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Apr 4, 2022

Getting Future Focused with Jump Associates


By Alex Pavlou

Founder - I help organizations and startups scale their teams.


“Jump works with the world's most admired companies to solve their most pressing growth challenges,” Michelle said. Clients include heavy-hitters like Google, Nike, Samsung, Target, and Virgin. “In a world that's mired in yesterday's data, we use a Future Focused approach to help these firms grow in times of dramatic change,” she added. And boy are we living in a time of dramatic change! 

For its clients, Jump applies this Future Focused approach across five key service areas. Perhaps, the best way to define each capability is with a “big question”:

  • Who are we? Think: Defining a client’s strengths.
  • What’s going on? Think: Scenario planning and envisioning the future.
  • Where to play? Think: Opportunity mapping and identifying white space. 
  • How to win? Think: New business models and concepting.
  • What to do? Think: Experiments and pilots.


“A lot of management consulting firms will look at the past as if it’s a predictor of the future. They'll say, ‘Okay, what's going to happen? Let me analyze a bunch of data about the past and tell you what's going to happen in the future,’” Michelle said.

“But when we're talking about disruption and change, that's not really helpful,” Michelle said. “We take a much more customer-centric approach to look at the underlying shifts to inform the way we see how things are changing.” This could be everything from social change, to technology, to political and environmental shifts.

In an increasingly ambiguous world, Jump leans into exploration and learns its way through a problem. It doesn’t enter projects with a hypothesis. “When we start any project, we lean into a method that is similar to design thinking—really understanding who people are, letting them share with us what those needs are, to then ideate new businesses, new products, new opportunities from what we're hearing, through ground-up analysis,” Alexa said. In other words, the strategists at Jump are listening—really listening—to what they hear from people. 


A New Approach

An example of Jump’s Future Focused approach might be helpful here. Zach tells us about a project involving a large, legacy “dinosaur” of a financial institution. “They basically came to us with the question, ‘What do we do next?’” he said. The client knew that smaller fintech firms were taking a tiny part of what they did, and were doing it better. And that large companies like Apple and Amazon were entering the financial space with a lot more money and data to do so. With a Future Focused approach, Zach’s team asked the big questions, beginning with: what’s going on (scenario planning)? 

“But the part that I was really excited about was, where to play?” Zach said. “Typically, people figure out opportunities based on existing solutions. We took a needs-based approach.” His team connected with people who had deep and extreme needs related to their finances—from a new homebuyer to someone who suffered a death in the family that caused a financial hardship. “We just talked to them. We went to their homes. We talked about how they're thinking not only about their finances, but about everything going on,” he said. That approach helped them define opportunity spaces based on existing and emerging needs. Where others might identify opportunities based on existing solutions and competitors, Jump and its clients were able to see what doesn’t exist yet. 

Their exploration had rigor behind it. They included an exhaustive audit of competitors (like 500 of them). Jump provided a categorized list of opportunities, ideas and recommendations for its client, which helped that leadership team learn and grow. “We recommended a path [they] could take to stay relevant,” Zach said. 


Meaningful, High Impact Work

Alexa recalls one of the most emotional and influential projects she worked on, which also happens to be one of her first with Jump. It was a multi-month, longitudinal insights and research project for a major retailer to understand behavior change among different cohorts and Americans across the country at the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown. “It was very raw, it was very real,” Alexa said.

Alexa and her team shared the insights they learned with the client’s leadership team. “They were applying strategic decisions in real time, thinking: How can we be thoughtful? How can we be present?” Alexa said. “Not all of our work is as immediate. But it was a very influential way that our work was being used, right away.”

Jump has worked with other clients on post-COVID scenarios to understand what business changes they need to make in order to succeed in this new world. “What felt deeply personal was that some of these businesses were really not doing well,” she said. For example, one client was a dine-in movie theater; not surprisingly, their business was at risk of failure amidst the pandemic. “It was a meaningful opportunity for us to try to help them future-proof themselves,” Alexa said.

“We have really close relationships with our clients. We care about them and we care about their business succeeding,” Alexa said. For example, with the dine-in movie theater, Alexa and her team truly wanted the business to succeed. “I want you to do well because we also share a common goal—we tend to align on Jump’s purpose to transform lives through learning and growth. We all want to learn and grow together,” she said.


Hybrid Strategy with Amazing Teams

As we’d mentioned earlier, there was no shortage of interesting projects to highlight from Jump. But the throughline to everything we talked about was the talented people who deliver it all. They’re clearly willing to challenge each other to be their best selves, and learn from each other.  “I don't know if I'd be the person I am right now if it weren’t for the way that Jump—and the people at Jump—have pushed me to think about the world,” Michelle said. “We have a culture of being explorative. We're passionate about learning new things and learning about people,” Alexa said.

We asked Zach and Alexa what, exactly, they liked about the projects they’d shared. For Alexa, it’s all about how to create great work by getting to know who people are. “We all leave surprised by something. We're open to being surprised,” she shared. 

Zach highlights two key aspects that he loves about his work. The first is being able to touch strategy all the way through a project. He’s not just learning something about people or technology and handing it off to the client, with the hopes that it teaches them something along the way. “I like being able to carry through an entire project from ‘here's what we're learning about the world’ to ‘here’s what we think it means for you,’” Zach said. 

The second is having the position to research and learn. When it comes to asking those big questions, “I get to look at it from 15 different lenses to find those common threads. It’s the sort of knowledge that only comes from taking a hybrid approach to problem solving,” he said. 

Michelle sees Jump as a nurturing home for people to hone their craft. “We are deep methodological experts in social science, business strategy, and design. Everyone that’s come to Jump has come because they didn’t want to just think about things through a narrow lens,” she said. The work is purposeful, and it’s always done together. 

“We carry each other through this work, we push each other towards greatness and great work in a supportive environment,” Michelle added.


A Fine Time for Innovation Firms

The pandemic taught us a lot about ourselves and what really matters. It might also be a boon for leading strategy and innovation firms like Jump. Michelle tells us that she sees incredible growth within the innovation space in the near future. “The world has always been changing. For a long time, we didn’t have to think about it. It wasn’t at a pace that was scary. It wasn’t terribly disruptive. But the pandemic exposed the risk of not being Future Focused,” Michelle said.

She explains that it’s not about predicting the future, but being able to plan around how the world can fundamentally shift. “Now people see the need and the opportunity. How are we as a business prepared for that?” Michelle said.

Jump is thinking about a lot of things: the growth of online e-commerce through omnichannel retailers or partnerships with SaaS companies; opportunities for market exploration around thoughtful and meaningful diversity and inclusion efforts; and, of course, more Future Focused strategy. 

“More companies are seeing the benefits of taking a Future Focused lens. They’re not just saying, ‘What should I do today? What technology trend from 2021 should I care about?’ Instead, it’s, ‘what's going to happen in the next 5 to 10 years that I should get ahead of, so that when that moment strikes, I'm actually the person riding that wave,’” Zach said. 


Surfs up, Jump!


Are you a hybrid, Future Focused thinker? Do you want to do work that matters? Team up with amazing people? Do you want to ask the big questions? Hone your craft? Be sure to contact Alex Pavlou to hear more about open roles at Jump Associates (including an upcoming search for more senior strategists, just like Alexa and Zach), and register with Bamboo Crowd today for other opportunities and insights.

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