The Proactive Pivot


Lauren Janney
Principal Strategist, LENS Strategy
Twitter: @LaurenMDJanney

A few weeks ago, I attended the Innovation Learning Network (ILN) meeting in Portland, Oregon. ILN is a membership organization focused on improving health care through innovation and design. The meeting theme centered on critical pivots in business, the notion that to achieve or sustain success, companies must change directions. Though pivots are an essential aspect of successful a journey, many organizations shy away from them due to a false sense of security and the misconception that they are on the fastest route to the finish line.

However, all companies are faced with the need to pivot. In fact, start-ups are typically faced with five or more of these curveballs before successfully launching a new business model. Entrepreneurs who aren’t open to these changes often fail. Even more consequential are the pivots that large, mature organizations must make. Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor of mine, explains that yesterday’s strategy does not guarantee tomorrow’s success. In a world in which the pace of change is always increasing, an organization’s ability to identify and execute pivots is more critical than ever.

Below, I describe my takeaways from the meeting, including the different types of pivots an organization must be willing to make and the characteristics a company must exhibit to navigate pivots successfully.

Value Proposition  

1. Customer problem: pivoting to solve a new or different problem for your current. 
2. Market segment: pivoting to new customers or users.  


3. Product feature: pivoting your focus on the distinguishing and functional features of a product or service. 
4. Product versus services: pivoting on the type of solution you offer. 


5. Channel: pivoting on how you deliver your value proposition to your customers (including sales, service, installation and distribution channels). 
6. Resource: pivoting on the internal capabilities and/or partnerships required to deliver your value proposition.  

Profit Formula 

7. Major competitor: Pivoting on how you differentiate yourself and who you differentiate yourself from. 
8. Revenue model: Pivoting on how you receive payment from customers for the delivery of your value proposition.


As companies develop strategic plans, it is important they understand that there are two types of strategies: a deliberate strategy, in which an organization researches, synthesizes and develops a roadmap for the next five to 10 years, and an emergent strategy, which allows the company to nimbly respond to the market, customers, or the competitive landscape over time. The eight pivots should be assessed during a strategic planning effort; however, it is also important for organizations to seek out opportunities to pivot on an ongoing basis, as pivots that are ignored become threats during the next strategic planning cycle. Building a nimble organization is critical to navigating either strategy successfully.

Characteristics of a nimble organization

Expanded role of leadership
Balance leadership’s role by focusing on the following responsibilities:

  • oversight (managing implementation),

  • insight (acquiring new knowledge related to your industry), and

  • foresight (understanding the future).

This balance will increase the percentage of revenue that comes from new services or products, a great metric with which to evaluate innovation at the leadership level.

The board as an accelerator
As stated so eloquently by Chris McCarthy, our former executive director at ILN, “The role of the board should not be just catching the organization but throwing it back up into the air higher than before.” In the capacity of an accelerator, the board enables its organization to move faster than possible if the board were not involved.

Learning and performance zones
Create a time and a place where it is okay to make mistakes. Management should be proactive about identifying these zones and supporting teams so they can nimbly shift between these two zones.

Ask questions instead of giving answers
Teach people to listen to their own gut, develop their own ability to assess challenges and make recommendations.

Structure work for team contributions, not individual triumphs
Foster an environment of healthy and effective collaboration.


To learn more organizational design and pivots, contact Lauren Janney at

LENS Strategy is an innovation strategy consultancy that takes a design approach to solving complex challenges related to strategic planning, customer experience, and operational planning.