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Hanson Hosein and Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos talks a lot about Amazon focusing on customers, to the point that it has become a cliché. But in a new interview debuting tonight in the Seattle region on the Four Peaks TV show, the Amazon CEO explains why that approach beats focusing on competitors, which is a common trap for many tech companies.

Hanson Hosein, the journalist and University of Washington educator who hosts the show, raises the issue during the interview by asking Bezos how Amazon stays nimble even as a tech giant.

“If you have a customer-centric culture, that cures a lot of ills,” responds Bezos. “Let’s say you’re the leader in a particular arena, if you’re competitor-focused and you’re already the leader, then where does your energy come from? Whereas, if you’re customer focused, and you’re already the leader, customers are never satisfied.”

He continues, “If you’re customer-focused, you’re always waking up wondering, how can we make that customer say, wow? We want to impress our customers — we want them to say, wow. That kind of divine discontent comes from observing customers and noticing that things can always be better.”

Jeff Bezos

At another point in the interview, Bezos describes the “Amazon cocktail” of customer-centricity, long-term thinking, and a focus on invention.

“I don’t think that you can invent on behalf of customers unless you’re willing to think long-term, because a lot of invention doesn’t work. If you’re going to invent, it means you’re going to experiment, and if you’re going to experiment, you’re going to fail, and if you’re going to fail, you have to think long term.”

The interview, embedded below, makes its broadcast debut at 7 p.m. tonight on UWTV. (It was conducted prior to Bezos’ surprise agreement to acquire the Washington Post.)

Hosein, director of the UW Communication Leadership program, conducted a series of interviews in conjunction with the opening of the Bezos Center for Innovation at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry.

Other interviews in the series include Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Intellectual Ventures’ Nathan Myhrvold, and biotech pioneer Leroy Hood, among many others. All of the interviews have been released in advance, Netflix-style, on the Four Peaks site.

Hosein explains how the series came to be in this post.

Here’s the full Bezos interview, touching on everything from the origins of Amazon (and why Bezos chose Seattle over Portland), to the company’s legacy.

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