Posts Tagged ‘rethinking business’

The missing part for business model innovation: The process

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

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. (more…)

Rethinking your industry logic: Cross Industry Business Model Innovation

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Business Structure’Our industry is unique and should not be compared with other industries!’ This is a common phrase I have heard countless times throughout my consulting career. But is it true?

Strangely enough the most successful companies become prosperous not by excluding comparisons, but by leveraging other industries success factors and applying them in a new context. Many other companies that innovated within the boundaries of their current industry logic often left the stage early. When looking at new business models it is often clear that they have not been developed from scratch. Many models that have changed an industry are merely refurbished versions of another model by another industry.

Business Model Innovation is about combining successful models from various industries as well as finding completely new ways of doing things.

Re-imagine your organisation with a different leader

When you design your future business model you need to find ways to overcome the current thinking patterns or dominant logic of your industry. Famous leaders are often responsible for defining a new way of thinking in their industry. How would Rupert Murdoch or Frank Lowry run your business? What new customer segments would Robin Hood develop in your organisation? How would Pierre Omidyar lead your not-for-profit organisation?

Google didn’t apply the business model from the software industry, yet their first product was nothing else than software packaged as a service. Airbnb.com didn’t use the business model of the hospitality industry, yet they offer hospitality services. Kickstarter.com didn’t use a banking or venture capital business model, yet they fund new endeavours all the time.

They all applied models from a different industry and combined them with a new approach that broke the dominant industry logic.

Understanding another industries business models is only the first step

Companies should always look beyond their traditional industry borders to learn. Could you learn from Nespresso’s direct sales model? Could you do the same and sacrificed some reach of your sales channels for a much more rich interaction with your customers?

Could you learn from Ikea and outsource some core activities to your customers? Could you learn from Gillette and their “razor and blade” model? Could you learn from the newspaper industry with their subscription model that makes customer pay you in advance before they get the product? (more…)

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

Friday, March 21st, 2014

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. (more…)

Business Model Innovation in the EU and beyond

Monday, October 14th, 2013

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. (more…)

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

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

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 http://xkcd.com/608/)

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. (more…)

The strange business model of airlines

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The airline business is a strange business and in desperate need for business model innovation. On the one hand, more people fly than ever to prices lower than ever. IATA, the industry body, states that the real cost of travel has fallen in the last 40 years by about 60% and the number of travelers increased tenfold. Air freight has grown in this period by a factor of fourteen. (See IATA Vision 2050) That sounds like a very successful industry. Is it? However, on the other hand, airlines are notorious to not even earning their cost of capital and producing unhappy customers.

 

During the 2000s the average airline generated an EBIT margin of just 0.7%. Taken a longer perspective, the figures are as drastic. From 1970 to 2010 the airline industry generated over USD 12,000 billions of revenues in today’s prices, but only a total of USD 19 billion of net post-tax profits; a margin of only 0.1%.

Another dull figures: Around USD 500 billion of investors’ capital is tied up in the airline industry. Normally, investors would expect a return on capital of around 7-8%. Taken the 500 billion that would mean a return of 40 billion annually to cover the cost of capital. But what did the airlines earn? 20 billion or 20 billion less that the capital would have earned elsewhere. The airline industry is a big capital destroyer. Interestingly, other firms along the travel value chain like airports or computer reservation systems earned excess returns. So there is profit in the travel industry but not with the capital-intensive airlines. Airlines are a dismal industry.

So are customers at least happy? Just type in Google the search “airline experience” and enjoy all the customer stories about flights. And watch the film “United breaks Guitars” like 12 million others did on Youtube.

What went wrong and is there a solution to it? And think about it why we all hunt of low prices on traveling while we spent USD 5 for a latte at Starbucks. Why are we so price conscious on travelling and not on coffee?

Here are some thoughts I presented at the 17th international airline conference last fall in Seattle. Thanks to Nawal Taneja, Dietmar Kirchner and Rob Solomon for the kind invitation.

Thesis 1: Airlines are masters of transportation economics, not customer experiences

It seems that all airline managers are great students of economics but not of entrepreneurship and marketing. Since they have a perishable good (empty seats on an upcoming flight are like perishable goods), they believe strongly in variable pricing by exploiting the maximal price customers are willing to pay.

That sounds very reasonable at first, since who wants to argue with economists and their theoretical models, but what airlines have forgotten over time is, that if you treat customers like rational customers then you will get rational customers and extremely price sensible customers in the end.  However, there is a good reason why economics is called a dismal science. So if you follow economists, (more…)

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.

(more…)

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…)

Trust, Bankers and Soldiers of Fortunes – You get what you pay

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Swiss private banks are under pressure to change their business model. It is not just pressure from other states that want to fight tax evasion via exchange of information on bank customers but also from employers that try to sell stolen customers’ data  to foreign governments.

The big news in Switzerland is that an informant, crook or thief – whatever you like to call him depends from your standpoint – has offered the German authorities data from 1,500 German customers of Swiss Banks that have allegedly dodged taxes. Last year, another informant stole data on 3,000 French bank clients from the HSBC branch in Switzerland and sold it to the French authorities. And in 2008, Germany already purchased data on German customers of the Liechtenstein Bank LGT. The LGT case cost the German government several million Euro but they received a far higher pay-back on its investment form all the taxes and fines that the busted tax evaders had to pay.

There will be more

And these three data thefts will not be the last. It is not only the authorities of high-tax countries like France or Germany that see their high return of investment if they buy data from informants but also there will be more willing bankers that will sell data of its customers. Why? (more…)

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…)