On the Invest Like the Best podcast, Zach Kanter spoke to Patrick O’Shaughnessy about Amazon, Walmart, and the business decisions around both of the those companies. Kanter offers a strategic perch on both companies. A lot of what Sam Walton did and what Jeff Bezos did were the best decisions for their era.
Walton traveled by plane, guided by traffic patterns influenced by the housing boom and highways after World War Two to open the first Walmart in 1962. Bezos built Amazon first with non-perishable fungible products (books) and experiments to the point of public failure (Fire phone).
There are things the retail founders did that were similar too. They both managed in a decentralized way. Kanter gives an example from the German army:
“Fingerspitzengefühl is the feeling that you feel at the tips of your fingers. What the Germans mean by that is somebody’s intuitive ability to do their own job. What they found was that this mutual trust (between soldiers) is an emergent property of having a team of people with fingerspitzengefühl.”
There’s a sign for when this kind trust is lacking, whenever someone says I’ll just do it myself. That means both training and practice are lacking.
Another proponent of decentralized command is former Navy Seal, now author and podcaster Jocko Willink. Another of Jocko’s mantra is extreme ownership, to find what part of something a person controls and control it as best they can. Leaders need to own training which leads to fingerspitzengefühl, creates trust, and allows for a decentralized command.