The Understated Back-End of the Business Model Canvas.

 So we all know a standard company balance sheet has three parts: assets, liabilities and ownership equity. The accounting equation states assets and liabilities are known as equity or net worth and this net worth must equal assets minus liabilities. The balance sheet summarises the present position or last audited position.

Well in the Business model canvas we have the cost side, the back-end, made up of the activities, resources and partnership aspects and a revenue side, the front end, made up of customer segments, channels and customer relationships. It is the ‘net worth’ of all these blocks that makes up their contribution to the Value Proposition.

It is the nine building blocks when we put them together, tells the complete story, a little like a business model balance sheet. Balancing this out thoughtfully does need that bringing it all together, so as to give others the compelling story and begin to mobilise around and attract the necessary resources.

My question though is this: “is the BMC understated at the back-end today and should we strike a different balance for more established organizations?”

Balancing the BMC BMC model is by Osterwalder & Pigneur. Visual source: Steve Blank

Balancing the BMC
BMC model is by Osterwalder & Pigneur. Visual source: Steve Blank

What happens when one side perhaps gets over emphasised?

Very much the orientation of the business model canvas is presently skewed towards the front end – the market facing part and rightly so. You are in search of a new business model, you will never find it in the building. As Steve Blank rightly stated “you have to get out of the building” to validate your assumptions or hypothesis, to search for the value in the real marketplace.

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The (Re)birth of the Architect for the Business Model Design

Business model both in new designs and it management have become centre stage in many of our existing organizations’ thinking. The need is not just too simply find new growth through new business models but to ‘react and adapt’ those existing business model designs that are in place, to catch-all the emerging possibilities that are around, hopefully before others do. Are we doing a good job of this at present?

BMC- Osterwalder & Pigneur. Visual source: Steve Blank

BMC- Osterwalder & Pigneur. BMC Visual source: Steve Blank

Those without a legacy or are really agile usually are in pole position to explore new opportunities quickly. Also to start with a blank business canvas is exhilarating. It seems we are in the era of the Entrepreneur or are we? Continue reading

Juggling Innovation around Business Model Design

Juggling Innovation image via Michael Grills

Juggling Innovation Is Hard
image via Michael Grills

There seems a lot at present going on around the Business Model and formulating its design. Following on from the Business Design Summit held in Berlin in April of this year there seems to be a gathering of momentum surrounding the Business model.

There is an awful lot of designing going on, actually it is hard to juggle with it all, even for me that has a 100% focus on innovation.

The Business Design Summit had as its primary question: “Are the Business Tools you are using relevant for today’s world?

It went on to ask “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them, instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking”. “Your business ideas deserve better than PowerPoint and Excel”

The momentum is specifically aimed at Business innovation design tools and how to manipulate them and this is giving rise to the ‘school’ of tool-smiths. I wrote about the Business model canvas as set to explode in 2012 and events this year are certainly ‘exploding’ in multiple ways. Let me give some examples:

The Business Model has become even more critical to create and relate too. Rita Gunther McGrath has just released her book “The End of Competitive Advantage- how to keep your strategy as fast as your business”, published by Harvard Business Review Press. Her whole premise is that today “Strategy is Stuck as most leaders are using frameworks that were designed for a different era of business”.

Rita believes “we require a new set of practices based on the transient competitive advantage”.  We are in a time of fast evaporating competitive advantage and we can’t spend months crafting a single strategy, we need to keep exploring and reiterating different initiatives that are more focused, leaner, more defined, more transient in their nature.

This needs more fluid, greater visualization and more customer-centric approaches and modular strategic design approaches.

So what if?

What if you prototyped business models like architects sketch buildings this is one of the main appeals of the business model canvas, outlined in the book: Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, written by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, You can simply do that, sketch out new business ideas or quickly visualize existing businesses and the ‘multiple’ canvases can be used in teams as a sharing tool to structure the thinking.

