Stop Treating Business Model Innovation As Change Managment

May 26th, 2015


There’s plenty of time for change management once we’ve demonstrated new models worth changing into. Exploring and testing new business models is strategy development before it’s change management. Business model innovation is a persistent and generative exploration of entire new ways to create, deliver and capture value. Leaders vested and working in the core must be prevented from leaning against and blocking ongoing R&D for new business models. When we treat business model exploration as change management we are too likely to squash any concept that feels transformational or disruptive. We have to make business model reinvention safer and easier to manage.

It’s urgent because business models don’t last as long as they used to in the Industrial Era. The Netflix, Airbnb and Uber stories are everywhere. Too many industries and companies are playing defense, trying to lean against disruptive business models. No effort to strengthen and protect the core will prevent it from being netflixed or uberized! The only way to play offense is by doing R&D for new business models, even those that might disrupt the core. New business models are coming, whether we like it or not. Why not be proactive? Business model innovation is a strategy question before it’s a change management question. Read more

Don’t Get Netflixed!

April 16th, 2015



R&D for new business models is the new strategic imperative for all business leaders. Why? Business models don’t last as long as they used to. All businesses are vulnerable to being netflixed. A Netflix, Uber, or Airbnb can swoop in and disrupt or totally destroy existing industry business models. And make no mistake—this is not about new technologies or new products, it’s about new business models. These upstart companies didn’t invent anything; they all deployed new business models that networked available capabilities in different ways, to change how customer value is delivered.

Incumbent companies were caught flatfooted and unable to compete, because the typical company responds to competitors’ disruptive business models by leaning against them—creating regulatory moats to slow competitors while at the same time working urgently to strengthen their current business model and hold on to customers. However, tweaking and protecting the current business model will not work for long. These are stopgap measures at best. They will not prevent your company from being netflixed.

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Coming To You Live From Everyone

April 2nd, 2015

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In case you missed it the next salvo in the social media revolution is underway. The release of two live video streaming apps within weeks of each other, Meerkat and Periscope, have my attention and should have yours too. Think about it, now everyone with an iPhone (soon any smart phone) can broadcast and receive live video anywhere, any time. We now have the capacity to share, not just tidbits from our experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but to stream our actual experiences live in real time. We can now experience together. So what, you ask? Well just like with any new human capability, the most important and valuable uses are never what you think they are initially. The real impact and value of new capabilities always emerge over time and in surprising and serendipitous ways. Don’t fall into the same trap, so many have, by dismissing social media saying, who cares what someone has for dinner! Don’t throw the signal out with the noise. My instinct tells me that democratized live streaming is a big deal.

I am playing with both Meerkat and Periscope because it’s too early for me to choose. They’re both cool and the competition will be fun to watch. As an innovation junkie I can’t resist the Wild West feel of new social media platforms as they try to establish a toehold in today’s tumultuous social ecosystem. I love wallowing around in the noise initially to go to school. It’s a strange land indeed, but exploring it for myself is the only way, as a dinosaur, I can wrap my mind around the possibility frontier for live streaming. Early adopters are doing the predictably silly stuff. Think selfie mania on steroids, ranging from random to power users streaming themselves doing nothing in a social media land grab for followers and likes. Both apps allow viewers to comment during live streams so be prepared for an engaged and vocal peanut gallery. There’s clearly a “fridge” meme raging through the early days of live streaming where broadcasters and commenters alike seem to be fixated on live video reveals of refrigerator content. Quite bizarre. Must be a riff on the Twitter meme about people posting their dinner menus. Read more

Raise The Minimum Wage: It’s Innovation Policy

March 10th, 2015

downloadRaising the minimum wage across the U.S. may be our best innovation policy. You wouldn’t know it from either our current innovation policy or the partisan catfight, cable news talking heads, and tired political arguments about minimum wage. A higher minimum wage is a good thing. It puts more pressure on companies to innovate to increase the value of their products, services, and business models.

I can’t believe I’m saying this! I have never thought the government should set wages. I have always believed that the market should determine wage levels. But the market is cruel and getting crueler. Far too many people are left with either no job or a job that pays a sub-living wage. Most low wage jobs are not ladders to better paying jobs but traps, ensnaring too many people in a vicious cycle of poverty. Maybe I’m getting old, soft or both but my views on minimum wage are changing. I have zero interest in the empty political arguments from either side of the aisle. I’m thinking about it from the perspective of my normal mantra that our economic future has to be about entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s the only winning strategy. Raising the minimum wage should be cast as an innovation policy. Read more

Trust Is Overrated

February 27th, 2015


In New England we don’t trust anyone. Collaboration is an unnatural act. No wonder we’re economically stagnant. I’ve been thinking a lot about trust. All we hear and read about is how trust is the missing ingredient for all that ails the world. If I had a dollar for every trust fall I’ve taken at leadership development workshops over the years! If only we just trusted each other more. I’m not buying it. I wonder how many things we don’t try together because we only collaborate with people we trust. Is it possible we set the standard so high for a trusted relationship that it prevents collaboration?  What if trust is overrated?

I know the trust police will be all over me for writing this. Bring it. I understand the importance of establishing and maintaining trust for the really big, risk laden, decisions we make like choosing a life partner or quitting a cushy corporate job and taking out a second mortgage to launch a startup with a partner. But those aren’t the choices we make every day. What we do every day is make choices about who we collaborate with to get stuff done. Applying the same hurdle of trust to both major and everyday interaction choices is getting in the way of collaborative innovation and getting better faster.

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Has Personalized Medicine Finally Arrived?

February 24th, 2015

personalized medicineDid you see the recent news that the FDA has approved the first direct-to-consumer genetic test in the U.S.? Can you say game-changer? Talk about personalized medicine, what’s more personal than our own genetic blueprint? In a health care era defined by patients taking more personal responsibility for their own health and well being, including the costs, it’s about time that we enabled consumers directly with access to their own health care data and the tools to interpret and act on it. Access to our own genetic data gives new meaning to the buzzword, patient-centered care.

On 2/19/2015 the FDA approved a single direct-to-consumer genetic test from 23andMe for Bloom Syndrome, a rare, terrible, and untreatable recessive gene disease that causes a predisposition to develop cancer. The average lifespan for those diagnosed with this rare disease is 27 years. Bloom Syndrome hits close to home for me because 1 in a 100 Ashkenazi Jews (of European descent) are carriers and 1 in 50,000 will actually have this devastating disorder. The FDA picked a clear and compelling case as a precedent for direct-to-consumer genetic tests.

Is ignorance bliss? Do we want to know this information? If we learn we carry a genetic disease, what do we do with the knowledge? How does it affect our plans for having children? Do we tell our children? These are incredibly difficult and personal choices. I was moved to tears by the scene in Still Alice where, after Academy Award winner Julianne Moore learns that she has a rare form of familial Alzheimer’s disease, she informs her children. Not a dry eye in the house. Each of Alice’s three children has a choice on whether to be tested and the youngest daughter, Lydia, decides she doesn’t want to know. I still have the chills. Read more

Start More Stuff

February 12th, 2015

images-211Institutional America has knocked the start out of us. We need to get back to being great at starting things in our country. Calling all entrepreneurs. This means you. Yes, you. In talking with some of the most entrepreneurial people on the planet I am surprised by how many don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs. When did that happen? Our economic history is all about starting stuff but we have gotten away from our entrepreneurial heritage. We need a national entrepreneurship movement. Maybe if we started by enabling more people to be entrepreneurial we would have more entrepreneurs.

When did we reserve the entrepreneur moniker solely for technology ventures started by iconic college dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg? I know we all love a good company origin story but by elevating these stories to mythical proportions aren’t we placing entrepreneurship out of reach for the rest of us mere mortals. Read more

Thankful Innovation Junkie

November 24th, 2014

HappyThanksgiving1I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. What’s not to love? Food, family, and football are three of my favorite things. The prodromal smells of homemade cooking pervade the house which means turkey and pecan pie are only days away. Smiling is easy this week while making sure everything is perfect for the welcome cacophony of our kids and grandkids returning home to our empty nest for a holiday visit. Thanksgiving spirit warms the soul.

The best part of Thanksgiving is taking time to reflect on the things we’re most thankful for. It’s a strange tumultuous time and yet it seems as if there is more to be thankful for than usual. Perhaps it’s during trying times, with so many people suffering around us, that we are grateful for things we otherwise would take for granted. I am thankful for many things and thought if I shared them openly perhaps others would share what they are thankful for too. Who knows, maybe the Thanksgiving spirit will catch on.

Here are eleven things I am particularly thankful for:

1) A wife who is my best friend and the love of my life. I met her 40 years ago on December 7th, a day that will live on in infamy! She is a saint for tolerating this innovation junkie.

2) Three great children who despite our parenting have made us proud by becoming incredible young adults. They learned their lessons in irreverence well and are all exceeding my one expectation, to be interesting. (I should say four great children, including our son-in-law who makes us a better family and fires well on the aforementioned irreverence and interest dimensions.) Read more

Innovation Lessons From Taylor Swift

November 9th, 2014


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I’m not a fan of pop music but I am an innovation junkie. My daughter Alyssa, a self- professed Swiftie, has been pestering me to pay attention, if not to Taylor Swift’s music at least to her business model. She wore me down. Turns out, there’s a lot we innovation junkies can learn from Taylor Swift. Whether her music is your thing or not (I have to admit its growing on me!), you can’t help but be impressed with Taylor Swift’s business savvy during a time when the music industry is being disrupted to smithereens. I’m most impressed with her social media presence to catalyze a growing army of Swifties and her aggressive stand against Spotify as the business model war between mp3 sales and streaming services rages on.

The most successful businesses today are movements more than companies. Movements don’t market. Movements inspire and engage. They create an emotional connection through storytelling. Not stories to be enjoyed passively but stories we see ourselves in, stories we can actively participate in. What Taylor Swift realizes, that most businesses haven’t figured out, is that “social” isn’t an extension to an existing business model, it is an entirely new business model. Social isn’t a bolt on, its central to how movements start and grow.

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Our Obsession With Scalability Must End

October 30th, 2014



Welcome to the era of business model proliferation.

Our obsession with scalability is getting in the way of unleashing the potential of the 21st century. We are so fixated with scalability we have taken our eye off of delivering value at every scale including the most important scale of one. The Industrial Era did that to us. Reaching the mass market takes precedence over delivering value to each customer. New customer acquisition trumps delivering value to existing customers. It’s not only business that is obsessed with scale. Our obsession with scaling a national education, health care, and government system has also taken our eye off of delivering value to each student, patient, and citizen. We have been talking about the idea of mass customization for years while we continue to hang on to business models that were designed for scale more than for delivering customer value.

The Industrial Era brought us the reign of the predominant business model. Every industry quickly became dominated by one business model that defined the rules, roles, and practices for all competitors and stakeholders. We became a nation of share takers clamoring to replicate industry best practices to gain or protect every precious market share point. Companies moved up or down industry leadership rankings based on their ability to compete for market share. Business schools minted CEOs who became share-taking clones of one another. It was all about scale. Bigger was always better. So what if the predominant business model doesn’t serve everyone’s needs? So what if it doesn’t even serve existing customers well? Scalability and share taking became about protecting the predominant business model by preventing the emergence of new business models. Incumbents do everything in their power to erect regulatory and legal moats to keep new business models out of the market. Read more