It’s the business model, stupid! A wake-up call for incumbents like Daimler

News is full of cool technologies like drones, blockchains or autonomous cars and their disruptive character. Traditional firms have switched to innovation mode and have now cool digital transformation units to use these new technologies. Everybody is happy. Great, isn’t it?
Or wait? Can this really work that easy?

I just had a project with a company that has set up an innovation unit to push innovation. They have great people who are very salient with all the tools we use today in holistic innovation management like Design Thinking, Scrum or Lean Startups.

However, when management wanted to use the 3 horizon framework, originally from McKinsey but later further developed by Paul Hobcraft, to map their innovation projects on the 3 horizon matrix, we had problems to rank the projects to the 3 horizons.

The entrepreneurial side: The missing side of innovation

The reason was simple. The focus of the projects was on technology and not on customer’s side of innovation or on the business model. Somehow, it seems that the project managers were happy to have installed the new fancy technology but have forgotten the entrepreneurial side of innovation.

It is important to remember what Michael Schrage has said to innovation:

Innovation is not what you innovators do… It is what customers and clients adopt.

Not only the customer side was missing but also the side how they wanted to use the technology in their business. The following illustration shows the relationship between technology and value creation.

The business model creates the value, not directly the technology*

How could that have happened in a company that has the tools and innovation managers that know how to apply the tools?

Not tools, the right mindset to think in business model is missing

Well, tools are one side Continue reading It’s the business model, stupid! A wake-up call for incumbents like Daimler

Book on Business Model Innovation

Normally, we do not use the blog for announcements, however we have two good news that we want to share with you. First, a workbook for startups was just released and second, we have teamed up with Orange Hills to form fluidminds Australia.

New Book on “Starting with the Right Business Model”

Das Richtige gründen: Werkzeugkasten für Unternehmer Patrick StählerThe book Das Richtige gründen: Werkzeugkasten für Unternehmer” or “Starting the Right stuff: Toolbox for entrepreneurs” is just being released. It’s a workbook with which entrepreneurs can develop from an idea a business model that works or as we say: “Das Richtige” or “The Right Stuff”.

With the book entrepreneurs can, based on customer & market insights, design the four elements of a business model:

Besides the building blocks, we give guidance how to start the process to find the right thing. Good business model design starts with customer & market insights and testing early the basic assumption. We believe that not the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) should be tested but the Minimal Viable Business Model (MVBM) where you test the value proposition, your offer and the distribution & communication channels before going full speed ahead.

The book is written in witty, precise and almost humorous language and designed to inspire people to get out of their comfort zone. We want to inspire big thinking, at the same time we force entrepreneurs to be precise in what they want to start with. Any great vision starts with something relevant customers want and buy.

In the book, we unveil the secrets of the business models of German and Swiss companies that are global, but often hidden champions. In my humble opinion we focus too much on American multinationals or Internet companies when writing case studies on interesting business model innovators. We forget that in economically successful countries like Germany or Switzerland, we have many Mittelstand companies or mid-sized family owned businesses that are suppliers of core technology to the world but not known in the world. So if you want to learn about German and Swiss powerhouses, you have to learn German to read the book or find a publisher that is willing to translate the book ;-).

The book was produced together with Thomas Meyer, a well known Swiss author, and Fritz Gottschalk, a doyen of Swiss graphic design (Remember the font Helvetica or Frutiger? All fonts from Swiss designers). Two of our core values, we shared in the team, were beauty and reduction to the essentials. If we succeed is up the judgment of our readers.

Wolfsburg AG, the innovation agency of Volkswagen AG and the city of Wolfsburg, sponsored our team. We are very grateful for their support.

So far, the book is available only in German, but we are open to other languages. You can buy the book in any German bookstore, or More information on my German Blog

fluidminds Pty Ltd., the business model innovator in Australia

My company, fluidminds Inc., joined forces in Australia with Norbert Haehnel and Orange Hills. The result is our joined company fluidminds Pty Ltd. based in Sydney. Norbert is a seasoned manager in the high-tech industry who wants to bring business model innovation to Australia.

