Knowing the Value within your Business Model is Vital

Last year I provided a guest post to Patrick Stähler’s Business Model Innovation blog and wanted to add this to my own site as I think it does place the focus on finding value within any business model design.

I think Patrick’s business model lends itself to this constant focus on value. Patrick runs fluidminds, based in Zürich, Switzerland. fluidminds helps its customers to think by challenging existing business rules, offer structured thinking and different perspectives on the strategy process and support the execution.

Patrick wrote his thesis about Business Model innovation in the digital age and from this emerged his unique ‘take ‘on working through the business model. Patrick has been dealing since 1997 with questions around how the web changes Business Models and how Business Model innovation should and could look in the digital economy.

fluidminds wants to create new businesses and to shape industries with business model innovation, with a large part of Patrick’s practice centered  on German speaking markets but he has consulted across numerous English speaking ones as well.

So in my guest post I put forward this three point view of value.

The Business Model design canvas of Patrick Stähler of fluidminds.

The Business Model design canvas of Patrick Stähler of fluidminds.

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.

fluidminds 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.

Value Proposition on the Business Model CanvasThe 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.

We 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.

Equally, a value proposition can emerge from those creative minds; again think Steve Jobs, where totally new business models become constructed upon a strong, clear vision or even different strands or inklings that something can be simply changed as the elements that were needed became available to make this happen. Yet they only happened from the dedicated hard work that came from purposeful design and detailed understanding of the possibilities.

No, value propositions come not just from known jobs-to-be-done but also from the unknown that can be identified through observation, research or ethnography how something is being completed. These come often from fertile, inquiring mind to see new combinations, different discoveries and then piece them together, in a business model that delivers new promise. So think beyond ‘just’ product and services, think always new business potential and then set about its design as the starting point, don’t constrain yourself initially.

Using a business model design approach that offers us a ‘fresh’ canvas structure where we can construct or even deconstruct the existing, might lead to completely revolutionary thinking when it comes to seeking out clear and exploring new value in any business propositions.

The second value point is in the Value Architecture.

For me, the architecture of the Business model is what and where something is going to deliver on the promise identified in the Value Proposition. Although much of the architecture of any business model is not seen, it is the ‘heart’ of what delivers the value. We can’t ignore or gloss over the value architecture, we must address it fully.

Fluidminds business model approach devotes much of its ‘canvas’ to this part. The initial questions of clarifying the offer, the value chain, the need for identifying core capabilities, for explaining the distribution and communication channels and who the (potential) partners are, all are initially raised specifically within the canvas to be addressed.

Value Architecture in the Business Model CanvasSo many of these begin as open ended questions, not just when you are building from scratch a new business model but when you want to ‘challenge’ an existing one. Architecture will always ‘raise its head’ to be fully addressed. It is vital.

It might not be the sexist part of a business model but it is the ‘guts’, the performance engine, which can deliver the respective parts for ‘the promise’.

Addressing what makes up this part might leave some open questions to be resolved later but I’d recommend starting on the architectural design purposefully from the moment you begin, this makes for better and valued on-going conversations. You don’t need to get bogged down in the actual nitty-gritty of the exact design but you do need to sketch out the design and that is the role of the business architect, the orchestrator of design.

This is the place you seek and clarify understanding for that value. You operate often in three thinking minds here, to be fluid, agile and adaptable. You need to layer into your thinking a strategic view, a business design one and begin to work through the implementation actions and possible implications. You design and sketch. You need to begin to think layers of abstraction, a flow cycle approach.

The thinking around each part of the Value Architecture needs to grow within your thinking – the purpose, the performance you need, the possible processes that can support this, the level of preparation this will require and the level of commitment your people need to apply to this, so as to underpin and support the emerging business model or needed to change the existing one, all arise.

This is where the real value comes into play within the Value Architecture part. The deepening of thinking to achieve a shared thinking of what is possible, what needs further work to achieve the ‘value’ being looked for out of the business model.

So value architecture is the place for identifying the ‘value creation’ points, the rules and emerging governance that needs to be put into place. It is a large part of the fluidminds canvas as it requires multiple conversations to continually build the design to deliver on the ‘promise seen’.

The third value point is in teams and values

Anything new has controversy as it is pushing the known and accepted into the unknown. It raises fears, it whispers possible failure but for those that ‘unite’ and can see new possibilities a shared business canvas becomes the bonding point, the point where ideas come together and form within the team.