What if you had a clear method to uncover what customers want to get done? How about a tool and methodology that will help you to Identify and prioritize the jobs-to-be-done? Knowing these is clearly of high value and can lead to rapidly achieving growth segments that tap into this. Jobs-to-be-done is very fertile ground many are exploring including Clayton Christensen, Tony Ulwick and Strategyn, Mark Johnson and Innosight and plenty more. One of the best books outlining a well thought through approach to this JtbD is in Lance Bettencourts book “Service Innovation: how to go from customer needs to breakthrough services”

What if we learnt to talk  always around the Value Proposition, not that difficult part of explaining ‘our’ (boring) business strategy? Recently we have been seeing the emergence of a Value Proposition Canvas from Yves Pigneur, Alex Osterwalder and Alan Smith. This will ‘emerge’ in a book “the Value Proposition Design” due to be published sometime soon. The VP canvas dovetails into the BM canvas. It takes the JtbD concept to achieve a greater fit between the value you intent to create and the expectations your customers have.

Part of the Business model canvas proposition is extending tools to build better models and through www.strategyzer.com this web site (at present) is dedicated to working away at different tools and becoming the official Alpha web-app from the makers of Business Model Generation developing software solutions.

Also expect to see further development through the Business Model Foundry and the Strategyzer Academy that will explore and educate upon all the emerging tools and techniques being ‘crafted’ away at present. I’d recommend joining the Business model hub by the way, another from this growing business enterprise, centred on the Business Model Canvas.

Juggling, juggling and juggling.

Have you thought about “Pruning the product tree?” Luke Hohmann and his company The Innovation Games Company are providing a range of serious but fun games that can produce concepts that shift your thinking. On his ‘pruning the product tree’ the focus is not on ‘cutting’ but ‘shaping’ to arrive at products that your customers desire more and so you eventually  create a ‘new canopy’ of innovating options. They are developing a whole range of innovation games

Within organizations there needs to be greater, richer conversations – those strategic conversations that are more creative, collaborative and working more though adaptive challenges arising more constantly than ever.  Lisa Kay Soloman, who teaches Design Strategy at the California College of Arts is co-authoring a book due out next year “Moment of Impact: how to design strategic conversations that accelerate change”, published by Simon & Schuster.

Have you checked out Dave Gray, founder and CEO of Limini. Dave has authored two books Gamestorming, a practical handbook for innovators and change agents and a second book, the Connected Company, offering a strategic blueprint and roadmap for businesses who want to innovate. He is exploring a “culture map” approach to help teams understand their cultures as well.

I could go on, as there is an awful lot of fresh thinking emerging.  Just take the ‘body of work’ that Steve Blank is producing centred around a methodology for focusing around the customer, take time out to get into his manual “The Startup Owner’s Manual” written with Bob Dorf.  More and more entrepreneurs have discovered Eric Ries and his thoughts on applying continuous innovation in lean ways to create radically successful businesses which are outlined in his book “The Lean Startup”.

One could look towards “Design Thinking” with Tim Brown (CEO Ideo) traditionally leading this charge but take a look at a book written by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie “Designing for Growth: A design thinking toolkit for managers” where they lead you through the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical applications and cover the mind-set, techniques, and vocabulary of design thinking, so helping us to unpack the mysterious connection between design and growth

So we have an awful lot of juggling taking place

Those who have not yet picked up on Gary Hamel’s quest for change through the reinvention of management and his moonshots for management should find the time- it sets the Business scene and future agenda. Then you have Steve Denning who writes about radical management over at Forbes and I’d certainly recommend reading his recent article “The Management Revolution That’s Already Happening” where he is suggesting that today’s organizations represent a failure so deep and pervasive that there are hardly words to describe it.

 A veritable revolution in management and its design is under way.

 Steve Denning argues we are fleshing out a “new management canon” – a huge paradigm shift. He believes we are in a creative economy that generates dramatic reductions in cost, size, and time, and improvements in convenience, of products and services with new systems of infrastructure, new ways of socializing, new meaning as to how time is spent, and new ways of living these possibilities

Those of you not yet ‘plugged in’ then I’d begin, the sooner the better, as there is a whole new way of thinking going on and any movement of this potential magnitude needs supporting and exploring, especially if you share in the belief that much is out of kilter within the business world. There is a ‘certain business revolution in the air’.

