I'm a long-time Amazon fan who has repeatedly praised Jeff Bezos for his willingness to develop a strategy, bet big, and ignore short-sighted critics.
In the recent Fortune article celebrating his being named 2012 Businessperson of the Year, I learned something I never knew about how Bezos manages Amazon:
"Before any discussion begins, members of the team -- including Bezos -- consume six-page printed memos in total silence for as long as 30 minutes. They scribble notes in the margins while the authors of the memos wait for Bezos and his minions to finish reading.
'For new employees, it's a strange initial experience,' he tells Fortune. 'They're just not accustomed to sitting silently in a room and doing study hall with a bunch of executives.' Bezos says the act of communal reading guarantees the group's undivided attention. Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master. 'Full sentences are harder to write,' he says. 'They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.'"
I was not fortunate enough to overlap with Jeff at D. E. Shaw & Co., L.P., the legendary hedge fund where he got his start (he left about 6 months before I joined the company--much to my misfortune; the co-workers whom Jeff stole away all became Amazon millionaires), so I never experienced his management style first hand.
Nonetheless, his writing-driven style definitely lines up with the intellectually-driven approach at D. E. Shaw. My first boss has told me on several occasions that the thing that cinched my hire was how much they liked my writing samples.
Writing has a way of exposing flaws and forcing you to pare back to the essence that PowerPoint does not. You have to connect the logical dots, rather than rely on hand-waving.
Even today, the first step I take for any of my projects is to write out a narrative: Overview, Assumptions, Body, Conclusion, and Action Items. I don't think it's a coincidence that I generally have a firmer grasp of the big picture and specifics than most other people.
Writing drives understanding; it's self-consistent logic gives Bezos the confidence to ignore the chatter of critics and focus on realizing the truth of his vision.