Australia is an interesting turf for business model innovation since the country is still heavily depended on the export of raw material to the rest of the world. Business Model Innovation can and will help Australia to be less depended Continue reading Book on Business Model Innovation

The missing part for business model innovation: The process

Recently, I had an intensive discussion with David Siegel who just moved to Zurich. His big idea is business agility and he is so right since the missing part in business model innovation is the process moving from your current business model to a better future. He calls it business agility. We at fluidminds use Rethinking business and Entrepreneurial Design for the process.

Business Agility, Rethinking business, Entrepreneurial Design, Design Thinking, Discovery-driven planning…

Entrepreneurial Design ProcessRegardless what wording we use, what we need is a process that helps companies to develop innovative business models that customers, employees and the owners love.

Today, two processes exit in companies that could be used: the innovation process and the strategic planning process. The names of the processes suggest that they could be useful, however in reality the opposite is the case.

Why? They lack agility and experiments. Both processes have the hidden assumption that with more and better planning you can anticipate the future. Both are focused on existing products and markets. These tacit assumptions might be right for a world of sustaining innovations, in a world of more-of-the-same.

But, and that is a BIG BUT, not in a world which is radically changing. Business model innovations have a disruptive character and focus on the whole business model. There is a need for business model innovations in any industry due to the Internet, the demand for clean energy, globalization, and due to the rise of Asia.

Therefore, almost every firm needs a different approach to innovation and strategy.

The future is not about prediction but about shaping the future with agile experimentation on what works and what does not work

Regardless how much you plan, you will not predict the future because neither customers nor companies can anticipate what is possible. The only way to push for radical innovation is to accept the uncertainty and thereby accepting that with more traditional planning we can not predict the future. Continue reading The missing part for business model innovation: The process

Business Model Innovation and Story Telling: How to get the story right!

Framing the business model so it can be quickly but well understood by others is core. So, how do we do it? By Paul Hobcraft

You have come to end of a fairly long week. You have finally finished your Business Model Canvas. Finally you have a working hypothesis of something that is going to challenge some of the existing business models around. You should feel pleased; it took a lot of hard work to get to that point.

Laid out on one piece of paper is something that could have real business value yet although you can see where the dots connect, you begin to wonder if others will see the same compelling value, to invest in it, to back it, to simply support it and encourage you to continue.
Tell Your Story

Completing a business model and identifying its critical parts is only that first step, the hard part is getting it off the ‘drafting board’ and making it something tangible and potentially commercially viable for those around you to engage with.

What is the next step in executing this potential game changing business model

Each new business model needs a compelling story – a narrative..

We really need to learn how to craft a story, to tell the narrative around why your business model idea stands out and is worth other people’s time and consideration. This business model narrative along with your business model you are potentially better placed to test it, to talk about it, to validate it, to make it ‘sing for others’. You are out to get engagement and contributions everywhere, from everyone, as you tell the story, describe your potential new business model you gain from their reaction and improve your understanding of the real need for your idea. Continue reading Business Model Innovation and Story Telling: How to get the story right!

The abundance of choice. A call for a fresh value proposition: The need for the right choice.

Ever since we have the Internet everything is abundant. So many information at your fingertip, billions of webpages, millions of articles on Wikipedia, millions of articles at Amazon and other hundred of thousands of specialized ecommerce shops with even more articles. But is more choice always better?

Abundance of choice is today the norm. That is due to the Internet. A physical shop is always limited by its physical space. The Internet knows no limit.

The right choice not more choiceWhen I started my research on business model innovation in 1997 we were pretty much alone in this field. Actually, we had no word to describe the profound changes in industry structures due to the emergence of the Internet at that time. The term business model innovation just popped up in 2000 as a pure academic accident. I just added innovation to business model, a term that emerge in the 1990s and I secured the URL business-model-innovation. Today, Google gives me 190.000.000 hits for the term business model innovation. So you have abundance of sources of information about business model innovation. However, can you use them all?

More choice the better: The value proposition of the first wave of Internet ventures

The first battle cry in e-commerce and on the web was that now people have more choice than ever. More choice, the better was the value proposition. There was no limitation any more. You find any product today on the web in thousands of variations.
Sport Conrad, one of the largest online shops for skis in Europe, Continue reading The abundance of choice. A call for a fresh value proposition: The need for the right choice.

