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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • April 19, 2020
  • minute read

Why It’s Not Enough to Pivot 

It seems like the phrase 'pivot' is everywhere.

We're told we've all got to 'pivot' - and many businesses and organizations have done so, some with terrific success.

The problem is, pivoting alone won't protect your business or organization from the medium and long term impact of the current COVID crisis.

Watch the video or read the transcript below to find out why, and what you need to do as well:

Please leave your questions and observations in the comments below!

Running time: 05' 20"     Don't forget to leave your comments below!

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Read Transcript

You know, I get a little nervous when I start hearing words being used frequently and almost as a bit of a mantra in particular situations. 
And in this particular situation that we're in right now, one of those words is 'pivot'. 
I'm seeing it everywhere. "Gotta pivot!" My inbox - my email inbox is full of it. Reporting stories are full of it. It seems we've all gotta pivot, and I just thought I'd take a moment to break that down a little bit. 
You know, I wrote Do Lead and Do Scale because those are two phrases - leadership and scaling - that are so misunderstood and mean so many different things to so many people that I felt it was dangerous not to try to nail down a solid shared ownership of what those words mean, and I want to do the same thing with the concept of pivoting, because it's really important to realize that pivoting won't save your organization. 
Now, that's a little bit of a harsh phrase to use, but what I mean by that is that 'merely' pivoting( if you can imagine air quotes around that) is not in and of itself enough to get you out of this current covid crisis and take you through the medium and long-term and I want to explain why. 
First of all, what is it mean to pivot? 
Well, you know, it's pretty obvious if I'm here and I turned to there, then I've made a pivot, and we can see examples of for-profit businesses - restaurants pivoting to takeout and delivery; churches pivoting to online worship. We've talked about those as examples before. 
But a pivot in essence is turning away from the market that you were in or were serving previously, to the market that currently exists, and which you can at this moment serve. So we pivot away from in-house dining to takeout and delivery. We pivot away from in building worship to online worship. 
But if all that you do is pivot, what happens whenever the market changes again? Well, you end up scrambling to pivot once more. 
What I want to contrast pivoting to is innovating. Innovating is about moving into the space that you can create that gives you a medium to long-term future. It means anticipating long term behavioral trends and moving in there. 
You know, I think it was Bobby Orr the great hockey player who said the secret of his success is that he skated to where the puck was going to be. Now think about that. That's what Innovation is. 
A simple example is the old taxi business years and years and years ago when the first go-round of the gig economy - now, this is a long time ago kids - when the first uptick in the gig economy happened in the early two thousands - the old hidebound taxi industry pivoted towards that. There was a lot more demand for ridership. So they bumped their prices up and dropped their service levels. Which is something that happens in organizations all the time. That was a pivot. 
Then Uber and Lyft came in and innovated. They used technology to adapt the whole market to a massive behavioral change. 
And I want you to think about how can you innovate. 
I have a long-standing friend and client who owns four restaurants. And yes, he pivoted (in the two restaurants that he could) to deliver and take away in this current crisis, but he (and you know with a number of other folks helping him) is working like crazy to innovate. So he's thinking about for example a subscription model for his restaurants whenever they fully reopen - that you don't just come in and buy a meal, you rent a table month by month - come when you want. Will it work, I don't know, but he's innovating. He's trying to think through what happens when we've got the medium to long term behavioral changes really baked in. 
So what I'd really consciously suggest you do is you view pivoting as important, but it's part of the triage stage that we talked about last week. It's part of that first step in stopping the bleeding and getting some sort of stability. You've then got to think about how do we innovate for the medium and long term now? 
Now as I mentioned last week, I'm probably going to run a free course - a free masterclass on Innovation, and if that's something you'd be interested in and you haven't already done so, then just drop your email in the box below and in any case, please just drop some comments. 
Let me know your thoughts on this week's video. They are always incredibly helpful. 
I'm Les McKeown, Let's go innovate.


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  1. Good morning, Les:
    We the CBMC Mid-Atlantic Region are innovating with the ZOOM app, incorporating Microsoft Apps, Adobe PDF, Web site broadcasts, etc., to weekly meetings. Things will never be the same, only making progress. Thank you for your message.

  2. Yes, Innovation! “Innovation not hibernation” seems to be the theme I’m sensing during this event. Innovation is leading to exciting opportunities for creativity and mission growth that are moving us all out from the ‘victim’ mentality..

  3. Thank you for your insights. I too think that it takes more than pivoting but some planning and thinking about how best to serve our customers from here forward. Thanks again.

  4. Les – You are right on here. Very few people I know are doing this. I’m deep into innovating as we speak and I’m trying to position myself a bit differently coming out of this crisis. I was thinking his way pre-covid19 and it’s changing the way I plan to start. I hope you will continue posting more information here each week. Thsnks

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