MonthAugust 2015

Be Ready to Pivot

You think of and start working on an idea. It’s your baby, of course you love it and think it is perfect. It can be hard to see any faults and if you do, you’re sure you have a solution. However, chances are, your idea can be improved. Look for the improvement, even if it means heading in a new direction.

I first came across the concept of ‘pivoting’ in business in The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. To pivot is to change the direction and focus of a business, but to only change the angle or scope, not the path. For example, if you run a sandwich shop, you might discover that the coffee you sell if really popular and so you decide to change your focus to coffee. Here you’re pivoting to change what the focus of your business is, coffee was part of the original business, just not as prominent.

However, the problem is this. Many entrepreneurs believe the sandwiches they sell are the best. It is a secret recipe and customers will love it, they just don’t know it yet. The coffee is keeping the shop open, yet they’re sure that sandwiches are what the market desire.

Unfortunately discovering how to pivot isn’t always so simple. The numbers can lie, your customers may be little help and your current product may be doing well. The best way I’ve found is to always be looking. You never know where the crucial insight will come from.

Recently I had a conversation about a new venture of mine. We had a unique model that we believed would disrupt competition and attract new customers. I spoke about the model and how we planned to stand out in a competitive market. A few hours later I found myself calling my friend to explain how we needed to pivot. What changed my mind?

A new perspective. Our model wasn’t flawed, but it wasn’t perfect. We always knew that entry would be difficult and initial costs would be high. However we were sure this was the way forward. After talking at length about the idea it was pointed out that a small part of our customer service could stand alone. It was meeting proven demand, it would take a fraction of the costs to start and faced a lot less competition. For our current position, it was much better!

Whether this new approach will last I cannot say. Perhaps in a few months we will pivot again. However, pivoting is not a problem. Continue to grow into the market and learn more about the problems that exist and the gaps that will appear and adjust to meet those – that way you will know to put more emphasis on your coffee if that’s what customer crave.

Motivation Isn’t Hard To Find

“I just can’t find any motivation” is NOT an excuse for poor performance. Motivation comes from within. You either make it or change what you’re doing.

How we’re motivated has evolved. The traditional techniques of carrots and sticks from ‘Motivation 2.0’ no longer work.

We now crave Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose – laid out in ‘Motivation 3.0’. These are the views of Daniel Pink, in his book – The Drive.


(Yes, this is the motivation TED Talk guy)

Drive explains how businesses need to catch up with science in terms of how to motivate people. Motivation is intrinsic and people will work when they are self-motivated. However the book only talks about the side of the employer – what about the employee or individual, how do they motivate themselves?

The phrase “I just can’t find the motivation” is probably most common at University, yet university doesn’t lack aspects that should push you:

  • Making your £9000 a year count
  • Knowing that a high grade will help you get a good graduate position
  • Knowing (from past experience) that you will only be annoyed if you leave an essay until the last minute

Yet, so many students will head to the bar before heading to the library, and you know what, with the above as motivators I’m not surprised people lack motivation. The above are either external influences or aren’t the final outcome. Not sure what I mean? Let me explain.

“I want to do well in my exams because I will get a good grade and therefore a good job.” True, good grades can help get a good job. But if you use this as your motivator, you won’t feel motivated. This is a line that you’ve been told, you haven’t decided it for yourself.

“I’m not going to leave this essay until the last minute like last time.” And then you do! Of course you do, you still get the work done and submit it. Why do you leave it until the last minute, causing frustration? Most likely because you believe you can complete the work to 60-70-80% of your ability and still do fine. If the final outcome (the grade) isn’t that important to you, then the build-up won’t be so important.

So how do you ‘find’ motivation?

You don’t. You make it.

Motivation is an intrinsic force that you must create. Understanding why you are doing something will help. This why must be decided by you, not told by someone else! For example, if you tell yourself to finish an essay by Friday so you can go away for the weekend, you’re probably going to finish it by Friday.

Ask yourself these questions:

1 – What is the final outcome from this work?

2 – How much do I care about this work?

3 – If I slack off, will there be consequences?

4 – What can I gain from doing the work?

The answers to these need to be decided by you and can be seemingly unrelated. For example, you could answer question 4 by saying “yes, I can gain a strong work habit that will help me in the future”, or answer question 3 by saying “I won’t have time to go to the bar”. By understanding the total impact of what you’re doing and your personal motives, you are more likely to get the motivation you need.

If after answering these questions you don’t feel motivated, then chances are you don’t care about what you’re doing. That’s fine, stop doing it.

Fun Risks

It is often said that if you want to progress, you need to step outside your comfort zone. This picture look familiar?

comfort zone

Often, this is true. You need to stretch yourself and face new challenges. But it doesn’t have to be to an extreme – risks can be fun!

Fun Risks

I define taking a fun risk as taking on a task or challenge that is exciting to you, however you may feel nervous or anxious about the possibility of it going wrong, even though in reality, the fear only exists in your head.

For example, for some people public speaking is a fun risk. In honesty they can’t do anything so badly that it shows them in a negative light, however they may feel an adrenaline rush.

A-level results

The reason I am writing this blog now is due to this week hosting A-level results day. This time, a year ago, I had just found out that I would be attending Lancaster. I found out LIVE ON THE RADIO!

As soon as the call started I was filled with nerves. What do I say if I fail?

In honesty, if I had failed it would have made no difference if I’d done it on the radio or not. I’d still tell people, I’d still have to look at other universities. The radio aspect didn’t amplify the risk in reality, only in my head, therefore it was also a safe risk!

The call was really fun and something unique to say I’ve done and it has built up my tolerance to risk taking.

Why take fun risks?

1 – They build up your tolerance to risk. Start out small and build up.

2 – They get you used to feeling the nerves and adrenaline and you may start to love it!

3 – If you fail, it doesn’t matter. These are safe risks, the fear only exists in your head and that is the fear you want to control.

4 – Something small can open up new opportunities. Take a fun risk to contact someone you admire and aspire to be like, they may help you!

5 – They’re fun!

Is Technology Invading Our Privacy?

This week I finished The Circle by Dave Eggers. In the book, The Circle is the world’s largest technology company, it has the best online services and the lead when it comes to hardware. It is viewed as the best place to work as you get access to exclusive technology and insights. However, early in the book you begin to wonder if it really is that great!

the circle


Whilst I listened to the audiobook, the story felt a little like a fantasy; the employees are being covered in wearable tech, the governments are entering ‘complete transparency’ meaning they have a live camera and microphone on them at all times. It all felt a little over the top.

However it didn’t take me long to see the overlap with today’s technology. Only a few days later my brother came home with a new smart wristband, talking with amazement about how it tracked everything from his sleep pattern; his heart rate and alerting him when he has a new follower on twitter.

‘Complete transparency’ isn’t so alien either. Millions of snapchat videos and periscope streams mean that we are more likely to be filmed when we either don’t realise or want to on a regular basis!

The uses and advancements of technology in the book were extremely concerning, so should we be concerned?

I say, not yet!

Advancements in technology are amazing and they do provide endless benefits. Whilst many can be sceptical or hold back, I try to embrace technology as much as I can and I think others should as it is only going to continue moving forward.

However, what is important is the need for privacy. I would love to know how I had slept the previous night or know my heart rate when working out, however I wouldn’t want that information to be accessible for all to see and know.

Unfortunately social media is making many people feel that they must share all details of their life, this is where we need to be concerned. The loss of privacy can only end badly.

Without the choice to have privacy when using technology, it soon heads towards a 1984 scenario …. and if you don’t know what I mean  then 1984 must be next on your reading list!

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