Business · May 29, 2020

5 Learnings from Business Pivots for Being Bolder in the Future

By Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? authors Michael Evans and Josh Trebilcock


With the incredible changes businesses are making to pivot what they are doing to respond to Covid-19, we ask: “what is stopping businesses taking such bold steps during normal times”? Are there learnings from these difficult times that provide a blueprint for businesses to adopt brave aspirations when the dust settles? We suggest 5 behaviours businesses can adopt to be bolder when things return to a new normal, however that might look.

It is safe to say that since the first report of Covid-19 on December 31st, 2019, no one could have imagined a scenario like the one we find ourselves in today. For most people, change can be challenging, especially at the scale and speed we are experiencing right now. With the rate at which Coronavirus is changing the world, it would be easy to picture an environment where businesses feel like the only thing they can do is batten down the hatches and try to ride out the storm – but that is not what we have seen.

Over the last couple of months, we have seen amazing examples of businesses who have adapted their activity to cope with current challenges and operate in a new way that allows them to also keep providing valuable services to those who need it the most.

In each of these examples, we have noticed that businesses are taking bold approaches in their organisations in order to adapt. We take a look at some of (certainly not all of) these great examples below. In the new business world beyond this initial crisis response phase, what could these examples teach us about how we can make decisions in the future? Is there a mindset switch needed, to be bolder in taking risks and looking for opportunities?

In the new business world beyond this initial crisis response phase, what could these examples teach us about how we can make decisions in the future?

M&S and Deliveroo

Marks & Spencer have just recently extended their partnership with Deliveroo.

With restaurants closed, and supermarkets limiting the number of customers that can shop at any given time, food delivery businesses are not just in high demand, but are now considered by many an essential service. However, as we know, unnecessary social interaction is to be avoided at all costs.

Deliveroo had already introduced ‘contact free’ delivery across all their services. Through this new safety measure, food will be delivered to someone’s doorstep, at which point the delivery driver will step back a couple of meters, and the customer will be alerted through an app that their food has arrived, minimalizing the risk of contact.

The new partnership with M&S will allow Deliveroo to deliver household essentials such as milk, bread and ready meals from 120 stores directly to customers doors, and continue doing so in a safe way. This is a short-term change for M&S in their partnership with Ocado, but is a great example of how companies are changing the way they operate to still make progress in their goals.

This is clearly a move that required great collaboration between M&S and Deliveroo that required careful consideration logistically across the supply chain and was rolled out very quickly. For both the customer and employee delivery drivers, they had to ensure they were kept safe, while also providing an effective tech/app design, and smooth customer experience right through from supermarket to delivery driver and consumer perspective.

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McLaren, Ford and Airbus

Take a look at how McLaren, are looking into the rapid production of basic ventilators that could help patients with breathing problems suffered as a result of the coronavirus. McLaren is using their design expertise to join forces with a consortium of other manufacturers such as Ford and Airbus to tackle a potential shortage of ventilators in the UK.

Around the world, companies are responding in similar ways such as in the US, General Motors and Ford are exploring different ways of producing medical equipment, while Elon Musk has also offered support to suggest Tesla will help if needed.

This is a clear example of companies using a collaborative response with their existing resources to create something they wouldn’t normally. Perhaps these companies will look to work in more collaborative ways in future, to offer entirely new products, or to simply share expertise and advance design in their existing offerings.


Olaf Brewing

When it comes to the alcohol and beverage industry, Covid-19 has created a particular dilemma for companies like Olaf Brewing, as orders from their standard routes of deliveries such as bars and restaurants have come to a complete halt. However, rather than closing down the business in the hope that things could pick up again later in the year, CEO Petteri Vänttinen looked at the shortage of hand sanitizer stock both in supermarket chains and hospitals and made the decision to shift all production from beer to hand sanitizer, not only to give the business the best chance of survival, but also to try and help limit the spread of the virus. Their website now allows you to buy bottles of hand sanitizer either single or in bulk depending on your needs – while the great design on the bottle keeps the branding strong in the process. We thought this was a great way of adapting to the crisis and being part of the solution, while staying true to your brand and keeping business flowing.

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Olaf Brewing is just one of many similar companies that have switched to hand sanitizer production in the fight against Covid-19 – see a full list here


5 Learnings – Behaviours we can Adopt from the above Business Pivots

Whether it is automotive companies shifting their manufacturing to the production of ventilators or breweries shifting to creating anti-bac en masse, we suggest 5 behaviours from the above examples of how these businesses have responded to suggest what others could adopt to be bolder in their operations:

  1. Flexibility – they changed the process and means by which they were going to achieve their goal. The ability to pivot existing resources to achieve a goal or priority is essential. How could we look to use the resources we have in other ways to enable our business goals by new means?
  2. Collaboration – Could we look for new opportunities in how we use what we already do to collaborate and partner with other companies to achieve our goal via new products or streams of revenue?
  3. Taking the lead – don’t be afraid to make the big decisions – some of the below are clearly big leadership decisions that affect the whole organisation. These decisions are not to be taken lightly, but have been made with the best information they have, and have paid off.
  4. Responsive – This is often easier said, than done. When change happens, it’s easy to see the negative in what that stops us from doing – instead, we suggest that the below companies have concentrated efforts on what they can control to work out how they can still operate, even when change is forced upon us. It’s one thing to be receptive in accepting change, but the second stage is then responding and taking action to make the most of the conditions you are in.
  5. Aspirational – Granted, these are extreme times, but could businesses do more to make stronger ties between their business goals and the greater good in society? Is there something in the below mentality where businesses could collaborate in more responsible, sustainable, productive ways for more aspirational targets that benefit wider society?


In engaging these behaviours, these businesses were able to adapt their approach to a global challenge, while providing business continuity in a really difficult time. By using the above 5 behaviours, we suggest you can use these to take bolder approaches in more normal business circumstances and in your decision-making more regularly. In doing so, not only does this make businesses more resilient to changes in the future, it sets them up to take bolder steps as businesses in the longer-term.

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