The canvas becomes the focal point where the energy flows. The value of bringing into any discussions on designing or redesigning a business models early enough those different opinions, is of huge value. This brings you around the canvas to agree where you are going to spend your energy, your days in the future, your commitment, your passion.

Team and Values on the Business Model CanvasYou begin to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the group; you begin to explore each other’s known and often surprisingly unknown competencies.

You also begin to spot gaps but you are working ‘collectively’ in resolving each other’s values and understandings of what ‘makes up’ the essence and worth that you perceive the new business design can bring, that ‘collective difference’ that allows you as a team to keep constantly questioning where the value lies by combing the efforts. You together as a team design-in value.

Having ‘value’ as central to your business model design is critical.

The design of the fluidminds business model canvas purposefully ‘looks’ for the value points. It provides a structure that asks for a value proposition, seeks out the value architecture and looks to the team to define their values and what values they need to pursue.

So why should your new business model exist? Because it seeks out new value, pure and simple, irrespective if you are an entrepreneur, someone just starting out for the first time or an existing business questioning its existing business approach. A new business model in its design, in its proposition, in its approach does need to seek out the value points constantly to get the best out of any new emerging business concept.

Are you exploring value constantly within your business model approach?

A new raison d’être for HRM through Innovation

Innovation is in need of a significant transformation on how it is designed, developed and executed in most organizations. Traditional approaches to managing this simply need ripping up and redesigning to allow innovation to become more the central core.

In most organizations the Human Resource Management (HRM) function seems to have been far too often side-lined on shaping and influencing how innovation should be designed as a critical part of the future for the company. Many of the existing traditional HRM solutions might actually be in conflict and working against innovation actually.

If we look at the broad areas that HRM has to cover and master in organizational development today, it can, perhaps, leave little time for adding in innovation into this array of demands. You can understand that HRM has little time to master a ‘decent’ understanding of what makes up innovation, when they are grappling with so much already but they should. It might simplify or promote a rationalizing of some of the existing practices built up over considerable time as the expedient option but this is still creating a ‘lagging’ set of effects and not offering the ‘leading’ ones that innovation demands.

Today’s HRM role is demanding and complex, no question.

Let’s firstly remind ourselves what does make up a current HRM role in leading or participating in many crucial areas needing constant attention. These include planning and designing and the executing of change management, seeking out potential leaders, participating in career development and recruitment, managing organization capability and effectiveness in all its different demands called for across a diverse demanding organization.

This goes along with seeking out different designs to team building, organization transformation, building knowledge and talent capacity, let alone the classic payroll, reviews and turnover questions brought on by volatile markets, change of directions or global expansion.

I could add more but organizational development is an extremely tough, challenging and pivotal role, often under-appreciated and struggling to gain their rightful seat at the top table.

Adding innovation as a simple add-on will not work

So adding onto this veritable list of tasks we are appealing for a different approach and more focus on innovation, maybe a little unfair because it is unlikely to work.  I believe HRM should have a new raison d’être making innovation the central, repeating theme running through of all the activities currently being undertaken and mentioned above.

Presently HRM is little involved in the current innovation process where innovation is focused on developing and designing new products, services and often even excluded from the design of new innovation business models to find the best ways to break these out from existing organization design so they thrive and not just survive due to patronage alone.

The management of human resource needs to be replaced with the management of human creativity and ingenuity, as this is the triggering point to innovation success. The critical role of innovation is without question needed for the future growth, wealth creation and organizations potential survival. Who is to drive the human change required here?  I believe HRM should have a lasting design impact and central engagement role in this.

HRM has a crucial role to play in the needs to facilitate and underpin top-line growth through innovation design and bottom-line impact through risk balance and control as people are the essence of innovation. Individuals gain (new) insights, they offer idea generation and the capabilities to implement these through the designed innovation process as new introductions into the world that improve on the existing. HRM needs to make sure this is well supports and happens by ensuring the people factor is well designed into the organization, in every activity for making innovation the ‘way of life’ and well understood as corporately vital to be well support and consistently enhance in capabilities and capacities.

Reversing the current organization design

Over the past few decades, even the past century it has been the organization ‘knows best’ and decides and passes down, the teams are then resourced and empowered and the structure is put in place for the individual to deliver. Today that is not working well.

