Google and the Dip

Seth Godin describes The Dip as, “The long slog between starting and mastery.” Two excerpts from Seth Godin’s The Dip stood out to me:

“The brave thing to do is to tough it out and end up on the other side—getting all the benefits that come from scarcity. The mature thing is not even to bother starting to snowboard because you’re probably not going to make it through the Dip. And the stupid thing to do is to start, give it your best shot, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the Dip…. It’s the last choice, the common choice, the choice to give it a shot and then quit that you must avoid if you want to succeed.”

“If you’re going to quit, quit before you start. Reject the system. Don’t play the game if you realize you can’t be the best in the world.”

Google is the freshest example of this. There are at least two ways to see the nearly 300 products it has quit:

  1. Google is strategically slogging through the Dip—in the search ads business, artificial intelligence, etc.—and focusing on the things it can become the best at.
  2. Google mindlessly invested time and energy into projects it never could have been the best at, and now had to quit halfway through—at the Dip.

Both of these things can be true at the same time; you need to start something in order to know if you can be the best. 

In her book, Quit, Annie Duke describes Astro Teller’s approach to winding down bets at X, “X takes a lot of big swings, knowing that most will be whiffs. Teller looks at each project as buying an option on the future. Like most options, you have to keep paying to hold it, in increasing amounts.”

What’s overlooked is the people you let down when you choose to quit. Many people actually needed the products that Google quit (unlike a movie that many people dislike, or a device many people ignore). 

I’ll close with one of Seth’s analogies that I like, “A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.”

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