In 'Lean Start-Up' terminology, a “Pivot” is a deliberate adjustment to the basic assumptions about a new product, system, service or process. Implementing the notion of pivots, a company seeks feedback from existing or potential customers and users, early and often, and uses the feedback to change direction, either marginally or fundamentally.
The pivot allows the business, whether it is a start-up or well-established to try things out, to make minimal investments for maximum information. For example, do people want to look at the product on the web and buy in the shop, or look at the product in the shop and buy on the web? These assumptions and what affects them are pretty important. To what extent are people looking for a product, off the shelf and plug and play, or for a service, with advice, support and training?
Who knows? It may only be a small detail in one way or the other that could have significant impact on customer behaviour. Or it could be something more radical, that would enable you to make a breakthrough in technology, marketing and to amend the whole business model. For example, what will users want to do on a phone, a tablet, a PC or in the cloud? The point of a ‘pivot’ is that not only trial and error, but managed learning and revisions, called ‘pivots’ will provide the answers.
Here are some explanations and examples of different types of pivots, inspired by the Eric Ries book “The Lean Start-Up” and also by Osterwalder and Prigneur in their "Business Model Generation" canvas.
(By the way, lean does not mean starved or starving. It means 'fit for purpose', avoiding the useless in favour of useful work, and working on what customers are prepared to pay you for doing, either sooner than later, rather than making up unnecessary things just to look busy. If we were all lean at home, for example, we’d have more time to do the things that we really enjoy and less time on chores and fixing mistakes.)