theory

The pull in business models: 3 types of Attractors to look for

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

So you need to know what your customer will love? What excites them? What moves them? This of course allows you to begin the process of designing a business model that delivers to both the customer and the business. Traditional business motivations are usually a push approach. But is this the future? Guest post by James Streeton-Cook

Right now, let’s make something better than what’s out there, something really cool and we’ll beat the competition and make a mint.

Since you are reading this post then we can assume you know better.

Current business thinking it is all about what the customer needs. So let’s pull out the Henry Ford standard about ‘faster horses’ for that one. Enough of the push!

Power of Pull – It’s a Lean Thing

Lessons from Lean Business have taught us the power of pull systems. »The core idea of lean is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste.«

When creating something new, some new value, be that a business model; product or service; or even a new industry platform – value is pulled into arrangement (not pushed) by Attractors involved.

The same thing happens in nature and as far as I know is current thinking for the formation of the universe. So with a bit of imagination, pull will also be relevant in business model innovation. It is a non-linear thing and most of everything is made up of non-linear systems. A river flows down hill. Why?

The pull in a good value proposition: 3 Types of Attractor

There are 3 types of Attractors to look for in your discovery, insight and understanding of what will excites your customer.

  1. Point Attractors
  2. Path Attractors
  3. Strange Attractors

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Knowing the Value within your Business Model is vital

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Knowing where to start in designing a business model or simply just even trying to describe it to others can be difficult. You need to explain its value. The great advantage of explaining this through a business model canvas that looks for value constantly does help. This a guest post by Paul Hobcraft, an Agility Innovation Specialist.

Business Model Canvasfluidminds approach to exploring and explaining the business model does just that- it focuses on focusing the mind on the value within the business model.

The first value point is in the Value Proposition

Naturally we all look to the Value Proposition to explain the business model but like a car you should always look ‘under the hood’ to see the engine and what gives a car its performance. Equally you should stand back from the proposition and ‘take in’ all that makes this up. For a car it is the styling, the design, the promise and what or who is behind it. We look to buy on a given ‘promise of value’ and in having the benefits explained it allows us to believe and ‘see’ the potentials. A business model, well designed and described, does just that. It confirms the (new or existing) value that makes up the new business model.

The value proposition shapes much; it identifies and defines where this business model is providing new offerings that advance on existing benefits to customers. The fluidminds business model canvas seeks out the customer and the customer benefit- it is looking to provide value by identifying where there is a clear fresh, new proposition.

Value Proposition on the Business Model CanvasWe do have to recognize a value proposition is not just looking to resolve the known jobs-to-be-done. In many new business models can be bringing together often fragmented parts of existing offerings and combining them in new ways, or deliberately and completely disrupting existing businesses through adapting new insight, technology advancements or understanding, into new business models. We only need to think of Apple and how it combined different technologies, revolutionary design and applied new materials into stunning, game changing products that changed our thinking of the actual jobs we thought about into totally different ones, which totally undermined existing business value or perceptions. Those become game changers. (more…)

Four core questions you need to answer for any great business

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Thanks to the business model canvas people are enthusiastic to build new business models and find business model innovations, but often they get lost in technocratic details. They just see building blocks but they forget the overal logic every great business needs.

Actually, you as an entrepreneur have to answer just one core question: Why should your firm exist on this planet? You need a Daseinseinsberechtigung (right to exist) for your firm. This is a very philosophical question. To be more operational, you can break down the Daseins question into four core questions. But still the answers will not come with a pure analytical process but with creativity and lot’s of empathy for your customers and their jobs they want to have solved. 

The technocratic approach is useless for finding love (source: http://xkcd.com/55/)

The four core questions on your business model canvas

  1. Why should customers be excited to do business with you? That is the value proposition. You could almost go as far as asking: Why should customers love to do business with you?
  2. How do you create the excitement of your customers in a productive way? That is the value architecture or operating model. Here you describe how you fulfill your value proposition.
  3. How do you earn money? That is your revenue model or the profit formula and here you should be able to explain why you as the owner should be excited about the business.
  4. What are your values you live up to in your team and with your customers and partners? That is the human side of the business and of utmost important, since it is the most difficult part to copy. I call it the culture and values of a business.

For these questions, you need compelling answers and the nine or elven building blocks are very helpful in answering the questions but do not get lost in details but look at the broader picture and see the interdependencies.  If you can answer the questions you have a great strategy that is customer-oriented, profitable and sustainable.

The bad part for any mediocre business is that you cannot answer the questions. Please all mediocre business, why don’t you try harder and work on “why should your customers be exicted about you?” instead of optimizing a dull business.

What business are you in? Business models as social constructs

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

“What business are you in?” sounds like a simple question. But it’s not. How you define your business determines which direction your firm can go. Based on your answer, you define and limit your strategic options.

In a company, the business model is defined by a dominant group of people. They have a common understanding of what business they are in and how they create value. However, the business model is not an absolute reality. It’s a social construct of dominant opinion makers, e.g. your top management. This is important to understand.

