Develop A Process For Continuing Business Model Innovation

In recent days, Apple announced that co-founder Steve Jobs would be leaving the company for a time to deal with some health issues. Investors and analysts closely eyed how the stock price responded.

In interview after interview, people wanted to know whether Apple could maintain its cutting edge innovative abilities while Jobs is out of the picture. Isn’t that interesting? Why wouldn’t Apple continue to innovate? Or will it?

Now, ask yourself how well your organization would do in making business model innovations if you weren’t available? Hopefully, it wouldn’t make any difference and your business model would be continually updated without you.

For most organizations, however, that’s not the case. The “solitary genius” toils seemingly alone (or at least doesn’t let anyone else make a decision) in many companies. When that person dies or retires, everyone knows that the glory days are over.

Whatever happened to Edwin Land’s Polaroid?

You get the idea.

Most organizations are led by mere mortals, and they look to create a systematic source of success. A few organizations are blessed with geniuses who can continue to find more successful business model innovations. That blessing, however, turns into a curse if the genius stops delivering or leaves.

While one person does all the thinking, others daydream about what they will do after work rather than coming up with their own business model innovations.

A better approach is to install a process that engages lots of people in proposing and testing potential business model innovations. Examples where continuing business model innovation had been made into day-to-day work are few and far between. Typically, however, when the leader left who had organized the innovation process, business model innovation for that organization ended.

During a time of economic crisis like 2009, most companies will stumble because they will keep doing what they’ve always done . . . even if that approach stops working. Boards of directors will be shouting for better cost controls, for stronger balance sheets, for more influential leaders. And those won’t help if the business model is broken.

Wake up! Smell the coffee.

If you don’t have a process to upgrade your business model by the end of 2009, you are in trouble.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Have lots of experiments going that don’t cost very much.
  2. Cut off experiments that don’t seem to be going where you want to go.
  3. Share insights into what kinds of improved business models might work.
  4. Watch progress on developing new business models very carefully.
  5. Invite stakeholders to participate.
  6. Consider running global contests to get lots of help from the world’s best thinkers.
  7. Let non-experts have a crack at making improvements, too.
  8. Focus on innovations that will expand the market by providing new reasons and opportunities to do business with you.

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About the Author

Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through and receive tips by e-mail through registering for free at