Google’s mistake, and the importance of thinking from first principles

[Note: I shared this mental model with my email subscribers on Oct 23, 2016. If you want to receive a new mental model every week, join the club.]

 

Who do you think will win the war between Google and Apple?

That was a trick question. There really doesn’t need to be a war between the two companies.

 

Apple makes money when people buy its products, while Google makes money when people use its services. Apple is a vertical company, while Google is a horizontal player.

But don’t feel bad for missing the trick. Google missed it too, when they framed the fight as Google vs. iPhone. When it was really Samsung vs. iPhone.

 

Why did they make this mistake? Why did they, for example, release turn-by-turn navigation on Maps only for Android, and give Apple a reason to launch its own Maps?

Start with first principles.

Didn’t think from first principles

As Ben Thompson explains in Google and the Limits of Strategy, they got too caught up in the Android-iPhone us-them framing, without realizing that they’re fundamentally different companies, with no need to compete!

Mike McCue (CEO, Flipboard) highlights the importance of such first-principles thinking from his own experience, in The Most Powerful Lesson in Business.

Elon Musk used this thinking tool too, to reduce the cost of building a rocketBy 98%!!

 

Key Learning:

When making an important decision, examine your beliefs first. Start with a simple question: “What do we know to be absolutely true?”

[Aside: First-principles thinking is useful when raising capital for your startup too, as I mention in Fundraising Mistake #7: Describing your startup as “Uber of X”]

 

Linked to: The Map is not the Territory

Filed Under: Decision-making

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