The Pivot

Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.
  – Friedrich Nietzsche

You have this great idea.  It’s massive.  One of those $100M ideas.  Are you sure that you have it 100% right?  Positive?  What if you were 90% right – that would be ok wouldn’t it?  But what if the 10% you were wrong about was all it took to make it fail?   Having passion and conviction about your idea, business, business model, project or whatever is a necessary ingredient.  But stubbornness and dogma can end your success perhaps before you get started.

Eric Ries coined the term Pivot in his excellent book – The Lean Startup.  Obviously people had been changing strategic directions long before Ries wrote this book, but he introduces the concept as an active part of the business development process and not as a panic button.

One of the principles of The Lean Startup is that you don’t get your product or service 100% ready before introducing it the market.  Why invest all the time, money, resources, energy and everything only to find out that you were almost right.  It might be too late or become too expensive once you have gone so far down a single path.

The Lean Startup introduces the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).  The MVP is a functioning, commercial version of your product or service but it does just enough to make sure that you are on the right path.  If you are not, you can tweak it.  These adjustments are called Pivots and they can be small changes in functionality or UI to completely different target markets or revenue models.  The MVP allows you to test your assumptions with a product that delivers real value to your target market but without the “all or nothing” approach that could be the commercial equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

It’s ok to be wrong as long as you get it right in the end.

I’ve recently introduced a pivot with one of our services.  The original idea was sound (naturally) but it is not growing at the pace that I would have expected.  I know that the business/service is rock solid and will be successful – but the path that we set out to follow is not getting us there fast enough.  I believe that the pivot will change that.  If it doesn’t, we’ll pivot again.  Until we get it right.

Our ability to pivot like this is reassuring to me.  It makes me realise that not every new venture is an “all in” gamble.  You start small – with the right idea – and you experiment, you collect feedback and other data, test it.. and pivot if you need to.  Then – when you know you have it right.. you accelerate…  go “all in”.   But don’t forget to pivot again as you grow the business releasing new products and services that may just be 90% right.

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