Marketing guru Seth Godin’s new book the dip is a quick, 80-page read. Thanks to Brian Tolle for getting me a free copy of the book. Here’s a short description from the cover:

Every new project…starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point: really hard, and not much fun at all. And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a Dip–a temporary setback that you will overcome if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try…Winners quit fast, quit often…until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons…Losers, on the other hand…fail to stick out the Dip–they get to the moment of truth and then give up–or they never even find the right Dip to conquer.

There are some easy pluses and minuses to this book, but I’ll leave those thoughts to the book critics. What I found interesting is that he’s really talking about learning. The curve he describes is a learning curve. Rather than embracing the dip and helping learners through it, learning designers often design out the dip. Certainly, the goal–making sure everybody gets it–is well intentioned. However, this requires designing to the lowest common denominator. It also means that most of the results are missed.

However, we don’t have to use the lowest common denominator as our metric and most of our learners can make it back up the curve to get the best results. Simulations and games are a great way to help people through the dip. In fact, well-designed simulations take advantage of the dip and make it a key part of the design. About 5 months ago, I covered this topic in more detail in a post called Adaptive Simulations. (Note: In my graphic, the dips are actually the peaks, so the chart would need to be flipped upside down to compare them). The idea is that the simulation takes the learner through a series of progressively more difficult dips, rather than one big dip, which in the end has taken them through the larger dip and on to success.
If we design “the dip” out of learning, we also design out the opportunity for learning. Without the struggle, without the opportunity for (and frequent occurrence of) failure, no real, lasting learning can be achieved.
Note: Check out Karl Kapp’s recent post for more thoughts on learning through failure.