Course Detail

Pivot for Success – Hone the Vision, Shift the Strategy, Make the Right Moves in Today’s Marketplace (42127, 50 Unit Course)

Course Description by Faculty

  • Hilliard, Amy
  • Content

    Course Overview

    In today’s times, if you aren’t willing to change, you will be left behind. One thing we all know for sure is that Life. Will. Change. And you must be able to change with it. It can be hard, but people need to be willing to reinvent themselves and their organizations, building the resilience it takes to do it.  Dreams, plans, businesses, and more can survive, thrive and come alive again if you learn how to pivot.  Many times, and certainly recently--challenges and uncertainty require making changes quickly and strategically--which is what pivots can accelerate.  Leaders who can pivot successfully are change agents.  The mindset and skills of a change agent can be invaluable personally and professionally in organizations large and small, and these disciplines will be reinforced in this course. 

    Students come to business school to make important life and career transitions, and the decisions ahead may seem overwhelming.  To be a successful change agent personally and professionally requires an awareness of mindsets that can pivot your moves in the right direction.  In order to meet the needs of a rapidly changing global marketplace, entrepreneurs, senior managers and organizations of any size can benefit from knowing when to turn.  Pivot mindsets and skills can inspire creativity, gain critical alignment and maintain momentum when competition is tough, timing is tight, or a crisis is looming.

    According to Forbes, July 2020“A pivot means fundamentally changing the direction of a business when you realize the current products or services aren't meeting the needs of the market. The main goal of a pivot is to help a company improve revenue or survive in the market, but the way you pivot your business can make all the difference.”  Some pivots have been made for short term survival, other pivots have become permanent, and not all pivots have been successful.  This course will address how pivoting can generate strategic, cross-functional and long-term business value, revenue, profits and market share. 

    The ability to pivot is a critical step in the innovation process that can be disruptive and industry changing.  You cannot be a successful innovator without having significant pivoting skills.  According to the 2021 Deloitte Innovation Study,"learning precedes earning."  And, "those learnings made manifest in persistent pivots is the recipe for (eventual) superior profits."  Consider this statistic from a 2022 McKinsey Innovation report:  Over 80 percent of executives surveyed say that innovation is among their top three priorities, yet less than 10 percent report being satisfied with their organizations’ innovation performance.  So, whether you desire to be an entrepreneur or work in management to drive innovation, studying the strategic art of the pivot can be a game changer.  The goal for this course is to teach a universal system and a strategic process for pivoting that can be applied to any person and across any type of organization for success. 


    Key Takeaways

    • Transform your thinking to the next level about how to pivot
    • Leave with a strategic process for pivoting
    • Have 10 Pivot Points you can use every day personally and professionally


    Course Emphasis

    The emphasis in this course is placed on identifying, analyzing, and solving pivoting issues and opportunities across a variety of business sectors.   The course will provide frameworks to apply when opportunity is not present, uncertainty is prevalent or a crisis occurs.  This will be an intensive and highly interactive course.  Students will learn the best practices for pivoting, and in assuming the roles of upper management, they are expected to question, challenge, and discuss everything that is presented.  You will assess historic and current business pivots and recommend pivots for companies from readings and case studies based on key learnings.  Guest speakers from industry will share real life experiences about pivots for in-depth dialog.  Requirements for this class are enthusiasm, engagement, work effort and creativity!


    Course Learning Objectives

    • Review and strengthen your personal/professional abilities and attitudes regarding change, reinvention and resilience
    • Realize the importance of pivoting as a key organizational and life function  
    • Become proficient about strategic pivoting concepts, tools, obstacles, applications, and processes
    • Understand how to communicate, sell and deploy pivoting strategies in team, cross-functional and stakeholder environments
    • Enhance creative thinking by combining strategy and data with intuitive skills and observations for making pivoting decisions
    • Address the implications of successful and unsuccessful pivoting activities -- financial, social and personal

    Course Structure

    The Pivot for Success course will provide the opportunity to study, discuss and learn from a number of unique avenues with readings, cases, multimedia content, guest speakers, role play and the professor's own deep experiences of pivoting corporately, as an entrepreneur and advising Fortune 500 clients to successfully do so.  This course may not be for everyone--I expect students to bring their full selves to the course.  Understanding your own personal and professional pivots and being willing to to share your learnings with the class to help others as future leaders is key.

