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

The strange business model of airlines

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, Continue reading The strange business model of airlines

Fighting for the next business model in the pets industry

I had in the last months the chance to apply business model thinking & innovation on several, very diverse industries: the airline and travel industry, the pets industry and some time ago on the media industry, particularly newspaper.

In the upcoming three next posts, I will share some insights I gained from using the business model canvas on these industries. The series will start with the pets industry.

A word of warning to all industry experts: I am not an expert for these industries. I’m not a pet industry expert. I am an expert for the process of re-thinking and re-inventing business models.

Pets Industry – A revolution in the making

The following slide deck is my presentation, I gave on January 27th, 2012 in Berlin at the Pets International conference. Enjoy some insights in a very interesting industry where the core is all around living creatures and the close relation we have to them.

Enjoy also my new design of the business model canvas I have created together with Gottschalk & Ash, a designer with the support of the Wolfsburg AG, an innovation incubator in Germany. You will see more in the future.

 

Pets are man’s best and dear friends

Pets are highly emotional and men’s best friends. Pets are members of your family. Sometimes they are treated better then human beings. Continue reading Fighting for the next business model in the pets industry

Top 10 in 2011

Here are the Top 10s of this blog in 2011. I hope they give you some insights. More than 45.500 visits and 72.458 pages impressions were recored in 2011 (12/26/10-12/25/11) on this blog. Thank you very much!! All of you are a great motivation to me and inspiration to the field of business model innovation and business model design.

I have prepared my personal highlights and the Top 10 of post you have visited during 2011. The other Top 10s are about the search terms around my blog and the countries where all the visitors come from.

Personal Highlights

  1. It is amazing how knowledge dissemination has changed over the last years thanks to the internet. Today, relevance counts more than pure marketing or brand power. A big thanks to Google that made it possible that readers find the blog. Today, knowledge disseminates from students to professor, from lower ranks to CEOs. A revolution in knowledge management.
  2. Thanks to the blog and its readers, I got assignments all over the world.  This year, I loved particularly to work in Seattle, Singapur and Cairo (shortly before the revolution). Good luck to all my friends in Egypt and keep up the free and entrepreneurial spirit I felt there.
  3. Thanks to all my readers and clients, 2011 was a very exciting year. 2012 will be exciting as well. I have found with with the innovation campus of the Wolfsburg AG, a public private partnership between the city of Wolfsburg and Volkswagen AG, a sponsor for a tool box for entrepreneurs. The tool box will be out by mid 2012. The tool box will be in German and is targeted at all entrepreneurs that what to make a difference in life.
  4. fluidminds has launched a new product, a five day workshop for intrapreneurs in large corporations. First pilots in 2011 and more to come in 2012. It is fantastic to see how fast you can find customer insights and then develop great business and growth initiatives on top of them.
If you are interested in the Toolbox, please subscribe here. The news will be in German.


Continue reading Top 10 in 2011

Newspapers Economics and the need for new business models

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

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

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

Who says paper is dead? business model innovation in the newspaper industry

The newspaper industry is suffering these days. Besides the economic crisis that leads to less advertising spending the traditional business model is under attack by the Internet. The large papers have reacted with large Internet activities that attract a lot of traffic. But the revenues of the online ventures are not sufficient to compensate for the decline in print. So what shall they do?

I had the pleasure recently to be invited back to my university, the University of St. Gallen, to give a speech on business model innovation in the media industry. Prof. Martin Eppler was so kind to sponsor the discussion. I used 8 theses to present my thoughts. Below you find the slides of my presentation.

 

 

Tradition is not a business model

The media industry is an interesting case since their traditional business model is under attack by new technologies. I use the music and the newspaper industry as cases to make my points. Although both are affected by the Internet, they face Continue reading Who says paper is dead? business model innovation in the newspaper industry

The changing competitive landscape

Change, unlearning and the business model

Thinking in business models helps you in change projects, particularly in the unlearning of unwanted tacit assumptions and knowledge of the past. Forgetting what made you successful in the past is the key challenge in any change project, learning new things actually the easy part.