Going forward this top down approach will simply not work. In the case of innovation the reverse actually applies. The germ of an idea or insight starts with the individual connecting different strands of knowledge and combining these in new and often novel ways. Then they must go and convince others of its value, so they will support this and turn it into a project. This then needs to move up the organization for others to come on board to offer the necessary means, resources and support to achieve the eventual outcome.

Failure to move potentially exciting but ‘raw’ ideas into projects, then into reality by attracting required resource is becoming crucial to be managed. Recognizing this essential shift of bottom up is crucial in organizational design for skill development and approaches throughout the organization.

If we take just one example, the failure to take ideas forward as one area that needs to be treated differently than the current traditional judgement or measurement metric of valuing only ideas just going through the pipeline. If we value experimentation, prototyping and piloting of innovation ideas that did not fully work out or got combined or re-scoped, we can begin to see experiences gained, challenges resolved, obstacles overcome as learning points. This gives a different measuring approach that can reverse current design and reward and show the increasing value of exposure, practice and understanding as accomplishments that build deepening capabilities and highly valued in experiences.

We should be looking for the knowledge and insights gained as part of the robustness of the pipeline. This is one area where HRM can design innovation differently and intervene so as establish the impact of learning as one of the factors to enhance innovation capability. There are many of these intervention points that have a catalytic effect.

Those that attempt innovation gain valuable experience

If HR took innovation into the core of organizational design, the mandate for each person is to get involved in innovation activity to gain valuable experience that enhances the desired capabilities for the future. If innovation is seen as core, you begin to break down the present barriers and mindsets that restrict innovation today by current behaviours, blocking innovating activity or placing constraints in allocating the required resources to ‘allow’ innovation to flourish.

HRM plays the critical role in breaking down the existing barriers (cultural, environmental, structural) and determines the need for information and knowledge sharing to actively lower one of innovations greatest barriers today, the not invented here, that existing within organizations both in themselves and in opening up to external new sources of stimulus. HRM can find clear ways to foster innovation in more open ways.

Moving beyond today’s traditional competencies

In many organisations HRM are adapt at, or certainly working hard at the assembling, managing and deploying of resources to support the work-to-be-done. They pride themselves on managing labour costs, evaluating workforce performance, enhancing productivity and focusing on retaining valued talent. These are well within themselves but are simply not enough in such changing market conditions. They are reinforcing effectiveness and efficiency and these alone are simply not enough for securing the future, it is through innovation and creativity that is urgently needed to be added.

Future leaders need to emerge not from managing existing assets well but in managing in increased uncertainties, being more adaptive, agile and responsive to changing needs. CEO’s are demanding creativity, flexibility and speed to size up, quickly seize and grab breaking opportunity. These newer demanded skills come from knowing how and where to go, to be well-connected across platforms of knowledge, having close client connectivity and being able to extract all the essentials, resources and commitments to enable execution. Adaptability to constant change has a very different mindset to be developed in our future leaders.

The changing role of organization design

There is a consistent need to sustain and secure a steady top-line and bottom-line growth, CEO’s tenure is mostly based on this. What is increasingly needed is to go beyond this expected ‘state’ and deliver the ‘wow’ factor, which comes mostly through innovation. Here top managers have to seek out speed, flexibility and adaptability as outlined earlier in this article but they also need to go beyond this.

Managers need to find the right ways to stimulate innovation in creative and systematic ways and encourage entrepreneurship, more reciprocating in the transfer of knowledge, ideas and practices for pushing across boundaries for value creation opportunities. We come back to the ability to extract new value is in the individuals identifying, assimilating and exploiting knowledge and it is in recognizing this reverse flow, is where the HRM role needs to focus on a different organizational design.

For me building absorptive capacity is crucial and HRM needs to focus far more on understanding the value of this. I loved one suggested description on the absorptive capacity model.  Absorptive capacity is like the alternating current, whereas development capacity is the direct current. Combining this into a AC/DC innovation model then Innovation becomes the ‘power provider’ to growth requiring both currents, with one, a direct current flowing one constant way, whereas alternative current flows one way, then the other, continually reversing direction for knowledge generation that acquires, assimilates, transforms through exploitative learning. HRM needs to leverage ‘exploitation learning’ as a real need for building the power into innovation capability.

