What makes people good at pivoting? 21 things which, if you can’t do them well, will probably keep your career in the world of innovative startups short and disappointing
- seeing better opportunities than the one you’re working on and weighing up the options objectively, without being overwhelmed by fear or foreboding
- spotting the implications of shortcomings in your current solution long before they become obvious to anyone else
- anticipating the opportunities and risks opened up by a major downstream strategy change option, long before you get to the point where you need to make the decision
- intuiting the ramifications of sudden, unexpected discoveries quickly and effortlessly
- making more of the next ‘chess moves’ in your head than anyone else around you
- having the courage of your convictions in the face of powerful inertia, both internal and external
- being prepared to go further outside of your comfort zone than you went the last time (despite having vowed ‘never again’)
- facing up to unpleasant realities with a breezy philosophical resolve rather than avoidance or despair
- confronting your worst fears without hesitation or panic
- successfully balancing ‘keeping close enough to gain insight’ with ‘remaining detached enough to maintain objectivity’
- being prepared to admit you were wrong and acting without worrying about embarrassment or humiliation
- being undaunted by failure, real or imaginary
- being able to rebound instantly from setbacks with genuine high spirits, inspiration and a sense of humour
- being able to see limitless possibilities from a single new implication and being able to start spelling out an ever growing list of new ones whenever your claim to be able to do this is challenged
- being just a bit more impetuous than those who find pivoting painful
- recognising the importance of picking the right moment to change, but not being completely paralysed by the possibility of it being precisely the wrong moment
- being able to persuade others to change course, just after they have grudgingly come to terms with your last pivot
- knowing when the grass on the other side is just green enough
- constantly finding and deploying new, untapped resources of pivotacity within yourself
- considering the term flip-flop to be profoundly misunderstood
- recognising that entrenched reluctance to pivot is your long-established competitors’ Achilles’ heel
Notice that I have said nothing about ‘inspiring others’ or ‘showing leadership’ or anything to do with motivating teams or negotiation (yes, item 17 above may imply any or all of these capabilities, but ‘persuading’ can mean many things).
Because I am not convinced that a great pivoteer necessarily possesses any social graces, extrovert tendencies or charisma: they may even be working on their own.
There may even be something inherently overwhelming about the personality and behaviour of a gifted pivoteer, but there also has to be something about them which means that if they are working with others, they have to be able to persuade them and because they will have to do this often, they will either need to either pick a cohort of like-minded individuals, or partner with a co-founder who acts as a kind of buffer and who accepts the responsibility for ‘selling’ the pivot to everyone else (staff, clients, investors).
Does this put the pivoteer into the category of geek?
Are most pivoteers geeks?
Are most geeks good pivoteers?
Does anyone have an example of a great pivoteer who is not a geek?
What about the great strategists of history: were there individuals who had a well-deserved reputation for ‘turning on a dime’ and got recognition for their success, but whose skills had little or nothing to do with technology?