Archive for April, 2011

Business Models Aren’t Just For Business

 
April 19th, 2011

This post originally appeared here on the Harvard Business Review site.

businessmodelDuring my six years as an accidental bureaucrat, after spending twenty-five years in the private sector, my friends often wondered how I could do it. They routinely asked versions of the question: doesn’t government move too slowly for you? My standard reply was that, yes, the public sector moves slowly – but then, big companies don’t move so quickly either. And come to think of it, I teased my friends in higher education, colleges and universities move more slowly than either business or government! The point is, all institutions move slowly.

What surprised me wasn’t how slowly the different institutions moved, but the different language, behavior, secret handshakes, and views of each other I found across sectors. Xenophobia runs rampant within public, private, non-profit, and for-profit silos. Each silo has created its own world completely foreign to inhabitants from other sectors. Visiting emissaries are always viewed with skepticism. (“I’m from the government and I’m here to help …”)

One epiphany from my immersion into the non-private sector is how strenuously social sector organizations resist the notion they have a “business model”.┬áNon-profits, government agencies, social enterprises, schools, and NGOs consistently proclaim that they aren’t businesses, and therefore business rules don’t apply. Read more