Better Design Decisions : Why Few Products Pivot Successfully

Note: This article first appeared in my Newsletter: Double your SaaS Subscribers.


As a behavioural product designer, I read a lot about cognition, decision making and neuroscience. Alongside more traditional startup and business news.

I’m watching the most crucial skill in running a business being destroyed by popular startup culture.

Decision making is overwhelmingly the thing I hear people complaining about when deciding to leave a company or startup, or simply not wanting to join an otherwise promising company.

Decisions on:

  • How you select candidates
  • How you differentiate your product
  • Collaboration or management style (or lack thereof)
  • What features to prioritise
  • Who you promote or let go

And how is our industry ruining this?

By enshrining “The Grind.”


I’m at the very end of “How Emotions are Made: the Secret Life of the Brain“. 

It’s been 14 hours of listening and note taking and re-listening again.

So consider me your personal, free version of Blink list:

Underneath your “conscious” brain, is a huge circuitry designed to

  • Asses your energy levels
  • Asses other biological needs (repair, rest, thirst)
  • Analyse those needs
  • Come up with something like a ‘body budget’ of how much energy you have.

Everything you feel, every view of the world, and every decision you make is governed by this budget.

Embed from Getty Images

And consistently working long hours, pushing yourself, late nights (whether for work, or for fun, or both!)

It will run your body budget into the double negatives.

So that every decision that comes out of that pool of thought is affected.

As those decisions result in sub-optimal outcomes, conscious emotions like stress set in.

Chronic stress affects the pre-frontal cortex, making us more volatile and impulsive.

“Chaos Addiction”

This is when you’re most likely to double down on what we know (familiarity bias),

Get defensive, emotional and reject new ideas,

and keep doing what you’ve always done before. (Grind harder!)

We start investing based on feelings (like what other people are doing)

and not based on strategic planning.

This is why few teams successfully pivot their product.

And although have ample evidence that a 4 day working week is more productive than 80 hour work weeks, because of how long term stress affects the brain, they can’t hear it or accept it.

At this point, you are addicted to adrenaline.

And to feed that addiction, you will start to subconsciously create chaos.


Movies love to show that decisive moment where the protagonist must make a choice that will change the fate of his or her band/fate of humanity forever.

In real life we make sequences of decisions every single day

We have ample opportunities to rectify our decision making process and start making good ones as soon as we fix the source of the problem. 

Next week I’ll give some actions to reverse this process. 

? ?? Get some outside prespective

I’m a T-shaped, product designer with experience in leading projects, helping companies work better together, and data driven analytics.  If that sounds like it might be helpful for your project get in touch.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay in touch

Get more informal notes, summaries, and screenshots, on the business of making digital products and running a calm creative business by signing up to my newsletter