Something in the Air by Thunderclap Newman
“Call out the instigators
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here, and you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right

We have got to get it together
We have got to get it together now”

Figuring out a different strategic alignment with innovation being central.

Strategy as we have previously known it is officially dead. Strategy is stuck! Competitive advantages have become transient. We are facing situations where advantages are copied quickly, technology is just one constant change, and our customers seek other alternatives and things move on faster and faster.

In a new book written by Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School in New York and one of the world’s leading experts on strategy, she has been exploring the changes rapidly taking place called  “ The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business

 “Strategy (in the past) was all about finding a favourable position in a well-defined industry and then exploiting a long-term competitive advantage. Innovation was about creating new businesses and was seen as something separate from the business’s core set of activities.” “Sustainable competitive is not just ineffective, it’s actually counter productive” says Professor McGrath.

She rightly states:“Think about it: the presumption of stability creates all the wrong reflexes. It allows for inertia and power to build up along the lines of an existing business model. It allows people to fall into routines and habits of mind. It creates the conditions for turf wars and organizational rigidity. It inhibits innovation.

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Traversing different horizons for transformative innovation

Irrespective of the organization, we all struggle with transformational innovation. So often we are simply comfortable in our ‘business as usual’. We gear performance to the short-term, we put the emphasis on the current fiscal year, and we support the core business in numerous ways, usually with lots and lots of incremental innovation, so the results are realizable in this year.

We are sometimes comfortable or confident enough to move into adjacent areas, to expand and feed off the core but these are less than transformational in most cases. This space is the one we are the most comfortable to work within, this is the horizon one of the three horizon model approach outlined to manage innovation across a more balanced portfolio of investment.

In summary, the three horizon model for innovation is actually a reasonably simple idea: with Horizon One (h1) being the current business focus, Horizon Two (h2) being more the related emerging business opportunities and Horizon Three (h3) being those that are moving towards a completely new business that can have the potential to disrupt the existing one.

The complexity lies underneath this simple idea, you need to manage these different horizons with completely different mindsets. You need clear well-structured ways to extract the real return from managing a comprehensive innovation portfolio based on knowledge, experience, intelligence but exploring plenty of the unknowns about the future and openness to get you there, as ready as you can be . Its necessary today.

The seeds of destruction lie in horizon one

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Breaking out of the current economic dilemma needs radical innovation

I gaze through unbelieving eyes at the continued rise of unemployed in Europe. Unemployment in the Eurozone has reached another record high with the seasonally-adjusted rate for April  2013 going to 12.2%, up from 12.1% the month before according to the European Commission’s statistics office, Eurostat:Eurozone Unemployment May 2013 EurostatAn extra 95,000 people were out of work in the 17 countries that use the Euro, taking the total to 19.38 million. Both Greece and Spain have jobless rates above 25%. The lowest unemployment rate is in Austria at 4.9%.

It seems never-ending.

Youth unemployment remains a particular concern; you simply have to wonder what we are storing up in the longer term with this situation. Can the youth ever catch up, can our society as it is positioned give them the opportunities to turn today’s grim world into a world of optimism and contentment, or is it a lost generation?  In April, 3.6 million people under the age of 25 were out of work in the Eurozone, which translated to an unemployment rate of 24.4%.

Why does this issue of growing unemployment seem to be drowned out by events that seem important on the day but realistically pale in their significance against something as damaging as this present crisis?

Examples of persistent economic and social challenges

We are facing significant society challenges. These include declining Economic competitiveness, deepening Social inequalities, rising Mental ill-health, increasing Crime and social disorder and we see growing Alcohol and drug abuse, to name some of the issues being increasingly tackled as part of the consequences of these tough economic and social times.

We must increasingly recognise that the cost of deferring concerted action to confront these growing set of social challenges is beginning to rise – and could easily outpace our ability to respond.

Can we afford to wait? There are so many pressing questions. Continue reading