A request for help

Dear readers

You might have realized that I have written just a few post in the last months. The reason is very simple. I have teamed up with Thomas Meyer, a young,  unconventional bestseller author, Gottschalk & Ash, a design agency and Wolfsburg AG, an innovation agency to develop a toolbox for entrepreneurs.

The work with Thomas and the others is absolutely stunning but also very time consuming since we do not like to stick to the first best solution but thrive for the best.

And this means a lot of iterations and testing. E.g. we decided to write in a thought provoking, easy to read and funny style, Thomas is well known for. But of course, this irritated our sponsor at the beginning. They expected a semi-scientific work adapted to entrepreneurs. However, we thought there are enough boring books out there so we decided to be different and hopefully better.

Bringing the whole team behind the same ideas and values takes time. However, this is extremely important since otherwise we cannot shoot for the stars. Later the customers have to decide if they like what we have developed. But of course, we have tested the toolbox with a variety of entrepreneurs. We used it with social entrepreneurs at the Hub Zurich. Students at the University of St. Gallen developed stunning ideas that made already an impact in the life of other students. We tested it at the Entrepreneurship Summit in Berlin, etc. All of this takes time, but makes the tool box better. Thanks for all the feedback and ideas we got.

The bad news for most of readers is: The toolbox will be in German. The reason is very simple. Since we are German-speakers and live in German-speaking countries, we believe that we have to give something back. We believe that in Germany, Switzerland and Austria we need more, better and more creative startups. And if we can make a small contribution to this, that would be awesome. It is striking that the first ideas about the business model innovation concept emerged in Switzerland at the end of the 1990s. Alex is also Swiss by the way. It is fun to see an idea spreading worldwide from a country most people expect watches to come from but not management trends.

And since we want to foster entrepreneurship in all parts of society we decided to write in plain and simple German with little Fachvokabular (technical vocabulary). This is pretty tricky and needed a lot of creativity to explain the most essentials ideas in a very understandable language. Particularly, since a business model describes briefly all disciplins of businesses (marketing, sales, operation management, financials, HR, leadership) on a card. That is a challenge.

Your help is needed

So here come the two requests:

  • For all German speakers, if you like the idea about the toolbox, please enter your mail in our list so we can inform you about the progress.
  • The second request goes to all experts in business model innovation, strategic innovation management, customer insights via jobs-to-be done technique or entrepreneurial design. If you would like to contribute to this blog, we would love to hear from you. This blog is not my personal blog, but a blog about business model innovations. We look for cases, though provoking ideas, reflection but not for PR material. The average post has around 3.000-5.000 readers but this depends very much on the topic. Most articles are typical “long-readers” and reference articles that attract a lot of traffic via Google. A typical article is “Who says paper is dead?” with almost 9.000 visitors. And of course, the article will be published under the name of the other.

In the next months we have many challenges ahead with our toolbox. One is that we need a publisher who is willing to accept new business models in the publishing industry like publishing under Creative Commons or finding creative ways to bundle the books for teams. Will be an interesting journey.

Thanks for all your support and ideas.

Cheers Patrick

Leaving blanks blank: The art of accepting blanks on the canvas

Recently, I spent time at the most international and diverse university of Germany, the Jacobs University in Bremen with Prof. Steven Ney. I did a seminar on entrepreneurial design. The students were trained already to use the canvas and the course was great. However, their inability to leave blanks on the canvas was striking. What do I mean by this?

We do not like blanks. Long pauses in a conversation confuse and stress us. And since we do not like blanks we fill them. In a conversation, we do small talk. On the canvas, we just fill in the blanks with a kind of small talk as well.

We just don't like blanks! by xkcd (Source

Small talk on the canvas is to just fill in something which sounds good, but has no base, no facts supporting it, not even being a smart idea. If we do not know exactly who our customers are, we wirte Business-to-Business customers or advertising in the box to communicate with our customers. B2B sounds sophisticated but for an entrepreneur who wants to build something on top of her canvas, this is useless at best, dangerous at worst.

While small talk is socially accepted and even expected, filling the blanks on the canvas is dangerous since it pretends we have solved this problem and we move on to another building block to fill. That is deadly if you really want to execute your idea into reality. Continue reading Leaving blanks blank: The art of accepting blanks on the canvas