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The upheaval brought on by the pandemic is requiring many businesses and industries to pivot in response to rapidly changing market behaviors and consumer demands.

Successfully changing direction in this kind of environment demands an entrepreneurial mindset, and Harvard Business School Professor Rory McDonald’s recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article drives that point home.

A leading disruptive innovation expert, McDonald advises business leaders – particularly those in technology-enabled markets – on long-term growth strategies. His frameworks help organizations proactively anticipate trends and generate innovative ideas so they can target new consumers and markets rather than incrementally improve upon existing offerings.

Rory McDonald

In the HBR article, McDonald explains how shaping and communicating a broader narrative around a company’s mission – to investors, the media and customers – allows for more agility when it’s time to pivot. More importantly, it may be one of the few factors that dictates the long-term survival of any organization faced with disruption – or looking to disrupt.


“Broad narratives – umbrella ambitions rather than narrow solutions – leave room to maneuver along the way,” explains McDonald, who urges companies not to be too precise about describing their new products or services. “Like good political campaigns, the most effective pitches have emotional appeal and underscore a larger aim. They don’t lay out a road map; they promise to reach a destination.”

McDonald supports his point with real-world examples of companies such as Netflix, Slack and Away that survived unexpected challenges to their business because they adhered to an original broader purpose. While the article focuses on startups and entrepreneurs, McDonald makes it clear that his insights are highly relevant to any company trying to pivot and reboot in the new economy.

“Anticipating a later switch to streaming video, [Netflix] started with the stated purpose of offering the best home video viewing for everyone — not DVDs by mail, which was the company’s actual product,” McDonald points out. “As the business pivoted to digital distribution, the original sweeping ambition still made sense. Even the company name supported its future course.”

Rory McDonald is available to guide your firm through this challenging period of disruption. Click here to explore ways he can help.


As companies continue to reconfigure and reboot, McDonald works closely with leaders in every sector, helping them shape their story and strategies that will prepare them to weather and survive any kind of disruption – anticipated or unexpected.

So. What’s your story?

To Successfully Pivot, Broaden your Brand’s Story was last modified: March 13th, 2023 by Whitney Jennings