Accepting the scale of failure

Around a cocktail, everyone will agree that you have to accept failure in innovation. During TEDx conferences smart people will boast about failing gracefully and empowering teams to do so. The question is are you walking to talk yourself? Are you ready to accept failure as an unavoidable harsh reality? At scale?

As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures. Of course, we won’t undertake such experiments cavalierly. We will work hard to make them good bets, but not all good bets will ultimately pay out. This kind of large-scale risk taking is part of the service we as a large company can provide to our customers and to society. The good news for shareowners is that a single big winning bet can more than cover the cost of many losers.

2018 Letter to Shareholders – Jeff BEZOS