When your startup just won’t pivot. Hint: It ain’t your startup’s fault.

When your startup just won’t pivot. Hint: It ain’t your startup’s fault.

Most entrepreneurial dreams start out the same way — a kernel of an idea meets initial exploration of market need with a few conversations, followed by months of development, self-funding, promotion and ultimately stagnation. Why?

Because we’re just too damn rigid to pivot. Why admit that our beautiful product, service or experience just hasn’t found the illustrious product market fit equilibrium? When instead, we can just blame the market, fickle consumers for just not ‘getting’ it, the season, a problematic distribution partner whose not awarding your startup with top shelf billing, the list goes on. When in fact, the real reason has more to do with our own inner inability to admit that our initial hunch wasn’t in alignment with what consumers (or enterprise customers) are truly yearning for.

Entrepreneurial stubbornness leads to more self-inflicted wounds, cash flow problems, delayed iterations, and dissolution than we even realize.

So how do we put our entrepreneurial egos in check and find a better system that helps us integrate feedback (good, bad and indifferent) so that we can pivot our startup before our bank balance pivots south on us?

There is a relatively simple way to do this:

Step 1: Establish a formal market research program.

This can be as basic as documenting in a journal or spreadsheet on a line by line basis feedback from the first 50–200 users of your product, service or experience in a log. In doing so, we both gain objectivity for the process, and we also gain emotional disconnectivity from the feedback, as it can often bruise our fragile entrepreneurial egos. Pass the tissues.

Step 2: Set a cadence for integrating customer feedback into your product design & development cycle.

This process helps to establish a rhythm so that you don’t feel completely overwhelmed when 50 people tell you that the app you just spent 6 months grinding over at Starbucks is well, crappy and confusing. The goal should be to gather, review, comprehend, synthesize and integrate feedback every 2, 4, or 6 weeks into your product/service. If you wait too long to integrate feedback, you lose out on a golden opportunity to detect the subliminal emotions that are driving user feedback. When a user says “well…the app was a bit confusing to navigate…”, what was her tone? Was she completely distressed and annoyed, or was she just mildly suggesting that it could be improved a touch? Gathering feedback by email or online doesn’t convey the emotionality that we as designers need to drive us forward. We need to see the user’s face, hear the inflection of their tone, and see their hand gestures.

When you wait 6 months to integrate feedback, you’ve waited too long to capture the very instant that the user has experienced displeasure or pain — a perfect time for asking probing follow-up questions like, “So, I hear what you’re saying, but tell me how this made you feel? What was the ultimate goal you were trying to accomplish, and how did this hiccup, bottleneck or friction point get in your way?” [then stop talking and listen like you’ve never listened before]

Step 3: Ask for feedback post-integration.

Once you’ve integrated user feedback into version 1.1 of your product, go back to the same cohort of users and ask for immediate feedback.

Did you improve the UX by 10% or 10X? [marginally, or substantially]

Did the flavor of your new recipe make them want to come back for more, or was it just mildly better than the first batch they taste-tested?

Listen, as entrepreneurs, our job isn’t to nail it out of the gate and get everything just right. Our job, as true problem solvers, is to create solutions that improve life’s pleasures, decrease life’s pain, and enhances the present moment for humanity.

We need humanity, and more importantly their feedback, to help shape the best possible version of our solution — otherwise, we’ll always hold on too tightly to version 1.0 of our little baby, fail to pivot, and will likely drive our startups into early graves. The most successful entrepreneurs are always looking for feedback to improve their products, services and experiences.

Be a little bit more open to feedback, setup a feedback integration program, be open to pivot the ship, and get ready for product market fit to find you [instead of you always searching for it].

#startups #entrepreneurship #UX #designthinking #research #VC #venturecapital #founder #productmarketfit #PMF