The Business Model Innovation Factory


Thanks to my good friend Dennis (@DennisSchleiche) I got the chance to meet Saul Kaplan (@skap5) is the founder and chief catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF), a real-world laboratory for exploring and testing new business models and social systems.

The meetup was held at 37 Signals offices here in Chicago, Jason Fried (@jasonfried) and his team were gracious hosts. (They have a really great space BTW.) I told Jason that it was remarkable what a good job they did with the acoustics of such a large and industrial feeling space.

Saul was here to talk with us about his new book, titled “The Business Model Innovation Factory,” which talks about how business models just don’t last as long as they used to, and offers some suggestions on how to cope with that.

Saul observes that most people just complain about wicked problems and them walk away. (stuff like education, health care, environment, and economics) Saul challenge is DON’T WALK AWAY! He believes that there has never been a better time for people to tackle the big problems that each generation tends to make a lot of noise about, but ultimately pass on to the next.

He asked, “How many of you are in roles that did not exist five years ago?” This is a great question. As the pace of every market accelerates, the hard truth is that any business that’s been around for more than 5 years struggles to stay relevant in a world where all the markets are changing at hyperspeed.

Kaplan introduced us to his concept that the most successful enterprises are focused on market making vs. market taking. Saul had some inspiring things to say about how to be a market maker by driving transformational change. That may sound a bit too conceptual for the pragmatists out there. But as the half life of entire business models is shrinking, more often these days, disrupting ourselves may be the only way to to save ourselves after all.

Now is the time to experiment with new business models. This of course is hard stuff for businesses who have to peddle hard at their current business model even while preparing to change course. This makes R&D for new business models a new imperative. It’s no longer a nice to have, innovation is a must have. The book is full of advice on how business can get out of their own way to be successful with this.

Saul finished with advice about how to build the sandbox necessary to get ideas off the whiteboard and into the real world. Which of course is the tricky part for all of us when it comes to delivering on innovation. If you are an innovator, this is your day.

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