The art of pre-emptive pivoting

Joanna Swash explains why businesses must be prepared to change direction at any given moment, whether times are good or extremely challenging

The art of pre-emptive pivoting

The ability to pivot is a valuable skill in any company or business leader’s toolbox. Fundamentally, it is about being able to change direction to provide a product or service that best meets the needs of your clients. And, as we all know, our clients’ requirements are never constant.

The whole concept of pivoting has been brought to the fore in recent years due to pandemics, wars and financial meltdowns. The world and business landscapes are consistently changing. Therefore, it has been a case of surviving and, ultimately, thriving in tumultuous times. 

Yet, we don’t need a crisis or challenge to embrace these very principles and build an adaptable business. Every business should be moving forwards anyway. Every business should be listening to their clients. And every business should be looking for new and better methods for solving problems or responding to a requirement.

All businesses need to create a system which recognises when certain expectations are not being met – and then being willing and able to respond to this ‘unwanted development’. And it applies to every aspect of business, from the smallest amendment in how you position yourself, to a complete change of strategy.

How to nurture the art of pivoting


To your clients; to your data; to your people; to your market. The information you require to make decisions is out there. But it is all about finding it, understanding it and then responding to it. 

Your clients will tell you what they need, whether through a direct request or via your customer service team or, more subtly, through what they are buying or which marketing tools they are using.

Businesses need to be consistently and constantly monitoring this information. Only when you have good quality raw data can you analyse it. You will need to identify trends and, if required, take that all-important decision to pivot. 

For example, the customers of Starbucks were initially people who enjoyed drinking great coffee at home. But, after listening to the market, the business realised there had been a shift to café-culture and pivoted to address this.

Set yourself up to succeed

Make change and adaptability a fundamental part of your business, your culture. That way, pivoting isn’t a massive change. It is simply the way things are done. It becomes a way of life.

Create an environment where people feel safe, and where there’s a shared sense of purpose. The focus is on transparency and communication. Demonstrate that you, as the leader, are adaptable. Encourage curiosity, learning, innovation, mistakes and, ultimately, become comfortable with fluidity.

If your culture and strategy fails to line up, there will be a ‘disconnect’, as well as disharmony. Pivoting should be at the heart of any business strategy, not an afterthought. By adopting this approach, it places businesses in a better position as they move into the future. 

A great example of this is Amazon. It began with selling books back in 1994. However, its founder Jeff Bezos never treated it as a retail company. For him, it was always a technology company which sold goods online. This is how the business has pivoted and succeeded, and ultimately the company developed its Amazon Kindle.

This digital offering enables users to browse, buy, download, and read e-books, along with newspapers, magazines and other media via wireless networking.


You have the culture. And you have the data. The next step is to act. The key to successful pivoting is to act as quickly as possible. It is about looking for new opportunities and evaluating them for growth. Not all opportunities will be worthwhile or suit your particular business.

Take Kodak, a name synonymous with photography for decades. But it was a company which refused to respond to the digital photography revolution and subsequently had to file for bankruptcy.

Pivoting has traditionally been the response to technological advances and worldwide events, or a way to expand markets and remain relevant. But what if we apply this approach to business all the time? What if we make it our business strategy? What could we achieve then?

Some would argue that pivoting is a last-ditch attempt to survive and is also a huge risk. And it can be if it is left too late. But what it should be is a series of small adjustments, made frequently and in response to data. 

Yet times are forever changing and any pivot is merely one small step in the evolution of a company. It is never the final resting place on the journey to success. As a business leader, it’s important to understand that pivoting is inevitable. The markets and industries that you serve will change over time. 

The key is to prepare your business for a pre-emptive approach. Instead of waiting for your market to instruct you to pivot, it’s much better to spot the opportunity and be the first to respond. By doing so, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the opposition and remain relevant in a rapidly changing business environment.

Joanna Knight
Joanna Knight

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