The need of a Pivot

I was able to spend some time this week in a PD session with Kate Sharp. During the first few minutes of her speech, she mentioned the need to pivot, to see where the flow is going and try to align your energies with that flow.  Many major companies that we now call successful were at one point struggling small projects that weren’t putting their talents in the right direction with the needs or wants of the population. Here are a few:

  • Paypal was a payment system for PDA’s
  • Flickr started as a massively multi-player online game
  • Groupon launched as, a website which uses your social graph to support causes
  • Youtube was initially designed as a video-dating site (HotOrNot with videos)
  • Intel started as a memory company before seeing the huge growth in processor business
  • HP survived 70 years as a leading high tech company by changing its core business multiple times. All the other companies that failed at pivoting eventually went to dead-pool,

By making a small change, all of these companies found what they were doing well and pivot their business plan to match those ideas and the needs of their consumers. Rather than persevering with that they were doing, these small businesses chose to innovate their ideas and make a small change. Forbes eloquently put it as “when it is said and done, there are two main reasons to pivot: when you’ve built the right product for the wrong market, or when you’ve built the wrong product for the right market”.

In the case of a teacher, the classroom and students are the market. It is important to take a moment to see if what you have built is the right management, routines, structure, assessments and method of communication that fits your students, or are you using those that would work better for another group.

The challenge with teaching is that we have a changing market every year. A new group of students whose needs are different. This means that just as in the business world, teachers are analyzing their product and making changes that will ensure that their product is reaching the right market. Good teachers make the yearly changes to ensure that their students needs are being met, determining the interests, finding new means of technology and creative new projects.

However, I also feel that in many cases the foundations stay the same, unable to pivot. For me these foundations are the expectations of what will be the end product. High achievers that will end up going to university, getting into law or medical school resulting with a highly coveted career. With many schools now pivoting to seeing students as a “whole individual” who have various strengths and abilities is excellent but if at our heart we don’t change the expectations of achievement of perfection, the long term pivot has not occurred. If this fear of failure is present, those teachers guiding the way will feel and react to it by not making the true pivot necessary. Since every change opens the possibility of failure, it makes it challenging to allow a teacher or staff to move from a good idea to a thriving and highly successful group.

However, what I took from Kate Sharp was the notion that the pivot starts with you. With continuous reflecting, assessing and taking in various kinds of data to see where your market is and what their needs are. You can not change the students, but you can change your actions. Making a small pivot can result in a greater product and happier clientele.

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