Great Minds Pivoting Differently

Current buzzwords like “disruption”, “exponential”, “design thinking”, “storytelling” are randomly bandied around in business circles – PROJECT 16 (AUT, 1 September 2016) added “pivot” and “failure” to the nomenclature. Whilst the word “failure” is not well regarded in New Zealand culture – tantamount to time to give-up and go home to bed – it is nonetheless a requisite for the learning and grooming of entrepreneurs and leaders.

Know when to Pivot

Timing is everything and failure is an integral factor in business.  The world is constantly changing and we have the opportunity to change our hand – the pivot. We need to read the early warning signs of failure. Poor traction with customers? Dispassionate team?  Investors not answering our calls? Your own attitude and motivation? Has everyone given up on you – have you given up on yourself? If you, and everyone around you, has lost confidence then maybe it is time to pivot.

Robert May, Managing Director of San Francisco-based Propel Advisors, used a poker analogy to help understand what kind of player you are at the table – impulsive, risk-taker, conservative? He introduced the ACES strategy:

1.  Assess.  What game are you in? Benchmark yourself, use data to get closer to your audience, check out your competitors. Take yourself on a learning journey.

2. Communicate. Talk about your pivot with your family, investors, team and customers.  Take them with you.

3.  Execute. Going all-in or committing to a new business. You do have options!

4. Stay the course. Acknowledging that your business needs to change and take action.

At failure attitude is everything.  Look at the cards in your hand, get out of bed and recognise the opportunity for new awakenings.

Tash McGill, Digital Strategy and Content director at communications agency Anthem, talked about solving a problem, selling benefit, and taking the long-view – what’s next? We need to constantly look at what is in front of us and what’s beyond that.  She used the example of the subscription-based Dollar Shave Club‘s impact on men’s razor and personal grooming brand leaders and retail chains. Resting on your laurels is not an option, there is always a new idea out there that some entrepreneur will bring to market while you procrastinate.

Know how to pivot 

James Hurman of Previously Unavailable, promoted the four principles of “luck”. Whilst you can’t control luck you can do things to make it more of a possibility.

1. Be open to new stuff. Have an open nature and be willing to engage.

2. Have a glass half full mentality.  Be positive and aim to say ‘yes’.

3. Follow your instincts.  Act on a hunch.

4. Be resilient. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – find another way.

Martin Bell, Executive Producer of The Project, claimed that if you feel safe in the area you are working in, you are not in the right area. David Bowie the greatest master of the pivot, was his muse in illustrating an effective pivot:

1. Choose great collaborators.

2. Have a great work ethic and be ideas focused.

3. Embrace reinvention and turn to face the “strange”.

4. Retain flexibility by getting money upfront.

5. Lift your gaze and look for inspiration outside of your frame of reference.

6. Be generous with your ideas and don’t be scared to share your talent (you will get it back).

7. Know when to let go and move on.

8. Follow your instinct and zig when others are zagging.

9. Timing is everything.

10. Solve a genuine problem for your customers.

Pivot forward

Gus Balbontin, of Melbourne’s Sneaky Surf, indicated that momentum is great when you are focusing in the same direction as your customer.  When you’re at your most successful in your business you’re probably at your most vulnerable.  You can’t use past perspectives to judge a new market when there’s a revolution going on. He brought to bear his media industry experience with Lonely Planet.  Lonely Planet fell foul of online problem solvers Trip Advisor and Expedia, proving there is no blueprint for tackling the digital age.  Lonely Planet sells books, its competitors sell experiences.  Customers find paths of least resistance.

Don’t wait to be disrupted. Are you stuck in traffic – you are the traffic! Own the fact that you are the problem and the solution. Have a vision and a vague plan – after six months your plan is a lie – focus on being able to respond to change rather than trying to predict change.  Failure is the only way to succeed.

Be creative, curious, courageous and resilient – refine your creative self. Don’t panic if your ideas are rubbish – more are coming!  Someone should do something about this – I am someone!

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