Google just taught everyone an important lesson about failure.This is something most leaders will never learn

Google has a reputation for launching a product or service, investing billions of dollars, and then abandoning it entirely. There’s even a whole website called Google Graveyard dedicated to projects Google abandoned.

YouTube Originals, Google+, Google Goggles and Nexus smartphones and hundreds of other products and services have found their final resting place at Google Graveyard. Many of them are not entirely without an audience. Hit the graveyard with its latest product, Stadia — Google’s cloud-streaming video game service.

“A few years ago, we also launched Stadia, a consumer gaming service,” Phil Harrison, Google’s vice president of Stadia, wrote in a blog post. “While Stadia’s approach to streaming games to consumers is built on a strong technical foundation, it hasn’t been as engaging as we expected, so we made the difficult decision to start shutting down the Stadia streaming service.”

There’s a lot to unravel in that segment. On the one hand, I can’t think of a more brutal market today than video games. Technically, what Google is trying might be impressive, but it’s not that great.

I heard Ben Thompson say on the Dithering podcast (paid subscription but well worth it) that companies that make money primarily from ad-supported services basically can’t sell. I think this might be true.

Google is just not good at selling anything. It’s a decent flagship smartphone, but it’s also hardly bought by anyone. It sells some Nest smart home devices, but that’s mostly to keep Amazon from owning the market outright.

For the most part, Google is good at building products and giving them free to users in exchange for showing ads. It can’t seem to fully consider what it takes to build what it expects people to actually pay for. So, in less than three years, Google pulled out of video game streaming.

Stadia never had a real chance. That’s not to say it doesn’t have an audience, or that it doesn’t have some interesting technology behind it. Clearly, Google has plenty of money to put into it. The problem is, at some point, it’s not worth it anymore. The truth is, it’s never worth it.

I think you can attest that at some point, if you’re called a tech company that makes things and then kills them, you’re probably going to want to try any ambitious project.

On the one hand, Stadia suffered the worst self-fulfilling prophecy. Whenever Google launches a service, there’s a risk that people think the company’s heart isn’t in it. They would assume that Google might decide to cancel it at any time.

This means that developers don’t invest time or resources in making games for the platform. As a result, customers don’t pay when they can get games from many other places.

On the other hand, there is an important lesson here: sometimes you try things and get really bad at them.

Google isn’t just trying to offer video game services, it’s also trying to disrupt video games by offering them in a very different way. It just didn’t work. At some point, even a company the size of Google — with all the resources — has to figure out when to let it go.

You only have so much bandwidth. You only have so many resources to try out different ideas. At some point, you have to decide where to focus your attention, money, and people.

Another big lesson here is that Google seems to be killing Stadia in the least scary way possible. The company told customers it would refund all purchases of Stadia hardware and games.

It’s certainly a noble gesture, and I think it’s worth noting that it exceeds my expectations for most companies. At the same time, it seems clear that not that many people are paying for Stadia for Google from the start.

The point is that you can get away with losing bets while still respecting those who believe in what you’re trying to do. Obviously, people using Stadia are disappointed. This is inevitable. But if every business dealt with failure the way Google did – at least in this case – we would all be better off.

The views expressed by Inc.com columnists here are their own and not those of Inc.com.

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