Organizations traditionally pursue growth via one or more of three broad paths:
- They invest heavily in product development so they can produce new and better offerings.
- They develop deep consumer insights in order to offer new and better ways to satisfy customers’ needs.
- They concentrate on strategy formulation to grow by acquisition or by moving into new or adjacent markets.
Each of these paths usually involves devoting considerable time and resources to developing a corresponding organizational competency. For example, to build product capability, companies typically invest in in-house research and development departments and/or technology-sourcing expertise. Establishing customer insight capability often requires creating in-house market research units and implementing robust feedback links between the sales force and the developers of product or service lines. And creating a strategy capability generally involves setting up dedicated corporate strategy units and merger and acquisition groups or engaging consultants.
Recently, a fourth path has emerged, one that we might label “business model experimentation”: the pursuit of growth through the methodical examination of alternative business models. At its heart, business model experimentation is a means to explore alternative value creation approaches quickly, inexpensively and, to the extent possible, through “thought experiments.” The process sheds new light on potential competitors and lowers the risk of taking the wrong or a lesser-potential road — all for an initial investment that is typically quite small relative to what can be gained Research conducted in the last 10 years has established a link between business model innovation and value creation.1 To our minds, this research points to the need for organizations to build a competency in business model innovation — that is, in the process of exploring possible business.