If you came of age in say, the late nineties or sooner, there were two rules you had to know:
1. Google is unstoppable, nobody can take search away from them.
2. Microsoft’s Bing (their search alternative) is a joke.
Well, suddenly that joke isn’t so funny anymore. Bing recently made a power move that left Google outdone and outflanked. Google leadership sent out a memo saying this could be an actual existential threat to the company.
According to Business Insider:
“At headquarters just outside Seattle, journalists packed a room as CEO Satya Nadella showed off an updated Bing search engine powered by a new version of the hottest technology in the world right now: GPT, a large AI language model created by startup OpenAI. Nadella beamed. He cracked jokes.
Then the usually calm, thoughtful CEO declared war on Google, the internet giant that has maintained an unbreakable online Search monopoly for 20 years. ‘It’s a new day in Search,’ Nadella said. ‘Rapid innovation is going to come. In fact, a race starts today.'”
We’re in the people business, not the robot business, so we have no idea how worried Google should be. We don’t know if this is Microsoft’s knockout blow or not. What we do know is, what was the most powerful force in tech (Google) has just received a major black eye, something unimaginable even a few years ago. This is also happening twenty years after the blogosphere declared Microsoft to be passé and “dead,” making it a pretty remarkable comeback story. Or maybe it’s just the story of slow and steady winning the race.
When Satya Nadella took over the reins from Steve Ballmer in 2014, he focused on making Microsoft a “Culture First” company. He charted a new vision – where he urged people to go from “know it all’s” to learn-it-all’s” from a culture made up of the self-obsessed to one that was customer obsessed. A company people would actually miss if it were gone. And it’s been paying off in a big way.
Playing the long game requires persistence, vision, and knowing that the trajectory is not straight up to the right.
But that’s the funny thing about human beings. We love posting aphorisms like “the only constant is change” on LinkedIn, but when real change actually happens we’re left shocked and running around like headless chickens.
They say it’s tough at the top, and one of the key insights we’ve learned over the years is that it’s tough because being at the top is inherently unstable.
Once you’re on top, you don’t just become a target, you become THE target, from a lot of people who are not only just as smart, talented, and ruthless as you, but also outnumber you by a long shot. Yes, with a bit of pluck you can fend them off, but not forever.
Betting on the wrong horse is easy, especially when it was the right horse only five minutes ago.