Have you ever found yourself pursuing an idea or an initiative only to discover you have reached a dead end? Often people give up and move on to something else. Why waste any more time on something that is not going to work, is the conventional thinking. But what if this is an entrepreneurial endeavor in which we have invested serious money as well as time and energy? Walking away is not so easy. In fact, there may be a tendency to stubbornly throw good money (and time and energy) after bad.
There is a way to turn some dead ends into cul-de-sacs. This is done through a process called pivoting. Very simply, a pivot is a change of direction. I remember playing high school basketball and having the ball thrown to me close to the basket. Usually there was a defender trying to stop me from scoring which required me to pivot or change direction to get a better unobstructed shot. Sometimes I was so hell-bent on bulling my way to the basket that my shot would be blocked, or the ball would be stripped away. Frustrating? You bet. But it was my failure to finesse the situation and pivot that resulted in my failure to score.
While pivoting seems like an easy and obvious course of action, it is not. We entrepreneurs tend to be a proud lot. We often think we have the best ideas since sliced bread. We also believe we can make anything work with discipline and perseverance along with our charm and good looks. We may not even realize we are headed down a dead-end street. How can we become more objective on our journey? Setting milestones at the beginning of the process can be very helpful. This is accomplished by establishing measurable performance indicators that enable us to know if we are progressing toward our end goal or not. By keeping track of our milestones, it becomes easier for us to see when we need to make a course correction.
There are numerous examples of pivots in American business that resulted in extraordinary products and companies. The likes of Pay Pal, Groupon, Starbucks, Nokia, Flickr, Hewlett-Packard, Nintendo, Instagram, Wrigley, Avon, Pinterest and Suzuki are all case studies. An article in Forbes Magazine dated October 8, 2014 by Jason Nazar and Rochelle Bailis chronicles one of the most famous pivots of the modern era – Twitter.
“The most legendary pivot in social media history is the transformation of Odeo into Twitter. Odeo began as a network where people could find and subscribe to podcasts, but the founders feared the company’s demise when iTunes began taking over the podcast niche. After giving the employees two weeks to come up with new ideas, the company decided to make a drastic change and run with the idea of a status-updating micro-blogging platform conceived by Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone.”
Keeping an open mind; avoiding being married to an idea; setting and watching milestones; collaborating with others and maintaining an environment for innovation is the perfect recipe for discovering when and how to pivot. Sometimes multiple pivots may occur before we nail it. Smart entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for pivots that will deliver the results they are seeking.
A pivot may actually bring about an even more exciting product or service (or company) than originally intended. The process of pivoting will also help to minimize or eliminate the incidences of dead ends.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.