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Don’t dive

A goalkeeper faced with a penalty would do better not to dive – they would make a save about a third of the time if they stood still. Yet 95% of the time they dive.

It’s a great example of action bias. Doing things isn’t always a good idea. Switching lanes in traffic jam doesn’t speed you up. The most active financial traders tend to be the biggest losers. Your food will probably taste better if you don’t constant poke at it in the pan.

Goalkeepers dive because it makes it look like they are trying. It helps them to look and feel good: they feel better if they dive and concede a goal than if they stand still.

A lot of businesses make changes because they think they ought to. Changing a website because they’re bored with it. Rebranding because they’ve been looking at the logo every day for five years. Adjusting a perfectly effective email or Adwords campaign simply because nothing’s happened to it for a while.

It’s not to say you shouldn’t change things. Just that you should only do so if there’s good reason.

If I were operating a bigger agency I would be tempted to have an Uncreative Director. One who was in charge of being as boring as possible. Fighting against making unnecessary changes. Maintaining the positive status quo.

There’s an interesting video about the goalkeeper problem here, and if you have any thoughts, add them below.

Best wishes



  • James Stewart says:

    Love the idea of an uncreative director. I’ve a feeling I’ve met one or two in life but maybe they didn’t get the right credit…

  • Andrea says:

    Anther great blog Tom. Just to add that a very good reason to not change things too quickly is that it takes much longer than we think for a message to get through. What is important to us – and may have taken hours of careful crafting – is just a fleeting moment of attention from our audience so repetition can be very useful. Changing that message too often means that ultimately it never does its job.