How to Teach Pivotability, Not Stability

Photo by Raphael Koh on Unsplash

“Pivot” is a buz word in startups. It’s good to be agile when you’re starting a company. It turns out it’s also good to be agile when you’re starting your adult life and career. Especially now.

Preparing young people for an unpredictable world requires more than teaching general, transferrable skills. In fact, to only teach general education will not prepare students to pivot later on. Highly specialized and technical skills have a very important place in education today. They keep the more “applied” and practical thinkers engaged and they shed light on the theoretical applications outside of the classroom. To get a glimpse of this world gives students context and makes the learning more real.

To prepare future pivoters, we have to teach broad, theoretical knowledge to stimulate the thinking, scrutinizing and critiquing muscles along with technical knowledge to give context and show real-world applications. AND, I would add, we must also demonstrate (not teach) the following:

Enthusiasm for learning and trying new things

Curiosity for the unknown

Willingness to cause change

Confidence to know that we can cause change

Perspective of the freelancer

Improvement-oriented mindset

In lessons on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial mindset I’ve put together, many of these can be imparted. Here is one activity that, without teaching or lecturing, can give students some exposure to a few of the items on the list above.

  1. Give a group of students 15 minutes to rant about all that is wrong with their high school. Without naming names, allow them to vent about classes, peers, responsibilities, grades, pressure to excel, etc.
  2. Write a few of these compaints on the board.
  3. Have the students get into groups of 3 and assign each group one of the problems listed on the board.
  4. Allow the students 10 minutes to come up with as many solutions to their assigned problem as possible.
  5. The group with the most solutions wins a prize.
  6. Finally, have the students put their solutions into the following categories: 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks (meaning the solutions would take this length of time). Challenge the students to carry out the “5-minute” category solutions by the end of the day.

This activity puts students in the driver’s seat and hits on a few of the items above that can help build “pivot skills.”

So many young people express to me their fears of feeling stuck in life. But they are also afraid of failing, so they think they need to choose a secure, linear path…a path through their education and career. They seem willing to trade an “unstuck” life for a secure one. But we know the real security comes from having the skills to navigate very insecure times.