Test your English listening comprehension: How well do you understand Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and one of the richest people in the world?
To get the most out of today’s blog post, please follow the following five steps:
- Listen to the interview and try to understand as much as possible.
- Take the multiple-choice test we have created for you.
- Then listen to the interview again – this time with subtitles (you may understand a lot more by now).
- Read the transcript (and understand even more of what Jeff Bezos says in the interview).
- Finally, we let you in on all the details regarding vocabulary and expressions used in the interview (after that, you should be able to understand all of it).
Step 1: Listen to the Interview
Step 2: Take the Test
Step 3: Listen to the Interview again (with subtitles)
Step 4: Read the transcript
Amazon is one (company) where I think people have a very different idea of what Amazon is. Some people see you as an eCommerce company or retailer, others see you as an innovative tech company. You have Amazon Webservices, you have original content and you have Alexa and so many other things. How should we be thinking about Amazon?
We do such a diverse array of things from producing original content at Amazon Studios to Amazon Webservices where we sell, … you know, start-ups and enterprises, you know, computing infrastructure, to the things that most people know about, which is our consumer offering where we deliver things in little brown boxes.
And these things seem so disparate. How is it that we are doing all of them? The common thread – and really what it is – is that it´s an approach. We have a very distinctive approach that we have been honing and refining and thinking about for 22 years.
And it´s really just a few principles that we use as we go about these activities. At the very top of the list is one that I have already mentioned, but you probably hear it ten times throughout tonight because it´s so central. And it is customer-obsession. Customer-obsession instead of for example competitor-obsession, or business model-obsession, or product-obsession, or technology-obsession.
There are many ways to center a business. And by the way: Many of them can work! I know and have friends who lead very competitor-obsessed companies.
And those companies can be successful. That´s not a bad strategy. You have to be really good at close following, you identify winners and you watch your competitors very carefully, when they latch onto something that´s working, you duplicate as quickly as possible. It´s a very good strategy in some ways because you don´t have to go down blind alleys if you are not pioneering, if you are only close following. It has some advantages.
But it has some disadvantages too. And I like the customer-obsession model. I think it´s the right one. I think it´s better than product-obsession even. Product-obsession is not bad, but I think customer-obsession gets you there in a healthier way.
So that´s one of the principles, one of the approaches that we take in every single thing that we do.
The second one is that we are willing – I´d say even eager – to invent and pioneer. So that is .. it goes along /marries really well with customer-obsession. Customers are always dissatisfied, even when they don´t know it, even when they think they are happy. They actually do want a better way, and they just don´t know yet what that should be.
And that´s why I always warn people: Customer-obsession is not just listening to customers! Customer-obsession is also inventing on their behalf, because it´s not their job to invent for themselves.
And so you need to be an inventor and a pioneer.
And the third one; it´s really central to the way we think about all of our business problems. And a bunch of things at Amazon is: We are long-term oriented.
So I ask everybody to not think in two or three year time frames but to think in five to seven year time frames, to not think about … When somebody says to me, ahm congratulates Amazon on a good quarter – which is a very common thing to say. You meet somebody, they are being nice. They look to your financial results for the quarter. They say: Good quarter. I say thank you.
But what I´m thinking to myself is: That quarter, those quarterly results are actually pretty much fully baked about three years ago. And so like today I´m working on, you know, a quarter that is gonna happen in 2020, not next quarter.
Next quarter for all practical purposes is done already, and it´s probably been done for a couple of years. And so if you start to think that way it changes how you spend your time, how you plan, were you put your energy and your ability to look around corners gets better.
So many things improve if you can take a long-term .. (view). And by the way it´s not natural for humans. It´s a discipline that you have to build. The kind of, you know, get-rich-slowly-schemes are not big sellers on .. infomercials, you know.
And so that´s something that you have to sort of steer yourself for, discipline and teach over time. So that´s what is Amazon I´d say. Really, it´s a collection of principles and it´s an approach that we deploy and it´s fun. I dance into work.
Step 5: Details on Vocabulary and Expressions used
“We do such a diverse array of things from producing original content at Amazon Studios to the things that most people know about, which is our consumer offering.”
diverse = something that is very different from each other
Example: “Society is now much more diverse than ever before.”
Example: “We hold very diverse views on the topic.”
„We do such a diverse array of things from producing original content to …“
array = a large group of things
Example: “The airport shops offer a wide array of merchandise.”
Example: “Our team members have a wide array of motivations and personalities.”
start-up = a small business that has just been started
Example: “Start-ups need to generate revenue quickly in order to survive.”