HRM needs to be on the cutting edge of innovation

HRM does need to step up and define a new mandate for innovation. If innovation is ever going to achieve a core place within organizations it has to be deliberately designed in for skill definitions, leadership development and knowledge and experiences gained. HRM needs to cultivate, mobilize and capitalize innovation.

To do this it needs to redesign its existing practices and approaches so at least four critical aspects become established as the starting point and way forward while a deeper understanding of innovation is gained:

  1. Recruiting always people for the potential to innovate and knowing what this means in inputs, outputs and expected organizational outcomes.
  2. Nurturing individuals and teams constantly in innovation capabilities and skills and setting about designing a comprehensive programme for this to take hold and stick.
  3. Recognizing and discussing in formal ‘learning ways’ the critical factors needed for success and equally acknowledging and recognizing the learning value of the failures. Valuing both in experiences and organization outcomes.
  4. Build on going diversity into teams, resourced across the organization, augmented with external resources as and when needed, so the teams are varied, distinctive and constantly changing and exchanging experience and are delivering innovation that makes a real difference to the future of the organization.

If this means employing external mentors, coaches and innovation expertise to bring HRM up to speed, then it is well worth it. Having a dedicated external resource to work with you in HRM has the same ‘outsourced value’  as many other activities deemed to be handled by specialists, receiving the support and inputs to your needs that makes sound economical and knowledge intensive sense.

Care of course, is in finding those that have the depth and breadth of required experience to work alongside you, to build up and transfer the appropriate understanding of those innovation needs, until it has been ‘embedded’ within HRM so it becomes fully absorbed and part of the daily fabric of the organization as a new core, well supported and constructed to deliver sustaining innovation.

HRM has a stark choice

HRM needs to take on a more pivotal role for innovation. They can become central for a lasting place to plan and significantly contribute to building innovation capability and capacity or stay more passive and operate always in the outer periphery of today’s and the future corporate relevance that innovation needs to play.

I believe HRM needs a new raison d’être, one that comes from grabbing hold of innovation and making this core to the organizations future design. Building capabilities and capacities for innovation are essential to our organizations future well-being and HRM needs to step up and become far more engaged.

The dark side of the innovation moon

Ever wondered what is on the other side of the moon when you look up towards it? Do we really need to look beyond our own horizons in our daily lives? Should we question beyond our existing horizons in how we go about innovating, to explore, to push ourselves into the unknown?

What about the other side, the darker, unknown side of the moon. Are you ever curious of what lies behind what we can see? I certainly am.

Innovation is perhaps like the moon. We only see a part of it wherever we stand, we appreciate that part and value what we see and work within. It is even better if we can repeat it again and again. It can even offer something reassuring and comfortable, we grow comfortable within our own known borders of innovation activity.

What happens though, when we suddenly face a crisis? Or our innovation activity that has happily gone on and on, is abruptly questioned due to some sudden changes in the market place? Then we often enter the unknown side, the darker, murkier side of innovation, where uncertainties lurks, this is like maybe the other side of the moon, out there but not part of our ‘seen’ world until now. It unexpectedly challenges what we know and leaves us vulnerable and uncertain. It also prompts us to be curious.

The issue becomes, what is the power of knowing that darker side of the innovation moon beforehand? Maybe it is the explorer within us all. Knowing whats actually out there. Understanding as much of the whole innovation moon would be good for many of us but we would like to do this safely within our existing comfort zone. What we would ideally love is not just a glimpse of the far side, that darker, unknown side, but a chance to visit it, just to see if it is something for us or not. How can we do this, can we prepare?

Visiting the dark side of the innovation moon

I think we all do need to gain a really good glimpse of the total innovation moon. It would help us to be better equipped to be ready for different eventualities that are more often than not, coming our way in unexpected ways.

What can be provided that allows us to move around innovation with more confidence, to experience it, to explore it and then become eventually more comfortable with it so as to work all sides of this innovation moon?

To orbit the innovation moon we do need to rise up and go beyond our day-to-day lives. We need to look at innovation in its broader context; we need to understand all of its inter-connected parts. So much of the innovation moon often remains in mystery, the side that faces away from us.

Part of my job is to encourage you to not only leave your comfort zone but to attempt to offer the framing techniques and approaches to equip you for deepening your journey onto the darker, less known sides of your innovation understanding.

How can we explore all the potential within innovation?

