonetheless, bias for action is one of the old leadership principle and quite an important one. It means that you are not the kind of person who just sits there and wait for his life to slowly end, but rather you are someone who acts. If there is a problem, you go fix it. If you are still unsure about what to do because you have conflicting data, but you can easily revert your decision, you just do something and see.

All in all, having bias for action means that you don’t find yourself in an “analysis-paralysis”. You know when it is time to stop analysing and start doing.

With this made clear, we can start with actual examples of this leadership principle.

Bias for Action Amazon Example #1

This example, like all the others, is designed thinking specifically about Amazon and their huge cloud service company, AWS (Amazon Web Services).

You are working in a support service and receive an incident ticket because a key factory of a key customer has stopped working. You quickly connect to the various systems and realize that the core switch, the device at the centre of the network that gives connectivity to everything else, is not working properly. You see it has some weird logs about memory dumps and other technical issues, but you are not fully able to interpret them. In the meantime, the plant is still down.

If you have bias for action, you reboot the device. That is something that can be done easily in switches, in case you are not familiar with this type of equipment. Of course, rebooting the device means it won’t be available for some time, causing network disconnection. Yet, since the network is already disconnected, no extra impact. In other words, you were faced with two possible courses of actions:

  1. Do not reboot and keep troubleshooting to find an issue
  2. Reboot, then continue troubleshooting

By choosing the second option, if the reboot fixes the problem, you are golden, and you have all the time afterwards to look back and trace the real issue. Instead, if this did not fix the problem, you did not waste a lot of time and tried something. You could have even kept reading and trying to interpret the error messages while the device was rebooting. You did something, and this is bias for action.

This example was readapted from a real-world experience.

Bias for Action Amazon Example #2

We can continue with another example, always tailored to people interviewing for a job with AWS. In this case, we can focus on a more high-level situation, less technical than the previous example, which may apply to multiple roles.

Your team has to fill a complex spreadsheet with sales quota and other information to send to the management every month. This takes a lot of time, and it is really a zero value-add task. It is something mechanical that anyone on your team could do, just pulling the data out of a system and manually inputting them in a specific order in a spreadsheet that the management wants to see.

You see this one month, then another month, and you realize this is a drain on the team and can be automated. You live according to bias for action, so you decide to create a script in Python that pulls the data from the system automatically and craft the spreadsheet that you need, every month.

Amazon Echo is created by a team that takes initiative, it can classify as a bias for action Amazon example
Amazon Echo, one of the many product that Amazon creates thanks to its bias for action approach.

The first time, you prepare the spreadsheet with Excel manually and in parallel with the script, and check you get the same result you expect. If you do, you are golden, you can use the script from now on. If you don’t, then you can still send the manual report this time and work on your script for next month.

Bias for Action Amazon Example #3

We continue with another example of bias for action that can show why this leadership principle is important in Amazon. At some point, the company declared publicly that they let their customer service support (for have the ability to decide to temporarily remove a product from the marketplace in case of problems.

This is a huge leap of faith for the company. They put in the hands of low-ranking individuals the ability to remove a product from sale, potentially leading to lost revenue. Yet, as those are the people who process returns and customer complaints, Amazon empowers them with the ability to remove a product if they feel there is “something wrong”. For example, too many people are returning the product, or there are lots of complaints that may hint a faulty shipment.

Amazon gives its employee this possibility, and that is one thing. Yet, this is worthless unless employees act upon it and leverage this capability. So, employees need to have bias for action and decide to actually do something about a problem when it arises. In this specific bias for action Amazon example, the employee sees a recurring problem with a product and decides to pull it off the market temporarily.

This is also related to another key leadership principle, which is ownership. Ownership simply mean you take ownership for everything that happens in the company, without constraining yourself to think in silos.

Bias for Action in Summary

In short, bias for action happens when you decide to act upon something, you feel the responsibility to do something about it and make it right. It is the opposite of being stuck in analysis without moving forward. This Amazon leadership principle is something good virtually in any context, regardless of company culture. Furthermore, it is highly related with the ownership and deliver results principles.

Of course, a tale of caution. Having bias for action does not simply mean doing something recklessly just for the sake of it. It means having a deep understanding and move things forward, know which actions you can confidently take and which others you cannot. In general, people with bias for action tend to develop referent power over time.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio