Time to Pivot – Pioneers please step forward, but with wise counsel!

This Covid 19 crisis creates an urgency and an opportunity to change direction –  to use a phrase from the stable of “The Lean Startup” (Eric Vries) –  Time to Pivot.

In a recent Zoom webinar I was facilitating entitled: “ The International Pioneers Online Forum”,  a group of pioneers from various disciplines came together to discuss challenges and opportunities emerging from this crisis. The group consisted of entrepreneurs, organisation leaders and authors from the UK, Dubai and Uganda, who had taken part in research I conducted at the  end of 2019 on “Pioneering Leadership”.  http://blonay.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20-04-08-Pioneering-Leadership-Report.pdf   

One of the main themes emerging from the Forum was the need to pivot,  to adapt or change direction quickly –  something pioneers are well equipped to do.

In the Forum, I presented the research findings in which I discovered something about what makes pioneers distinctive, and how they handle the unique set of leadership challenges that come with being a pioneer.

The most dominant theme in the research is the DNA of the pioneer. They are not so focused on the problem as they are on the solution.  The Chinese character for “Crisis” is made up of two parts: “danger” and “opportunity”.  The pioneer tends to see opportunity moreso than danger.  A dominant aspect of their character is the need to challenge the status quo.  And pivoting is ingrained in their nature.

But the research also showed that contrary to folklore, they don’t achieve success without the support of “counsellors”.  These can be coaches, board members, family members and other forms of support.  In the risky world of innovating and pivoting, as the proverb states: “In the multitude of counsellors, there is safety”

I have come across a number of commentators in the media who are building on this idea that this time of extreme change represents both danger and opportunity.   My business school alma mater Wharton, recently published an article on “Ten Guidelines for Creating Opportunities in a time of Crisis” (April 14th 2020) https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/ten-guidelines-create-opportunities-coronavirus-crisis/.   Others have expressed this as a “Time to Rethink”. Some aspects include:

  • Suddenly the online world has become the main way of delivering service. 
  • Suddenly healthcare is top of the agenda,  but desperately needs the innovation which it appears to have lacked for many years. 
  • Suddenly organisations have become more flexible and employment has taken on a different meaning. 
  • Suddenly the capitalist economic model has been thrown into disarray,  while the environment has experienced an unexpected holiday from much of the pollution that the model typically creates.  
  • Suddenly we are reminded of what is essential and what is important.  Relationships have been brought into stark relief as to their importance:  we may have had physical distancing, but social distancing is, as it turns out, a fiction.  We are more connected than ever.

Tackling the issues and changes arising from this crisis needs people with a pioneering mindset.  For such a time as this, pioneers, please step forward.

Pioneers need counsellors – hence the Forum

“Risky Strategy”, published by Bloomsbury in 2016,  explores the two faces of risk, as encapsulated by the Chinese character for “crisis”:  “danger” and “opportunity” based on  research at Hult Ashridge Executive Education, and describes the process for Strategic Pioneering.

The International Pioneers Online Forum is a monthly facilitated global virtual meeting of “pioneers”, from different disciplines, coming together online for one and a half (1.5) hours, to consider the challenges and  opportunities arising from the current crisis, and to support and encourage each other.  For more information, contact:  jamie@blonay.co.uk