In the best tradition of New Year predictions, top 10 lists and things that you need to know/do/see in 2012 I’m following this trend and starting with a list of one word.
A pivot is pretty simple. Here is my definition, “a significant change in what you do, how you do it, or how you make money from it“.
I first came across this in mid-2011 when reading blog posts about startups. As far as I can tell, the word has been mostly popularised by Eric Ries, the author of the Lean Startup book. Since then, I have seen use of the word grow to become term for a strategic or fundamental shift in what you do, how you do it, or how you make money from it. So there you are: what: how: money
So why will this matter in 2012?
Because pivot is just a cool way (at least today) of saying, “we need to change, because plan A is not working“.
If you are at a work meeting reviewing something that is clearly not working, you could say, “this is not working, we need to change it” and face the ire of your colleagues, or you could say. “I think we need to ‘pivot“. Knowing the love of new terminology in business, there is no contest. Pivot will win every time. It is also less judgemental and more positive as doesn’t focus just on what isn’t working, but highlights the need to at least think about new solutions and fixed.
There you do, the same people who bored you about tipping points, going from good to great, and finding cheese now have another asset in their arsenal.
And here is a contentious point … I think this is a good idea. I really hope that pivot does become a widely used word, not just in business, but in our wider language as well. This is because it gives us a way to challenge, to raise questions and to introduce new ideas. It also allows us to recognise that we don’t always get things right first time, and need to evolve our plans, whether as a business or on an individual basis. What a pivot does is give us an option of trying something else rather than quitting.
As I look over the list of failed businesses from 2011, and recently announced lists of major companies that are at risk of failure, I cannot help thinking that if someone had stood up and said, “I really think we need to pivot” – and challenged some ideas and concepts that are clearly not working, then we could have at least had a chance of saving these companies. What we are seeing again and again is companies caught in the headlights of (changing) competition and paralysed to the point of ineffectiveness. They know their business is failing, but appear completely unable to make any significant change to save their company for the long term. Anything that helps change this, let alone a word, has to be worth a try.