The 'two pizza rule' is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ secret to productive meetings

Work meetings are a notorious waste of time.

You've got to be smart to keep them from needlessly eating up your day. Those are precious minutes that you or your employees could be spending doing something useful.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos makes a point of steering clear of unnecessary meetings. When a meeting is absolutely unavoidable, though, he has one tip that boosts their productivity and usefulness. He calls it the "two pizza rule."

It's simple. The more people you pack into the meeting, the less productive the meeting will likely be. The solution? Never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn't feed the entire group.

Gathering together a massive squad for your meeting will just stifle creativity. In Fast Company, Rachel Gillett writes that "the idea of working within small teams is believed to help diminish various innovation killers like groupthink and social loafing."

An as Business Insider's Rich Feloni reports, other ingredients for a solid meeting include appointing a strong moderator, setting firm ground rules, and ensuring the discussion is relevant to all attendees beforehand.

What's more, writing for Psychology Today, Dr. Adrian Furnham, a professor of psychology at University College London, says that it always helps to manage expectations for meetings.

"Always plan and circulate an agenda before the meetings," he writes. "Get everyone to agree beforehand what the outcomes of the meeting are to be. Take charge of the agenda and the outcomes. Be clear why some are, and are not, on it. Give some idea of the length of the meeting."

While the gist of Bezos' rule is that less is more when it comes to meetings, you can also feel free to take his advice literally and bring two pizzas to your meetings every once and a while. Pizza makes everything better.

RELATED: The fabulous life of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

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The fabulous life of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
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The fabulous life of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos' mom, Jackie, was a teenager when she had him in January 1964. She had recently married Cuban immigrant Mike Bezos, who adopted Jeff. Jeff didn't learn that Mike wasn't his real father until he was 10 but says he was more fazed about learning he needed to get glasses than he was about the news.

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When Bezos was 4, his mother told his biological father, who previously had worked as a circus performer, to stay out of their lives. When Brad Stone interviewed Bezos' father for Stone's book "The Everything Store," Bezos' dad had no idea who his son had become.

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Bezos showed signs of brilliance from an early age. When he was a toddler, he took apart his crib with a screwdriver, because he wanted to sleep in a real bed.

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From ages 4 to 16, Bezos spent summers on his grandparents' ranch in Texas, doing things like repairing windmills and castrating bulls.

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His grandfather, Preston Gise, was a huge inspiration for Bezos and helped kindle his passion for intellectual pursuits. At a commencement address in 2010, Bezos said Gise taught him "it's harder to be kind than clever."

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Bezos fell in love with reruns of the original "Star Trek" and became a fan of later versions too. Early on, he considered naming Amazon MakeItSo.com in reference to a line from Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

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In school, Bezos told teachers "the future of mankind is not on this planet." As a kid, he wanted to be a space entrepreneur. Now he owns a space-exploration company called Blue Origin.

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After spending a miserable summer working at McDonald's as a teen, Bezos, together with his girlfriend, started the Dream Institute, a 10-day summer camp for kids. They charged $600 a kid but managed to sign up six students. The "Lord of the Rings" series made the required reading list.

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Bezos eventually went to college at Princeton and majored in computer science. Upon graduation, he turned down job offers from Intel and Bell Labs to join a startup called Fitel.

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After he quit Fitel, Bezos almost launched with Halsey Minor — who would later found CNET — a startup that would deliver news by fax.

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Instead, he got a job at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw. He became a senior vice president after only four years.

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Meanwhile, Bezos took ballroom dancing classes as part of a scheme to increase his "women flow." Just as Wall Streeters have a process for increasing their "deal flow," Bezos thought analytically about meeting women.

Image: Danny Kamin/FilmMagic

He married MacKenzie Tuttle, a D.E. Shaw research associate, in 1993. She's now a novelist.

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In 1994, Bezos read that the web had grown 2,300% in one year. This number astounded him, and he decided he needed to find some way to take advantage of its rapid growth. He made a list of 20 possible products to sell online and decided books were the best option.

