February 6, 2017

Design a better business: let’s go beyond the Business Model Canvas

At Enigma, it’s our job to help organizations be great at what they do. Or become even greater. Keeping this promise means we need to be ahead of the game, constantly looking out for new tools, methodologies, and findings. Last of our scouting focused on the recent book: Design a Better Business.

You probably know this famous quote by Henry Ford: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” Of course, organizations need a purpose. As Simon Sinek very well showed in his acclaimed TED talk, companies shouldn’t focus solely on money.

However, any business that doesn’t make money will quickly end up dead. And so much for the grand purpose. So, while making money can’t be the ultimate goal of any given business, it’s still a necessary means to an end.

This vision lead us to get interested pretty soon in the Business Model Canvas methodology. Our founder Olivier backed the book and in 2013 he became the first certified Strategyzer trainer in Switzerland.

Design a better business

Our world is going through deep changes: AI, automation, digital, and mobile are transforming the way we work, the way we live and the way we do business.

As a result, business as usual is dead. In a time of fast evolutions marked with uncertainty, the only way to go is to apply the principles and tools of design thinking to business.

This is the idea behind the Business Model Canvas. But like all other tools out there (except maybe our famous Swiss Army knife), it has its own limits. Sometimes you bump into questions and issues that can’t be solved with the canvas itself.

The double loop

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business as usual is dead
better business

In his new book: Design a Better Business, Patrick van der Pijl proposes a new framework to address business innovation. It’s called the double loop. And it looks exactly like that.

But why would you need such a new framework? Well, the classic approach to innovating with the Business Model Canvas would be typically shown as a linear process that goes from understanding your business model to test, and then validate, innovations, before implementing them at large scale.


The trouble is, designers don’t think linear.

Because the reality is different: every step you take helps you learn something and you constantly confront these learnings to your original idea so it can evolve and get better. Hence the representation as a double loop.

Now it’s your turn

From Prepare to Scale
At first, every business has to search for a profitable business model, that will eventually be scaled. This usually is the start-up stage.

Point of view
Every business journey starts somewhere. Whether you call it a vision, a Why, a purpose or a general intent, every entrepreneur has a general idea of what they want to achieve. This point of view is like a compass, even though it will shift and move slightly with everything they’ll learn along the way.

Whatever the point of view, chances are every entrepreneur will be designing products, services or experiences for people or organizations. And they themselves exist in a broader context. Well the first part of the journey is to explore and understand both these dimensions. Only this way can the business have a chance.

It’s time to leverage this knowledge and generate new ideas. Lots of them. At this point it doesn’t matter if they’re good ideas, great ideas, bad ideas, or even possible ideas. Some ideas will bring others, some ideas will combine with others. Good or bad, every idea will help move forward. (Hint: you might notice that Understand and Ideate are very close to the Analysis and Exploration phases of our Performance Strategy System)

At first ideas are just ideas. Turning them into reality can be hard and long and costly. It might need additional skills. Now think about this for a minute: does it make sense to use all these resources without even knowing if this idea is good? No of course. Instead, entrepreneurs should go for a simple prototype that can help people understand their idea and get feedback on it.

Now we get to the heart of it. Every idea is built on assumptions. “People are fed up with this, surely they’ll prefer doing it my way.” Well maybe… and maybe not. An assumption is literally a very big “if”, some sort of a sword of Damocles. It has to be solved before moving further. So every assumption has to be tested, starting with the riskier one.

Now it’s your turn

At every stage, a different set of tools can help gather insights and move forward. At every stage, you’ll learn something useful that will challenge, confirm or slightly shift your point of view. At every stage, you can get closer to your goal.

Ready to design a better business? Let’s meet!

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