I was convinced by one of my friends that it would be fun going to this lecture, like Forrest Gump, I just went with the flow. When I signed up for this lecture from Dr. Terrence Brown at Playhouse Theater, I thought I would get the same content he delivers in his classes at KTH but I was in for a treat.
Here is the conclusion,
This is what he said, that’s it. Now, to understand what this conclusion means, I had to stay until the end.
The conversation started by some light jokes from Dr. Brown to set up a jovial atmosphere in the Theater, followed by his introduction. His talk started with a brief overview of how some brands have trademarks which have now become too generic, some examples of which are Velcro, Band-aid, Superhero(co-owned by both Marvel and DC comics) etc, also he told that few brands have lost the trademarks because they could not utilize them frequent enough, the examples he delineated were Heroin, Videotape.
Then, post this introduction of trademarks going generic, he moved on to explain that there are four types of innovation- technological innovation, product and service innovation, process innovation, and business model innovation. Technological innovation is what we can see around us happening at KTH, product and service innovation are visible in the advent of new gadgets in the market, process innovation is done within companies, business model innovation is reinventing and redefining how a firm makes money. To point out the importance of business model innovation and how standout the performance of business model innovation is, he showed us the figure below, indicating the there is six times more growth in business model innovation compared to other innovation strategies.
A cool example was given later after this, this was the Haloid Case of 1959, model 914, skip this paragraph if you already are familiar, otherwise, read on. Haloid created a new way to create copies using static electricity and flashes, the process had a big capital cost initially. They approached big companies like IBM, Kodak etc. but were rejected outrightly. On facing a no from all the big brands, they started to lease out the machines, with providing the paper and ink free for up to 2000 copies. They were successful in creating a sustainable business model and they renamed themselves from Haloid to Haloid Xerox to Xerox.
This example was followed by lots of business model definitions, Terrence said that the one from Joan Magretta, who says that business models are just
“Stories that explain how enterprises work”.
This was followed by highlighting the importance business models that it helps the organization and managers, and gives a good overview of a venture, in capturing the value, in driving innovation, to optimize production, and to reduce failure rates.
After this, there was a long discourse on the move from business plans(30-40 pages) to business model canvas(1 page). Although time and again, it was told by Terrence that it is just a framework or a tool and focussed on explaining it is the wisdom of the user, by reiterating thrice in his talk that
“A fool with a tool is still a fool”
He told that Business Model Canvas has evolved and had taken many forms, and simply think of the business model as the way a venture makes money. There was a minute overview of Alexander Osterwalder famous author of book Business Model Generation . Alexander Osterwalder’s doctoral thesis , however, analyzed established corporates and not startups(and is thus not a one size fits all tool, may fit well with some but might not fit at all with others). Business model just is a widely used tool, or rightly told later in the presentation widely abused tool.
The talk then diverted to a discussion about lean methodology as suggested by Eric Ries in his great book The Lean Startup and Steve Blank’s Customer Development with quotes about lean manufacturing and a customer centered product development. Terrence then said a simple statement that defined the evening’s talk about business tools that how they lose the essence when the common public has to be educated about the business concepts.
“When methodology is repackaged, it is oversimplified”
Now explaining what the first figure means.
There is a fine line between love and hate(this was said about the business models, you can love them or hate, them). All in all, you have to be wise, tools won’t do that for you.