I am currently involved in a large change project. The company involved was living in a cozy environment. Demand was stable, predictable; project cycles were measured in years to decades and due to high entry barriers the firm was sure to “win” all business from its customers. Quality was so defined that the products lasted for eternity, most of the time longer than they had to last. Due to the heavy duty nature of its customers’ business everything was engineered to customers standards and very little of the components were bought off the shelf. Cost was not a major issue as long it was in budget.

And now the world has changed. Their customers had to change due to pressure from their clients. So the world of my firm will never be the same but since the change is coming slowly, there is time to adapt. The question is now: How can the firm change? How can it forget the habits that made it successful in the past but impede the future?

I teamed up with a coach that has a background in social psychology and constructivism. We had long discussion together but also with the customer’s management that was new on board. The question was where to start the change process.

Should we just have McKinsey, BCG or any other top consultancy fly in to have them develop a new market oriented strategy and then implement it? Our question was: Can you just implement a strategy into the heads of people that were not involved in the process? I think you can in certain cultures but not in nordic cultures. The danger is that you lose the strength any company has and particularly lose the commitment of the employees that make up the difference between a mediocre and a good to great company. You just lose the soul of the business and get mercenaries as employees. So that was not an option.

The other approach often used in change management is soft, typical HR driven. Management does some seminars on change, culture and innovation; and, what a miricale, people then will understand the need for change and then they will change. Unfortunately this is an illusion but big business for trainers and coaches. The problem here is that it sounds so right but people will consume not engage.

The problem and also the chance for our client was that they still have cash and time to change. Some units are in trouble others still earn money with the traditional way of doing business. So there is little sense of urgency (bad) but also time for a deeper change (good).

Understand your business model as a start, Understand what business are you in

Our approach was simple. We wanted to put a mirror in front of management. We wanted management to see the current situation through different glasses. Continue reading Change, unlearning and the business model

Karstadt: Death of a legend (business model)

The German retail and travel conglomerate Arcandor AG formerly known as KarstadtQuelle AG filed on June 9th 2009 for insolvency. It claims that the financial crisis is the reason. It had asked the German government in May for state aid but the government refused. But is the financial crisis the real reason for the dire situation? I do not think so. The business models of its retail activities (Karstadt and Quelle) are just dead. The management did not innovate on its business model and that is the reason for failure.

Most writers and bloggers take the music industry as a prime example for an industry that failed to innovate its core business model. But there are many other industries where failure to innovate its core business lead to their decline. A sad prime example of missed innovation is Karstadt, a large department store chain in Germany and Quelle, a German mail order powerhouse.

The Karstadt case is typical for a corporation that business model is dated. Instead of rejuvenating its business model or finding new business ideas the old business model is defended and by consolidating the industry even reinforced.

The next lesson is that all activities at corporate level like selling non-core assets do not solve your problems of an ailing business model. The solution must be found on the business level not on a corporate level. If you cannot fix it, than sell or close it early. Success in business is not defined on corporate level but by its business model!

In May 2009, the CEO of Arcandor, Mr. Eich asked for “a state guarantee to temporarily bridge the gap of the currently non-functioning financial markets.” [update: link no longer available] Arcandor did not want to have any handouts nor a state participation in the company. It promised that it will repay the loan “to the last penny.” It claimed that the credit crunch is the main reason for its financial stress.

But is this really true?

The only constant in retailing is business model innovation

Retail markets in general are dynamic markets where new business models destroy old ones and create new fortunes. Zara, Aldi, H&M, IKEA or Carefour all reinvented their retail category and made their owners rich. But since the whole market did not grow as fast as the newcomers, the incumbents suffered losses in market shares and sales. Continue reading Karstadt: Death of a legend (business model)