Image: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

Bezos decided to leave D.E. Shaw even though he had a great job.

"When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff," he said later. "I knew when I was 80 that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn't something you worry about when you're 80 years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way…it was incredibly easy to make the decision."

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His boss at the firm, David E. Shaw, tried to persuade Bezos to stay. But Bezos was already determined to start his own company. He felt he'd rather try and fail at a startup than never try at all.

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And so Amazon was born. MacKenzie and Jeff flew to Texas to borrow a car from his father, and then they drove to Seattle. Bezos was making revenue projections in the passenger seat the whole way, though the couple did stop to watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon.

Image: Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Bezos started Amazon.com in a garage with a potbelly stove. He held most of his meetings at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.

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In the early days, a bell would ring in the office every time someone made a purchase, and everyone would gather around to see whether anyone knew the customer. It took only a few weeks before it was ringing so often they had to make it stop.

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In the first month of its launch, Amazon sold books to people in all 50 states and in 45 different countries. And it continued to grow. Amazon went public on May 15, 1997.

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When the dot-com crash came, analysts called the company "Amazon.bomb." But it weathered the storm and ended up being one of the few startups that wasn't wiped out by the dot-com bust.

Image: Reuters

Amazon shares have continued to go up since the crash (until the recent market correction). It has now gone beyond selling books to offering almost everything you can imagine, including appliances, clothing and even cloud computing services.

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Jeff Bezos was a demanding boss and could explode at employees. Rumor has it he hired a leadership coach to help him tone it down.

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Bezos is known for banning PowerPoint presentations at Amazon. Instead he requires his staff to turn in six-page papers on their proposals to encourage critical thinking over simplistic bullet points.

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Bezos is also known for creating a frugal company culture that doesn't offer perks like free food or massages.

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In 1998, Bezos became an early investor in Google. He invested $250,000, which was worth about 3.3 million shares when the company went public in 2004. Those would be worth about $2.2 billion today. (Bezos hasn't said whether he kept any of his stock after the initial public offering.)

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What does Bezos do with all his money? In 2012, he donated $2.5 million to defend gay marriage in Washington.

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Bezos has also donated $42 million and part of his land in Texas to the construction of The Clock Of The Long Now, an underground timepiece designed to work for 10,000 years.

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In August 2013, Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million.

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His space company Blue Origin made history last year when it became one of the first commercial companies to successfully launch a reusable rocket.

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Bezos' interest in flying has gotten him into trouble in the past. In 2003, Bezos almost died in a helicopter crash in the Texas boondocks while scouting a site for a test-launch facility for Blue Origin.

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But in early 2016, he flew his personal jet to Germany to pick up and bring home the Washington Post reporter who had been detained by Iran.

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Bezos is said to own a 5.35-acre estate on Seattle's Lake Washington that includes 200 yards of shoreline.

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He also bought a seven-bedroom, $24.5 million mansion in Beverly Hills in 2007. There's a greenhouse, tennis court, pool, and guest house on the property, and it neighbors Tom Cruise's estate.

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In January 2017, Bezos bought the Textile Museum, a pair of mansions in Washington, D.C.'s Kalorama neighborhood. The property sold for $23 million and is the largest in Washington.

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Bezos also owns three linked apartments totaling 10,000 square feet in New York City's Century Tower.

Image: Reuters

Exactly 20 years after going public, Amazon has a market cap of $457 billion. Barclays predicted Amazon could be the first trillion-dollar company.

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In March, Bezos became the world's second-richest person, right behind Bill Gates. With a net worth of more than $81 billion, Bezos is closing in on the No. 1 position.

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But don't expect Bezos to stop experimenting with new ideas anytime soon. In an interview with Business Insider, Bezos said: "What really matters is, companies that don't continue to experiment, companies that don't embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence."

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Vivian Giang contributed to a previous version of this article.

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