18 May 2020


Author Michael Brennan

“The danger for businesses that pivot without a plan is that they may end up facing the wrong way…”

By now everyone has heard the latest COVID buzzword “pivot”. Businesses are being told that if they want to survive the post COVID world, they are going to have to pivot. Being the ever inquisitive one, I wanted to understand what the word pivot meant in this context. I always thought that a pivot was a type of irrigation system that went around in a circle, I also wanted to try and track where the use of the word came from. When in doubt, go to Google.

For many, the word pivot first came to popular use thanks to paleontologist Dr Ross Geller. Dr Geller provided a practical utilisation of the pivot concept in his seminal work on couch relocation in episode 16, series 5 of Friends in 1999.

In today’s context however the word pivot is used to describe a business changing direction in a rapid manner. The suggestion is that businesses need to quickly re-evaluate the path they were taking, change direction and return to forward momentum from a different angle.

On the face of it this makes great advice because if we always do what we’ve always done, we will always get what we’ve always got.

The danger for businesses that pivot without a plan is that they may end up facing the wrong way and charging off into uncharted territory and be much worse off for having changed direction.

Any pivot must be coupled with the best possible planning available in the time frame available and for the business to consider as much information can be gathered in that time frame.

Not every pivot needs to be radical and each change in business direction can be a series of pivots that help negotiate around an obstacle in front of the business’s prosperity.

Businesses looking to change direction should take the time and assess what they’ve been doing well, what will change in a post COVID environment and what can be done to mitigate any risks that they can possibly foresee.

With that sort of thought, even without documenting it into a business plan or cash flow, the business can negotiate a change with less risk than if they blindly moved away from what they understood.