“These things seem so disparate. How is it that we are doing all of them?”
disparate = different in every possible way
Example: “The two cultures were so disparate that she found it hard to adapt from one to the other.”
Example: “He looked from one sister to the other, both beauties, but in such disparate ways.”
“The common thread is that it´s an approach.”
thread = the common idea / something that connects everything with one another
Example: “All religions are united by the common threads of fighting evil and helping others.”
Example: “One of the main threads of the film is the development of the relationship between the boy and his uncle.”
“We have a very distinctive approach that we have been honing and refining for 22 years.”
distinctive =easy to recognize because it is different from other things
Example: „She´s got a very distinctive voice.“
“We have a very distinctive approach that we have been honing and refining for 22 years.”
hone = carefully develop it over a long period of time
Example: “Leading companies spend time and money on honing the skills of senior managers.”
Example: “Our interviewing techniques have been honed in order to help us pick exactly the right candidate.”
“I like the customer-obsession model. I think it´s the right one. I think it´s even better than product-obsession.”
obsession = something or someone you think about all the time
Example: “They have an obsession with making money.”
Example: “She would try to forget her obsession with Christopher.”
“When they latch onto something that´s working, they duplicate as quickly as possible.”
duplicate = to make an exact copy of something
Example: “The documents had been duplicated.”
“We are willing to invent and pioneer.”
pioneer = you are one of the first people to do something
Example: “He pioneered the design of the Internet.”
Example: “… the professor who invented and pioneered DNA tests.”
“I ask everybody to not think in two or three year time frames.”
time frame = a period of time within which an activity is intended to happen or to be completed
Example: “Have you set a time frame for completing the job?”
Example: “The company may not meet its targets within the time frame.”
“The kind of get-rich-slowly-schemes are not big sellers on infomercials.”
infomercial = a long television advertisement, that contains a lot of information
Example: “About 3% of viewers who watch infomercials buy the product being pitched.”
“It´s a collection of principles and it´s an approach that we deploy.”
deploy = to use something or someone, especially in an effective way
Example: “My job doesn´t really allow me fully to deploy my skills and talents.”
Example: “The president said he had no intention of deploying ground troops.”
to get confused about
“That is something that people get confused about sometimes: What is Amazon?”
… you do not know exactly what it´s all about or what is happening
Example: “A survey showed people get more and more confused about what they should eat to stay healthy.”
to go about
“It´s really just a few principles that we use as we go about these activities.”
… the way you approach it and deal with it.
Example: “We are simply going about our business.”
Example: “I want her back, but I just don´t know how to go about it.”
to latch onto something
“You identify winners and you watch your competitors very carefully, when they latch onto something that´s working, you duplicate as quickly as possible.”
… you want to adopt something because it looks very interesting and promising.
Example: “The company latched onto the idea of using its software to develop video games.”
to go down blind alleys
“You don´t have to go down blind alleys if you are not pioneering.”
… a situation or method that is not effective or will not produce results.
Example: “This sort of thinking just seems to be leading us down a blind alley.”
to be eager
“The second one is that we are willing – I´d say even eager – to invent and pioneer.”
… to want something very much.
Example: „I´m eager to see the results.“
Example: „My son was eager to get home and play with his new toy.“
to marry well with
„The willingness to pioneer marries well with customer-obsession.“
… something matches perfectly; pioneering and customer-obsession fit together.
on somebody´s behalf
“Customer-obsession is not just listening to customers. It´s also about inventing on their behalf, because it´s not their job to invent for themselves.”
… you are acting for someone. You do it for the person as his or her representative.
Example: “The police officer spoke on behalf of his colleagues.”
a bunch of things
“A bunch of things at Amazon is: We are long-term oriented.”
… a number of things of the same type; a group of
Example: “The players were a great bunch.”
Example: “He had left a huge bunch of flowers in the hotel room.”
Example: “We ate a whole bunch of grapes.”
for all practical purposes
“Next quarter for all practical purposes is done already.”
… in reality or basically.
Example: “For all practical purposes, I might as well have not handed in this proposal at all.”
to look / see around corners
“If you start to think that way, your ability to look around corners gets better.”
… the ability to anticipate problems before they happen; to see what is, not what appears to be.
to steer for something
“That´s something that you have to sort of steer yourself for, discipline and teach over time.”
… to control the direction in which something moves; you aim at something and you want to reach it.
The video we share here is part of an interview that was published on YouTube. You can access the full video here: Jeff Bezos discusses what made Amazon so successful, including his key principles
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