By taking a different look at your business, and thereby challenging your dominant logic, you can identify more and different strategic options for your firm. But beware; by doing so, you are also challenging the top dogs in your firm.

Life is not that simple. Changing perspectives by xkcd.com

How you define your business depends on the dominant logic of your management

Considering the definition of what a business model is, it seems easy to describe the business model of a company. You can use  the business model canvas (Alex Osterwalder‘s or mine) and then you describe how value is created. Often we assume that regardless of who describes the business model, we will end up with the same description. This is a mistake.

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Can you copy a business model? Groupon and its clones

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Particularly on the web, we see a lot of copies of successful business models. How many clones are there of Groupon? How many competitors and incumbents wanted to copy Amazon in the late 1990s and failed? The core question is: Is it possible to copy a business model? In this post, I will elaborate on this topic.

Business Model Copycats

During a recent interview for a bachelor thesis, I was asked: Under which circumstances is the transfer of a business model e.g. from a different country or from a competitor a useful strategy?

I must admit, I am skeptical about the outright transfer of business models from one firm to another. The reason is very simple. A business model is more than its technical components like your value chain, revenue model, your product etc. The business model also includes soft factors like the value proposition, your values and corporate culture or your core competencies. Remember the definition of core competency: core competencies have to be rare, difficult to copy and valuable.

Many strategists, VCs and purely analytical people think that it is easy to copy a business model. What they forget is that a business model is not just a technocratic combination of components, in fact, humans are involved with their values, cultures and hidden assumptions. You can copy the hard components, but the human aspect of a business model –values, culture, tacit knowledge – is difficult to copy.

Business Model transfer from Start-ups to Start-ups

The case is different for startups where (more…)

Business Models, Long Range Planning, Baden-Fuller and latency

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Long Range Planning, a prestigious academic journal on strategy, discovered the topic of Business Models and Strategy. It dedicated a whole Special Issue to Business Models. I have mixed feelings regarding the Special Issue. On the one hand it is great that academia takes up such an important topic; on the other hand, it is shows again that academia is a self-referential system which has a strong bias to not-invented-here syndrome since most authors do not reference earlier works that were published outside their closed community of Strategy professors. Sad. Many of the ideas I have read at other places before.

Already in May, I have heard that Long Range Planning had published a Special Issue on Business Models. Today, I got hands on it thanks to Andres Sundelin from The Business Model DataBase.

You can access the article via http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00246301 as a guest. Very interesting topics like “Business Models as Models” by C. Baden-Fuller and M. Morgan or “Business Models, Business Strategy and Innovation” by D.J. Teece are included, so the Special Issue is definitely worthwhile reading.  That is the happy part of the Special Issue.

C. Baden-Fuller, M. Morgan, Henry Chesbrough and business model

What makes me sad about the issue is the closed and self-referential world of the academia in Strategy Research. The topic was broadly covered in early 2000 at least in two Ph.D. theses, I know. However, so far I have found only two citation to Alex Osterwalder’s work in the article “Business Model Innovation: Opportunities and Barriers” by Henry Chesbrough and in the article by Wirtz & al.. Thanks Henry, that you take your open innovation approach also your research. Thanks Bernd.

I hoped to find some background on Business Models in Baden-Fullers and Morgan’s article. Negative. They seemed to have not heard from Osterwalder before, they do not cite him. They are not mentioning ideas of Gary Hamel on business concept innovation from 2000, a concept very close to business model innovation. They cite only their own kind. They still live in their closed community where it is extremely important from whom the idea is coming, even when the original idea is 10 years old and not even cited. That is what I call a long latency!

Origin of business model thinking

The origin in business model thinking dates back to the information management researchers that were building information systems. To do so, they needed models of the reality. They talked about data models, process models, enterprise models and later about business models. When the first Internet entrepreneurs were talking about their strategy, they talked naturally about their business model since that was a language familiar to them. From there, the term transcended to Strategy. E.g., I wrote my Ph.D. thesis exactly at this crossing of information systems and strategy. My supervisors were Prof. Beat Schmid, background in computer science and Prof. Georg von Krogh, a strong researcher in Strategy. Quite a balancing act.

Business model is just a model of a business

When I was writing my Ph.D. thesis, Prof. von Grogh told me that I needed a unit of analysis for my research. I know the traditional culprits like industry or firm but they did not fit into what we saw in the New Economy. Industry boarders become meaningless; competition came from competitors you had not even heard before.

Therefore, my answer to Georg was very simple: I used the business model as my unit of analysis. He said fine. Just define it. Well, easy said difficult done. I was positive at the beginning that there must be something since we all got Masters of Business Administration so Business should be defined. Nope. Not really.

And again, it was Peter Drucker who had worked on this. He asked the simple questions “What business are you in?” and “What is the purpose of a business”.  And this is exactly what a business model should answer when used for strategizing.

Chesbrough and Rosenbloom (2002) explain the antecedents to the business model concept in their article “The Role of the Business Model in Capturing Value from Innovation: Evidence from Xerox Corporation’s Technology Spinoff Companies”. It is interesting that it was not the academic world that saw the necessity to have the business in focus for strategy but the real world. The business is where the competition is. Welcome to the real world.