We should ask of ourselves, what does block out the light, the understanding of gaining a fuller understanding of innovation. Is it a lack of time, of incentive or it is not simply part of our job, the role expected by the organization we work for does not want us to be curious? We need a way to freshly connect, to relay and make exploration, to feel like we can make a safe venture. To do this we often need permission to go beyond our existing horizons.

Equally we each have to ask ourselves what and where are the dark sides of the innovation moon for us? Why are these differences on the side that faces away from us, the unknown sides of the innovation moon? We do need to open up and seek out far more.

This blog site was deliberately set up to help in this, along with my advising, coaching, researching and consulting work to help you in your innovation focus. I’m trying to add the ‘innovation fuel’ and essential frameworks and equipment to help you explore innovation with growing confidence and continued support.

The power and force of the dark side has growing attraction

The difference that can be made is distinctive innovation, breakthrough and disruptive innovation. This is the attraction of exploring the dark side of the innovation moon, it is what investors and your organizations are looking for, that makes you stand out and be different. You have pushed the boundaries.

Those creative forces, the unique breakthroughs, the distinctive products, services and different business models that allow us to break free of the pull of the gravity that often holds the majority back, that is the attraction of the dark side of innovation. This often require us to move out of our comfort zones, be pushed to explore the other side, the far side of our thinking.

We all are in need of making fresh moonwalks.

To understand the whole innovation moon we do need to make moonwalks. We need to explore, we need to map out the terrain. I think we need a new model that tackles innovation so it can articulate for all and becomes the innovation roadmap that communicates to us all in a way that makes clear connection. We need more help in reducing uncertainty and replace it with something that gives us all a feeling of being part of something bigger and more exciting, something we want to take part within.

We all need to visit the dark side of the innovation moon. I am more than happy to walk alongside you, actually I’d welcome it, as we all gain a new perspective when we do make any journey.

Placing Design into the Innovation Equation

Let me be clear, this is not my blog entry I really wish it was. It is the relevant part of a blog written by Sarah Stein Greenberg ( that just seemed to hit one of those ‘buttons’ that sum something up so well, and in this case, I think the best compliment is to just share it. I’ve put in what I feel are appropriate headings for ease of reading only.

It is about the power of design and interaction to make something new happen fast.

Tackling messy problems

“A pressing question for more established economies… is how to foster more entrepreneurship and innovation despite greater stability and predictability. One method that companies and individuals are adopting is design thinking—the approach of scaling or “group-sizing” the way that solo designers have always worked to enable to cross-functional teams tackle messy problems that don’t fit neatly into any one person’s job description or academic discipline.

Design thinking is one way to simulate some of the extremely dynamic conditions of an emerging economy and foster entrepreneurship in the US.

Forcing direct contact with users

Continue reading

People buy meaning not product

A little while ago I was talking to the Marketing Director of one of the leading consumer goods companies here in Europe and we began talking around his question “where does design fit in innovation and consumer goods?”

I started this with posing the premise back “What do things really mean?”  For example we need to have a clear vision of what good food means to us. We need to seek out and define a new meaning through, perhaps, design. So the question then became “how do you give meaning to things?” We innovate by making sense of these things- “People don’t buy product they buy meaning”

That stopped him in his tracks. He had not given this the necessary thought it required. I then went on and suggested “people are searching for re-invigorating their experiences” The emotional experience, especially in cooking or preparing a meal becomes increasingly the relationship and association with a moment of affection, a memory or statement. Designing this attachment into your product can happen in multiple ways.

“How do we trigger emotions?” “How do we evoke emotional attachment?”  One really significant route is through design. We see this in many products or services we want to ‘own or experience’ and design is a hugely critical factor. We can separate ourselves from our competitors through this association of a uniquely designed product or service. We compete as everyone else does, in common distribution methods, routes to market (although this might not always be the case) and often in similar product or service offerings. It is the emotional design that breaks through this and creates often the winning difference.

Today design is on the cusp of altering many of today’s present innovation practices or approaches. The profession and ascendancy of designers takes it right to the very heart of innovation considerations. Design is moving towards offering a business competency we can no longer ignore. Design can really differentiate and far too many innovators have not yet seen its enormous potential to cut itself out from the pack. Good design can do this.

Research today is telling us that design-driven companies are more innovative than others. How can you stop consumers in their tracks so they form an emotional association with what you are offering? This is where good design can help set you apart in so many unique ways others might find simply impossible to follow.