Experiment Cards under the magnifier: Pivot

The concept of pivoting is explicitly mentioned in several Experiment Cards. Some players have experienced having to change their product a lot during the game. Today we will take a closer look at what pivot is and what role it plays in a business running on Lean Startup principles.

What is a pivot?

A pivot is a change in strategy, often necessary to realise the full potential of a vision and par for the course. For a pivot to be effective, it has to be grounded in learning from your users. Otherwise, you are simply following a disguised “see what sticks” strategy.

Example: Twitter (one of the company cards in Paying Lean)

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. (Forbes - 14 Famous Business Pivots)

Let’s say you are on the way of making your Big Idea and already gathered valuable learnings from customers.  

How do you know when to pivot?

There is no one-size-fit-all answer to this question. According to Jeremy Liew, startup investor, you pivot when you see some element of your product is getting way more traction than what you thought was your core use-case.

Sometimes this is because users are focusing on one element of what you do, sometimes they are asking you for a set of features that are different from what you have in mind, sometimes they hack your product to use it for something you didn't expect, sometimes all the usage falls around a single user case that is a "corner case" for you. (Quora - How do startup founders know when to quit, stick or pivot?)

Ries recommends having a “pivot or persevere meeting” inside your startup. In this meeting your team has to decide whether to a) persevere and try to optimize the current strategy, b) pivot to a new strategy or c) shout down the business

I hope you got some deeper understanding of the Experiment Cards. Check out the next Playing Lean session, or order the game in case you don’t have it yet.




For a typology of Pivots see: “The Hypothesis-Driven Entrepreneurship: The Lean Startup” by Thomas Eisenmann, Eric Ries and Sarah Dillard.


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