Newspapers Economics and the need for new business models

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Hal Varian, the chief economist of Google and co-author of the seminal book “Information Rules” just publishes an article on the changing economics of newspapers. The paper and his blog post is worthwhile reading.

The articles goes well along my analysis of the newspaper market, where I argue that just a transfer of the paper business model to the Internet does not work since the business model of traditional papers is unbundled by the Internet. A newspaper is three businesses (content, advertising (selling of readers’ attention) and classifieds (bringing demand and supply together) bundled together by paper. And on the Internet, the glue of paper does not exists any more. So the revenue model of newspapers will not work on the Internet.

Varian argues that newspapers actually never earned money with news from their frontpages but from special interest sections like Automotives, Travel, Home & Garden or Food & Drinks. These sections attracted contextually targeted advertising which is much more effective than non-targeted advertising like you have in the news section.

And in the Online world, special-interest sites attract the search-engine traffic and not general-interest sites like the Internet pages of newspapers.

Well, when you follow his arguments than a mere transfer of the traditional business model to the web will never work for newspapers.

Simply put. The Internet is different. It has different economics and therefore you have to adapt your business model to the changing economics. Either you do it or you die! And this not only true for newspapers but also for other industries.

[update March 29th, 2010] Seth Godin writes in his blog what it means when the economics are changing in the publishing industry. He highlights the possibility that great authors have the potential to lead their own tribe. They will not be bond to the paper publishers any more. The text is worthwhile reading since it shows new business opportunities for authors.

[update August 5th, 2010] Google posted another paper on the subject. It comments in this paper the Federal Trade Commission’s News Media Workshop and Staff Discussion Draft on “Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism.” The paper is definitely more interesting than the title.

Google Comments To FTC

Design thinking, Ideo and disruptive business model innovation

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

To be honest, I get a bit bored about the mantra that design thinking will solve the problems of large corporation. Well, when I go through the case studies at Ideo I am extremely impressed by their client list but not about the output. I have seen several design thinking sessions and I am not impressed at all with the output. The results are very often: More-of-the-Same but with fancier design.

Wer hat es erfunden? Novo Nordisk insulin pen

Where is the invention from design thinking that changed the industry? Where is the iTunes or the Kindle of Ideo? The problem with design thinking starts very early in the process with the problem definition phase. And that is where large corporations fail. They define the scope too narrow and than you get nice new things that sustain your current business but not new business models that rock your industry and yourself.

Ideo is a very good (self-) marketing & design firm but not an industry rocking firm. Large firms just love Ideo because Ideo just offers such a well designed process to solve the big problem of “being not innovative”. You hire Ideo for comforting yourself for not using your own common sense and your own customer insights. You just outsource your understanding of the customer to Ideo.

And how innovative are Ideo’s ideas?

Let’s take the example of the insulin pen Ideo describes on its homepage as a case [update 22nd Oct 2010, case is not available on IDEOs homepage any longer due to redesign of page]. (more…)

Culture and the Business Model: We are humans

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

In the discussion on business model innovation an important point is missing: the culture in which the business is conducted. A business is all about people “creating” customers.

Businesses are not a technical machine with input and output factors. Businesses are places where human beings work together for a common goal and therefore the culture in a business is a defining part of a business and therefore also for the business model.

Most definitions of what a business model is are rather technical. We talk about components, patterns, building blocks. We make a lot of fuss about how we rearrange the components as if they were just Lego bricks. We believe that having in mind a great new business model is already a business model innovation.

Where are the people?

Ups, no! That does not work. Somehow the most important “building block” of a business is missing: The human being that designs, shapes and makes the business work and the customer who has to buy into the new value proposition and pay. And here again we have the human factor. “[I]nnovation is not what innovators do but what customers adopt.” We always have to remember what Michael Schrage is saying. It is the customer acceptance that makes an innovation. (more…)

Business model innovation show superior impact on performance

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Good news for all the evangelist of business model innovation. McKinsey has developed an innovation performance score (IPS) that shows that “a significant degree of business model innovation seems to be necessary for superior innovation impact.”

The idea of business model innovation was not developed at the large consultancy companies like McKinsey, BCG or booz. Probably they were too busy optimizing the current business of their current clients. And usually their clients are the incumbent in their respective business. Probably, the large consultancies are trapped what Clayton Christiensen calls resource dependency. Christiensen and others argue that you are dependent in your strategic decision from your main sources where you get your resources from and most of the time it is from your existing clients. In the case of the large consultancies the customers are the incumbents that lose the most from business model innovation.

Business model innovation as new strategy type

The idea stems from researchers like Alex Osterwalder, Gary Hamel (business concept innovation), W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne with their blue ocean strategy or me. In stead of looking at the incumbents we were looking at entrepreneurs/ outsiders that created industries or changed their industries forever. While Alex and I came from New Economy side where we saw that new media allows new business models, Hamel, Kim and Mauborgne came from the traditional strategy schools at universities.

Measuring the impact of innovation is old subject but most measurement systems had severe shortcomings. (more…)