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Pivots are for the lucky. There's a better way. (humbledmba.com)
60 points by jaf12duke on June 28, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments



Pivoting is when something rotates around a fixed point.

If you take the product you already built (your fixed point) and apply it to a different market, that's a pivot.

Pet Peave: If you rename your company and now it's doing something completely new with a new codebase, it's not a pivot, it's starting over!


"Pivoting" and "failing fast" both seem to have been taken and abused by some people. These are concepts for applying learnings to your current environment. While you may wind up 180 degrees and three miles off of where you started, there is a continuous path between where you started and where you ended because you were gaining knowledge the whole time.

Discontinuous jumps may be necessary, but don't pretend you are pivoting your idea. And like TFA said, you lose a lot of confidence from your employees and your investors if you are skittish and jumping all over the place. The founders, like the name implies, form the foundation. Shaky foundations don't build strong buildings.


On the other hand, if you're walking along and you pivot, you may only have changed your direction slightly.. but you are now headed in a totally different direction towards a new destination.

It's possible for a small pivot to make a major different, it's also possible for a pirvot to be 180degrees, i.e. a complete turn around.

That said, I'm with you, it irks me when a company "pivots" and is basically a new company with the same people behind it - but from the point of view of the definition of "pivot", it does fit.


At the end of the day, people are picking hairs about the "definition" of a word. Pivot is an easy term to remember instead of having to describe at length the change a company made. I think the bigger concern is throwing the word pivot around to the point it becomes an annoying buzzword, rather than arguing about semantics.


What bugs me is when folks use "pivot" to avoid having to confess that an idea failed or was poorly conceived. It's really hard to learn and get better at something without moments of reckoning where you take stock after something fails.


The fixed point could be the product you've already built, but it could also be the team you've already assembled. If you've got a team you believe in and a product that's not gaining traction, pivot on the team and create a new product.

In my opinion, you're only starting over if you dissolve the legal entity, thus giving up the team and any funding they may have received.


Twitter is claimed to have pivoted from podcasting to microblogging.

The fixed point there is the team, and the knowledge they gained.


They bought out their investors, created a separate corporate entity, and built a new product from scratch. That's not a pivot!


High level concepts like this have their place, but what really makes or breaks a company is the hundreds of details that you have to get right. I'd love to see way more discussion of the details and less business guru pontification.


This really isn't a novel concept. It's called adapting, and every business must do it in order to survive.


That's the exact point I was going to make except I would call it evolving. Either way, same thing. Not really a new concept.


Exactly, the idea of exaptation in biology might be relevant, too; a resource first developed in one context is often useful in different contexts. While evolving or exaptation might not be a new concept, it is an important one that bears thought when executing a startup.


Would you consider facebook's move to the news feed a "pivot"? They certainly changed the fundamental way you interact with the product and shifted its purpose (a directory of your friends vs. updates about what they are doing) Most tech businesses that has survived, one could make the argument, have "pivoted". No matter what you call it, it's just good business. A lot of people are calling the Stickybits move to turntable a "pivot" - but wasn't their purpose this entire time to create a new way for people to interact with media? Different interface, same purpose. Make stuff people want, right?


And I've thought the talk would've been on QSORT.


tldr; "Listen to your customers and try to make a big but not 180-degree change in direction. I'm going to call this a veer. I know of a company doing this, but I can't tell you the details. But they are awesome."


Felt to me more like "check out this company" than "let me explain something new to you."


tldr; Don't start over unnecessarily. Try to listen to your customers and implement reasonable changes to satisfy important needs.


Sometimes you pivot because you don't have any customers to listen to in the first place.


the story would be more educating with some more details. may be it's really 16 degrees pivot, how do we know.




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