Whether you are an entrepreneur or CEO of a listed company, there is nothing more crucial to strategy and success than understanding your business model. In fact, the last two IBM surveys of Global CEO have put business model innovation at the top of their priorities. Similarly, for social activists, understanding business models can be a major hurdle to starting a social business or enterprise with real potential to catalyse systemic change.
It was exactly these challenges that prompted me to work with Beyond Zero to bring Alex Osterwalder to London for a one day workshop on visual business model design. The audience included Carbon Trust, Pants to Poverty, BT, SustainAbility, Mars, and a number of other dynamic start-up and established companies.
The content presented on the day included:
- Business model cases studies from private and social sectors around the world.
- Analysis and discussion of innovative and disruptive models that have had a powerful impact on society, economic development and the environment.
- A team business model design competition on a sustainability theme chosen by the group.
- Information on business modelling links to management, marketing and finance.
Participants learning included:
- Understanding how business model thinking can help their social enterprise, NGO or business develop innovative strategies.
- Applying a simple but powerful approach to understanding, designing, prototyping and changing business models.
- Innovating and communicating their business model faster and more effectively than with spreadsheets or written business plans.
- Insights into new business models being developed by social innovators in fashion, finance, telecoms, and homelessness.
This event built on my previous work:
- with start-up social businesses and social entrepreneurs
- using different methods of visual facilitation to tap into the collective intelligence of groups and communities
- with large numbers of enterprises involved in competitions, to innovate and refine their business model, but also showing the potential for competition judges to use this as a template for comparing and analysing the business models on offer, and
- on visually representing how sustainability integrates into existing commercial business models.
Alex lead most of the day, but I supported him with a presentation on the specific applicability of this tool to social and ecological challenges and sustainable business. This short slideshow includes three cases that illustrate how the tool can be used for analysis of social business models. This analysis may give you some feel for how this can be used for a design tool, which is it's greatest power, for generating new business model
I have lead the way in customising Alex's tool for use with social businesses, and have a sound understanding and large number of case studies to support work on business models with clients and collaborators. This tool is the perfect complement to other facilitation and idea-generation methods, and can be used to quickly test good ideas for the suitability as a business. For example, rather than brainstorming on social and ecological challenges and solutions ending with a call for more grants, donations or volunteers, the conversation can easily be extended to test which ideas may have potential as a social business.
Below you can view part of the presentation from the day here.
An earlier evolution of these ideas is here.