Bias for Action - How to ace this leadership principle?

This principle describes how Amazon is able to move so fast, and it is a great example of how a bias can drive a company to success. But what is the Bias for Action?

Bias for Action - How to ace this leadership principle?

Amazon’s leadership principle #9 is Bias for Action [link].

This principle describes how Amazon can move so fast, and it is a great example of how a bias can drive a company to success. But what is the Bias for Action? And how do you use this leadership principle to succeed more in your life and at work?

What is Bias for Action?

Amazon is known for moving fast, and Jeff Bezos has made it clear that this speed comes from Bias for Action. The Amazon founder says “I believe you can make good decisions without having all the information if you’re willing to communicate what you know, listen to others, and iterate. This approach is not foolproof… but at Amazon, we’re willing to be ‘foolish’ to do something new”.

Bias for Action means that you need to be decisive, take action, and make decisions quickly.

Here are some key points about this leadership principle:

  • Decisive action beats procrastination. The Bias for Action is about moving decisively forward, without waiting on perfect information or the perfect plan.
  • Make decisions quickly. When you have information, act on it. Don’t sit on decisions or ideas until they’re perfect, because they’ll never be perfect.
  • Change course if needed. The best-laid plans can change at any time in a growing business. Be willing to accept this fact and adjust your actions accordingly.
  • Keep moving forward no matter what happens!

Good examples of bias for action include:

  • Making decisions with less than 100% certainty about the outcome.
  • Launching new products before all the bugs are worked out, or launching pilot projects to test ideas before making company-wide changes.
  • Asking questions rather than assuming you know everything you need.

What are the attributes of a candidate with a bias for action?

  1. A doer: Above everything else, you are all about the actions. You do not hang around trying to figure out the best way to approach a situation. You are quick to assess and take action.
  2. Risk-taker: You believe in taking calculated risks to deliver results. You are not overwhelmed by situations requiring quick decisions.
  3. Gritty: You will bend over backward to achieve your goals and targets. You are not discouraged by small setbacks and will come back harder to crush your goals.

How to apply this principle at work

  • Be decisive: if you’re not sure about something, it’s probably better to decide and be wrong than to delay making a decision and thus be right too late. In general, speed is valued over thoroughness in businesses, so there’s a bias towards action.
  • Don’t procrastinate: if there’s an easy decision that has to be made, don’t waste time thinking about it - just do it! This can help you to be more proactive rather than reactive in your work. Similarly, you should always try and make progress on goals, even if you don’t quite reach them every day.
  • Focus on the most important tasks: don’t spend time on tasks that aren’t as important as others. If multiple urgent tasks need doing, pick the most important one and focus all your efforts on that one task until it’s done! Remember - 80% of success is just showing up.

What is a lack of Bias for Action?

Here are some signs that might cause you to score low on a Bias for Action question:

  • If you are easily distracted, getting frequently sidetracked;
  • If you have trouble following through with goals, never reaching completion;
  • If it takes you time to muster up the motivation to begin (i.e., you’re not a self-starter).

Bias for Action Interview Questions

Please be aware that the hiring manager might not use the exact words “Bias for Action” in the interview. It might come in handy to review the following Q & A.

  • Have you ever experienced a situation when you had to take a quick decision?
  • Give me an example of a situation where you had to take a big risk.
  • Describe a time when you took action when it was not something that was expected from you.
  • Tell me about when you were left frustrated by your team’s lack of initiative, and what did you do to tackle this situation?
  • Have you ever decided without consulting your superior? What was the outcome?
  • Please describe a situation where your project required you to learn something outside your scope of work.
  • How would you react if you saw your colleague take home the laptop charger that did not belong to them?
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake.
  • Did you ever face a crisis in your previous work, and how did you diffuse the situation?
  • How do you cope with stress?

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