Thriving in an Uncertain Future

Pivot is the word of the day. We are all working to figure out who we need to be to thrive in the future. Some if us start with an audit of our capabilities. We hope we can “stick to the knitting” with a new skin on the old offering. Others are looking for new markets and customers who will want what we have always knitted. While those approaches provide our teams with a stake in today’s shaky ground, they are not enough to set a course that leads to a firm future. That is because they are based on understanding the market dynamics of yesterday that have made us successful in the past. What is needed is a frame of reference to evaluate the range of capabilities that will lead to success in the future.

To determine what capabilities will empower future success, you must know which markets and which customers you want to serve and what they will need as they find solid ground. So start with the market and customers, then work back to your capabilities. To get your hands around their future, talk to them. Share their issues with your team. Identify which of the multitude of possible futures are most likely to impact them and, therefore, your business.

We find it helpful to organize hypothetical future statements into four categories: political or policy; economic; social; and technology—the original PEST categories for market assessment. Because each of these categories vary in their relevance and significance to a business, all of them may not be important for you to explore.

Here are just a few hypotheses we at Breakthrough have come up with:


Government policies; ecological/environmental legislation; trade policies; regulatory bodies and processes; pending and future legislation; law changes; research funding:

  • Federal policy will incentivize domestic purchasing of critical raw materials and products.
  • Government will provide support to businesses to increase sourcing of domestic raw materials, products, and services


Economy trends; tariffs and/or taxation specific to product/services; specific industry factors; distribution trends and shifts; customer/end user shifts in drivers; route to market trends; global trade and monetary issues; seasonality drivers; manufacturing maturity and capacity:

  • Buyers will demand U.S-based supply.
  • Investors will invest in U.S.-based capacity and capability.


Major events and influences; demographic shifts; lifestyle trends; consumer attitudes and opinions; consumer buying patterns; buying habits and trends; ethnic/religious factors; advertising and publicity; access shifts and trends; brand, company, and technology images; ethical matters; celebrities and fashion; media issues; consumer buying mechanisms/technology, relationships:

  • Teaming and collaboration will be redefined to assure operational continuity, efficiency, and acceleration of new product commercialization.
  • Dependency on pets in a household will increase.


Maturity of technology; associated/dependent technologies’ evolution; impending innovation; global communications: technology access, licensing, and patents; intellectual property issues; information and communications technology:

  • Innovations will be demanded for Personal Protection technologies to move beyond existing security protocols to include health protection.
  • Office or home environments will be modified to provide further protection from external sources.

In some cases, they are interrelated or—when considered from different perspectives—can fit into multiple categories. Nevertheless, assemble your team to think through and evaluate hypothetical futures that can have the greatest impact on your business—positive or negative. That will provide a context within which you can determine which capabilities you have or can acquire to support the pivot customers will pay for.

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About the Author

Pamela J. RoachPamela Roach is CEO of Breakthrough Marketing Technology. She is dedicated to our mission of enabling businesses to make decisions based on fact. She has designed, collected, analyzed, and delivered the intelligence necessary to produce insights into the motivations, attitudes, and outcomes that characterize multicultural targets. In addition to her work at Breakthrough, she also teaches graduate students Integrated Marketing and Media Campaigns at NYU School for Professional Studies.


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