How an Amazonian will Answer the Question: “Why is the sky blue?”

Why is the sky blue? An Amazonian will answer this question with a granular, data-rich response. At Amazon, data provides the answer to all questions. At Amazon, data wins all wars.

Data matters more to win an argument than assumptions, or proxies, or the title of who's making the argument. In a previous post, we discussed Amazon's relentless focus on truth-seeking: pressing on with an issue until the truth (to the best extent possible) becomes evident. Data is the ultimate conduit to arrive at the truth.

Why is the sky blue?

Amazon reveres data (and hates social cohesion) to an extreme extent. Employees openly challenge common-held knowledge until they can expose the atomic-level data source behind this knowledge. For example, if I asked you: "Why is the sky blue," in any regular setting, you would likely look at me funny and respond with: "The sky is blue... because it's blue. Everyone knows the sky is blue. Why are you asking?"

If I asked an Amazonian, "Why is the sky blue," I would likely get the following response, instead: "The sky is blue because the air molecules scatter the blue spectrum of the sunlight, more than they scatter any other visible spectrum." You might think then that this type of exhaustive answer would settle it, but you would be wrong.

A true Amazonian would keep asking for even more granular data, after hearing the detailed response above: "Why do the air molecules scatter the blue spectrum of the sunlight more?" Then, the answer to that follow-on question would be: "Well, because the blue spectrum of the light travels in shorter wavelengths than the red spectrum." Then, a second follow-on question: "Why does the blue spectrum travel in shorter wavelengths?" Etcetera... Until we have exhausted the "Diffuse sky radiation" article on Wikipedia. You get the point.

The Dentist game

Amazon does not accept a common premise as sufficient enough information. Not until the underlying data emerges. Internally, this is known as the "dentist game." It means to drill down with follow-on questions until you get to the very atomic source of the issue. Like a dentist would ask: "Does it hurt now? How about now? And now?"

Until it does hurt, eventually. Similarly, in meetings, Amazon's execs would play the dentist game and ask the question 'why?' five (or more) consecutive times. I've seen this happen even if the exec agrees with your original argument. They would drill to test your Dive Deep and your conviction on the topic. Often, they would drill to invite you to educate them with what you know on the topic.

The dentist game is also instrumental when explaining complex topics in simple ways. Explaining complex issues simply, and then committing the explanation on paper, as a clear essay, is part of the very foundation of the Amazon culture.

So, now that you know how to answer the question "Why is the sky blue," you should consider enrolling in "The Essential Course to Prepare for the Amazon Interview," to learn how to interview with Amazon, and practice answering other Amazon interview questions.