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PIVOT: REINVENTION CENTRAL

3 Takeaways From Google Glass's Quiet Pivot

The Internet-connected glasses go on sale today--for one day only. But it's not as big a deal as it seems: Google Glass may be destined for another market.
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Google Glass hits the market today--for only 24 hours. For $1500.

Will people rush to embrace their inner cyborg and snap them up? Maybe, but Google has had some significant marketing problems, including people who, out of privacy concerns, are getting openly hostile with some Google Glass wearers. The devices have also introduced a host of other legal issues that have yet to be worked out. And that's to say nothing about the whole super pocket protector vibe. For most of the populace, nerd chic remains an oxymoron.

Even so, Google Glass has some interesting sales opportunities. Not for consumers, but for businesses. Google just launched a Glass at Work program. No wonder. If you think about what such devices can do, they're perfect in many industrial and business settings. Doctors already love reading patient records without having to hold a clipboard or tablet. Using such a lightweight display on an assembly line or warehouse could make a lot of sense.

To put it differently, Google has already begun a pivot. There are times you go to one market with a product or service and eventually realize that someone else would be a much more logical customer. Here are three takeaways, taken from the Google Glass experience, to help make that switch.

Start off with a first version.

You can't blame an entrepreneur for wanting to be efficient and immediately finding the right market. Unfortunately, that's often not possible. For all the planning and thinking you do, it might be that you won't immediately know the sweet spot for what you're doing. That's fine. Just start someplace. If you don't, everything remains theory. It's only by getting products and services out in the world that you find out what they won't do and, eventually, stumble across what they can do. It took 3M 12 years to develop the Post-it note after it had the adhesive.

Welcome new uses for the same product.

Back to the Post-it note for a moment. Years after the adhesive existed, another 3M employee who had heard about it had the brainstorm that he might be able to keep slips of papers stuck in a hymnal for church choir practice. Then the people in 3M started writing on the sticky slips and leaving notes for each other. It was genius that only happens through classic creativity, when disparate ideas clash. The more people and areas of experience and expertise you can bring together, the better the chance of getting some real innovation. Google has had Glass in people's hands for a year. Chances are that it's learned a lot that will change the direction of the product.

Pay attention to what you learn.

The danger with a product pivot is stubbornness. Determination is important to an entrepreneur. Being married to a particular idea is dangerous. Persistence can help move a new venture forward, but you need to acknowledge that force won't work. If another potential use shows up and it seems to have better commercial prospects, jump on board that ship and sail it into some actual business. If your original hunch was right, you can come back to the first market. But if you're selling product and creating a revenue stream, you'll check back out of a position of strength.

IMAGE: Courtesy Company
Last updated: Apr 14, 2014

ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist

Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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