When to pivot in business?

 What is it?


The big idea:


A pivot is a change of direction in the product definition and/or go to market strategy. In lean innovation terminology it’s a change in the combination of the problem/solution fit and product/market fit. A pivot is triggered by new insights, new learnings. In some cases a pivot can be the most practical way to overcome an obstacle for success.


When to use it:


A pivot can be triggered by new insights,  (new) external factors or just by necessity to ‘try something else’ when stuck

The different Pivot types.

 1.           The zoom in

A single feature of a product is made the essence of a new product, this feature becomes the whole product.
For example, Burbon started as a social network app. The photo upload feature was so popular that all other features were stripped away and this became instagram.

2.           The zoom out

What was considered the whole product becomes a feature of a much larger product.
For example, Amazon started with only selling books online.

3.           Customer segment pivot

Targeting a new customer segment in addition to the original market segment.
For example, the first Jeeps were designed and developed for the US Army as a military reconnaissance car in support of the WW2 war efforts. The etymology of the word Jeep is the slurring of the initial G.P. for Government Purpose vehicles.
Nespresso was originally focusing on the office corner segment in a B2B model. Only 3 years later did it make the first steps to target consumers in a direct B2C model.

4.           ‘Customer need’ pivot

The target customer has a problem worth solving. Just not the one that was originally anticipated.
Mr. William Wringley Jr. was selling baking powder. Speaking to his customers he understood that the differentiating value was not in the baking powder but in the free chewing gum he provided with the baking powder. He decided to manufacture chewing gums only. Today wringley is part of the Mars group.

5.           Business model pivot

Changing an element in the business model can create new sales opportunities. For example Microsoft office changed from a one-time purchase to an “as a service” sales model.
The Franchise model of the McDonalds took off after the decision to lease the land on which the McDonals franchises are built. Today McDonals is the biggest real estate holding in the world.

6.           Channel pivot

A company changes the sales or distribution channel.
The original Tupperware patented plastic bowls and other products didn’t sell well through retail channels. It was to novice and difficult for people accustomed to glass jars and ceramic containers. The Tupperware party concept was initiated by Brownie Wise in the late 1940s as a way to educate the American housewife of the benefits of Tupperware plastic ware.

7.           Technology pivot

Providing the same solution via a new technology.
Netflix started renting VHS tape movies on a monthly subscription basis. Later the DVD made it easier to deliver the service through the mailbox. The internet made it possible to stream the video and expand globally.

Tips in using the model:

- One should review and consider pivots regularly during the search for a successful product and go to market strategy.

- A pivot can make sense even when your business is very successful.

- Make use of the validated learning loop before deciding to pivot.

- It is possible to validate a few business strategies prior to deciding on a final one.

- Multiple pivots can be implemented simultaneously. McDonalds pivoted on the business model, customer need and customer segment at the same time.




Yoav Nir. (2017) ‘Game Changing Innovation, making theory a reality through practice’, die Keure Professional Publishing, 30-34

Eric Ries (2011) “The lean startup”, Crown Publishing

‘The Founder’2015, The Weinstein Company

Tips in using the model: