Despite the high levels of interest and attention that have been applied to business model innovation, the phenomenon still represents ‘a slippery construct to study’.
This fuzziness of the phenomenon is caused by inconsistencies in the conceptual framework of business models, which reside somewhere between economics and business strategy without possessing a solid theoretical anchoring in either field.
Additionally, business models tend to be complex, as they span boundaries and link dimensions of corporate strategy, technological capabilities and innovation processes of the firm.
To address this consider three inductive, theory-building avenues: ‘explaining the business’, ‘running the business’ and ‘developing the business’.
Explaining the business
Let us begin with the category of ‘explaining the business’. A common denominator in the literature is the assumption that business model innovation has a positive impact on the performance of firms. However, we largely ignore organizational and environmental antecedents for business model innovation.
This aspect relates, for example, to questions about the role of organizational ambidexterity and balancing explorative and exploitative phases in business model innovation. It equally comprises cause effect relationships for business model innovation: Do volatile environments drive business model innovation of firms? Or does business model innovation create environmental volatility?
One additional point of interest to be studied in more detail is the interplay of technology push and market pull: How do firms find synergies between those two business model innovation drivers, and how can corporate leaders bring them together in organizational strategy?
A second aspect we identify in the ‘explaining the business’ perspective are processes and conditions that lead to a successful recognition of opportunities and adherent reconfiguration of resources to capture market value. This aspect comprises modes of firm- level and intrafirm collaboration for business model innovation, and generates a set of intriguing question. How can firms for example systematize business model innovation as subject within their corporate innovation frameworks and develop it as an organizational capability? Which structural, monetary and motivational measures are available and appropriate to incentivize business model innovation efforts at firm-level and in intrafirm collaboration?
Interesting is also the question about business model portfolio management and business model innovation: How can corporate leaders create legitimacy to deviate the traditional market/technology focus of the firm toward new business models, and how can they reallocate existing corporate resources and processes without causing potentially harmful internal conflicts in the organization?
Another promising aspect for future research on business model innovation is the cognitive agenda, State of art and future challenges which is linked to micro foundational sources of dynamic capabilities and the field of behavioural strategy. This aspect comprises, for example, the relationship between cognition and business model innovation, and the combination of analytic and intuitive management skills for sensing and opportunity recognition of the firm. Interdependencies between specific leadership styles, cognitive modes and business model innovation are equally interesting.
Opportunity recognition and processes of sense making versus cognitive biases – such as escalation of commitment, bounded rationality and path dependencies of decision making – will almost certainly have an impact on processes of business model innovation. And finally questions on strategic agility and entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial actions arise: Which capabilities, enabling factors and conditions allow decision makers to experiment with and enact new business models in organizations? What are methods for reframing dominant logic in business model innovation and counteracting not-invented- here syndrome?
Running the business
If we move toward the ‘running the business’ perspective, and in particular to the area of methods and tools for business model innovation, the topic of business model design is of special interest to practitioners. The business model canvas, which has been developed with a design perspective in mind, is one of the more popular representations and is nowadays widely deployed in corporate practice. Despite this practice-driven trend to apply visual and design- informed tools to enhance strategic thinking about business model innovation, we still have to learn a lot about how processes of designing novel business models inform the exploitation of emerging opportunities in changing and volatile environments.
Questions related to this topic focus on the inquiry of potential connections between design and strategy thinking for the practice of business model innovation. Do techniques of product or process design have the potential to inform value reflection and directional as well as functional decisions on business model innovation? How is business model innovation different from traditional, product or process-related innovation processes? How can firms ideally create supporting conditions and organize these types of business model innovation processes with entrepreneurs and in established companies?
The field of business model innovation is still in an emergent stage and provides a wide range of opportunities for scholars to undertake future studies. The topic is relevant, the potential is great and the research field merits further development.
For further information: Business model innovation – state of the art and future challenges for the field Patrick Spieth, Dirk Schneckenberg and Joan E. © 2014 RADMA and John Wiley & Sons Ltd