This April, in his final letter to Amazon shareholders as the company’s CEO, Jeff Bezos quoted Richard Dawkins’ 1986 book, The Blind Watchmaker: “if living things didn’t work actively to prevent it, they would eventually merge into their surroundings, and cease to exist as autonomous beings. That is what happens when they die.”
The meaning of this passage, for Bezos, is that “differentiation is survival” – that only by concentrating on what makes us unique do we avoid regressing to the dusty mean, and becoming standard matter once more.
Which naturally provokes the question on this, the last Prime Day of the Jeff Bezos era, of whether there is a consumer experience less unique than buying something from the world’s most popular retail destination on its busiest day (which is now two days, so plenty of time to read this and snap up some cut-price Echo Buds). No other shop has come close to achieving Amazon’s level of ubiquity: the site now accounts for 40 per cent of all e-commerce in the US, and 30 per cent in the UK.
Bezos writes that companies can only achieve this kind of success by coming up with new, special ideas – “invention is the root of all real value creation” – and that it will flourish as long as “Amazonians” put energy into preserving this innovation, the life-force of the company. “The world…