    Guest Speakers

    Our speakers this quarter will be Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Meta/Facebook and Steven Rogers, businessman, entrepreneur, board director and award-winning former senior lecturer of finance at Harvard Business School and the Kellogg School of Northwestern University.


    Previous Guest Speakers have included:

    • Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo
    • Jerri DeVard, former CMO of Office Depot, Nokia, and Board Director of Under Armour, Dow, and
    • Kevin Newell, former Corporate EVP/Global Chief Brand Officer for McDonald's
    • Bozoma Saint John, former CMO of Netflix
    • Hugh Johnston, former CFO of PepsiCo
    • Lotika Pai, CFO of the Women's Business Development Center, a nationally recognized leader in the field of women's economic development 
    • Michael Hall, former EVP/Head of Strategic Planning for the Leo Burnett advertising agency and the former CEO of CMSG, the global sports management firm 
    • Marc Schulman, CEO of Eli's Cheesecake Company, a dessert company that distributes nationwide and internationally via foodservice
    • Emilia DiMenco, CEO of the non-profit Women's Business Development Center, a nationally recognized leader in the field of women's economic development 


    Class Format:

    • Lectures
    • Discussion
    • Case Studies



  • Materials

    The class Canvas site will have updated readings and homework as well as information that will help you prepare for class. Modules for each class session will be posted one week prior to that session. Guest Speakers and readings are subject to change.

    Required Readings:

    ·       Pivot for Success—Hone Your Vision, Shift Your Energy, Make Your Move by Amy S. Hilliard - Introduction and Key Summary Points will be posted on Canvas

    ·       The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries – Book Summary will be posted on Canvas

  • Grades

    Classes, Homework and Grading: The class sessions will be a mix of discussions and group exercises.  Homework will consist of assigned readings--some short, some longer; essays and the final take home team project.  

    Class Participation: Class participation is vital to be successful in this course.  It will convey your level of interest, ability, motivation, preparation, and mastery of the material.  It will also help you in your professional endeavors by increasing your ability to speak persuasively and concisely.  Class participation will involve adding substantive insights to the dialog of the class including bringing your experience and/or sources that add to the discussion; being willing to debate assumptions presented; submitting questions for our guest speakers, based on their bios and the subject matter of their sessions and possible in-class exercises.  Our TA will record your participation each class and provide to me for assessment.

    This course is not available for pass/fail.  Provisional and Early grades can be provided on request for Joint and non-Booth students only.  


     Grades will be based on:

    • Class participation        35%
    • Three essays                  30%
    • Final Team Project         35%

    Note:  One essay will be a pre-course essay (2-3 pages) describing a key life pivot that worked, and one that didn't and why.  This will help you recollect times of reinvention and resilience, lessons learned, and help me get to know you.  Coming to Booth cannot be included as a pivot.  Reading the summary of the Pivot for Success book on Canvas is required and the essay will be due one week before the start of class.  Reminders will be sent.



    SPRING 2023 SECTION:  42127-01 - TUESDAYS 1:30-4:30 PM - HARPER CENTER 3B - WEEKS 1-5




    • Mandatory attendance week 1

    • Allow Provisional Grades (For joint degree and non-Booth students only)

    • Early Final Grades (For joint degree and non-Booth students only)

    • No pass/fail grades

  • Syllabus
  • Autumn 2022Section: 42127-81T 6:00PM-9:00PMGleacher Center2061st Half : Week 1 - Week 5
    50 Unit Course
    In-Person Only
  • Spring 2023Section: 42127-01T 1:30PM-4:30PMHarper CenterC011st Half : Week 1 - Week 5
    50 Unit Course
    In-Person Only
Description and/or course criteria last updated: February 7 2023