Business Model Innovation in the EU and beyond

Business Model Thinking is coming more and more mainstream. On Friday, I was at a workshop sponsored by the EU commission on Business Model Innovation and Policy Making. Here are my takeaways.

Business Model Innovation on the top of the agenda for policy makers

I’m very happy that the topic we started more than 15 years ago will be part of the future innovation policy of the EU. 15 years is a long time for me as a person, but as the business professor Christoph Zott is pointing out in science and policy making 15 years is a short time particularly when you want to introduce new units analysis to understand how firms outperform or create über-returns with (business model) innovation.

Policy making in need for innovation by xkcd

Business Model Innovators as outperformers

While we as entrepreneurs do not care much about measuring the impact of business model innovation on a societal level, the EU or the OECD, that also participated, want to measure each countries performance on business model innovation and then define policies to foster business model innovation on a governmental level.

Most papers presented at the workshop had a strong focus on the technocratic parts of a business model like Value Creation, Value Capture and Value Proposition but were missing the human side to business, the people who run a business, make the difference in innovation but are also the biggest impediments to change.

Pieter Perett and his team from the University of Applied Science Northwestern Switzerland, who organized the workshop, presented their findings that business model innovation make a strong impact on the long-term performance of firms. They use statistical data to identify business model innovators and they try to calculate if there is a über-return for these business model innovators.

Edward Giesen, Head of BMI at IBM, presented their study on business model innovation. They use a different method. Instead of measuring the impact of business model innovation from statistical data, they interview CEOs on the importance of business model innovation, and they see that companies that are consider themselves as business model innovators are outperforming traditional product or process innovators.

Christian Zott, who published one of the first works on business models in 2001 and is a strong advocate for business models, criticized from a scientist point of view the methods to measure the impact of business model innovation. His main point is that business models are often defined too broadly so it is difficult to understand where the real impact was in the business model.

I liked his criticism a lot from a scientist point of view and his focus on rigidity, however his proposal to focus only on the activities might be rigid but then the concept of business models looses its relevancy and its magic to see new boxes, entrepreneurs have never thought of as points of innovation like the revenue model, the value proposition or the Team & Value side of a business.

Where’s the beef?

Hans-Jörg Bullinger, former Head of the German Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, criticized that the studies are interesting from a scientific point of view, however, they do not help to overcome our technology bias. His call for action was that we need better tools to design business models for entrepreneurs. Of course, I loved his objection, since this is exactly, what we do with the upcoming tool box for entrepreneurs. Continue reading Business Model Innovation in the EU and beyond