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Bezos Still Smarting From New York Times’ Amazon Article

Apparently last summer’s Amazon exposé in the New York Times is still sticking in CEO/founder Jeff Bezos’ craw.

In it, Bezos was taken to task for fostering a corporate culture that reportedly demands around-the-clock hours and encourages snitching on co-workers.

Though the charges were refuted by no less than former White House press secretary (and current Amazon corporate affairs senior VP) Jay Carney, Bezos felt it necessary to defend his company again, this time in the shareholders’ letter that opens Amazon’s 2015 annual report, released today.

 In it, he notes that corporate cultures are, for better or worse, “enduring, stable, hard to change. They can be a source of advantage or disadvantage … Someone energized by competitive zeal may select and be happy in one culture, while someone who loves to pioneer and invent may choose another.

“We never claim that our approach is the right one,” he continues, “just that it’s ours – and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people; folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful.”

He credits that culture — and its willingness to accept failure as a necessary byproduct of invention — for Amazon becoming “the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion in annual sales,” a milestone it will hit this year.

“We all know that if you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’re also going to hit some home runs,” he wrote. “The difference between baseball and business, however, is that baseball has a truncated outcome distribution. When you swing, no matter how well you connect with the ball, the most runs you can get is four. In business, every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs. This long-tailed distribution of returns is why it’s important to be bold. Big winners pay for so many experiments.”

The complete essay, highlighting the company’s successes with Prime, Marketplace and Web Services, along with Bezos’ 1997 shareholders’ letter that he included for perspective, can be accessed here.