A small salute to ‘pivot’

A quickie blog today, to salute the pivot.

Yesterday I had dinner with an entrepreneur friend. She has been pursuing a  particular concept for well-over a decade – basically the entire time I have known her.  In today’s buzzwords, her idea is about using big data for xxx*.

Thing is her company has done OK without ever quite taking off, while others have been more successful in the same zone. But she has a successful sideline organising conferences where other practitioners in that space swap best practice, and training which brings that best practice to other organisations.

She’s realising that she needs to ‘pivot’ her company – have a sudden shift in strategy that turns a mediocre idea into a successful company. Here’s a Harvard Business blog:

Groupon began not as a local coupon business, but as a platform for collective action. Pay Pal started back in 1999 as a way to “beam” money between mobile phones, Palm Pilots, and pagers. Twitter was born from a stalled podcasting startup.

Her pivot is from trying to be a ‘using big data for xxx’ tech company into being a ‘using big data for xxx’ events and training company. That’s where her skills lie, and the relationships she has. Crucially, that’s where the revenue is coming from.

She’s got to respect what the world is telling her about what her business is good at and double down on that. The ambition for xxx remains, but now mediated through enable other practitioners to harness big data rather than directly with customers/users.

The beauty of using the word ‘pivot’ is that it can crystallise a shift in understanding and activity that might have been gradually happening for a while, almost without anyone noticing. You can make sense of your experience by saying “we’re pivoting from X to Y”. Even better if the end goals don’t change, all your shifting is your means to reach those goals.

* Some details have been changed or obscured to preserve confidentiality.


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