Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New, holistic thinking on business from Chesbrough

Professor Hank Chesbrough of UC Berkeley has done it again, another insightful book about modern thinking on business, Open Business Models. Building on his first book, Open Innovation, Chesbrough goes beyond innovation to put it in the broader context of strategic management. Granted, I have only had opportunity to read 1 pre-release chapter of the book, but I can tell it’s going to be an important book for managers—across an entire enterprise—to study.

I say it speaks to managers from across an entire enterprise because the book presents a holistic way of thinking about innovation. Chesbrough provides a definition of the Business Model of a corporation that integrates elements from Marketing, R&D, IP Management, Supply Chain Management, Competitive Intelligence, Strategy, Sales, Purchasing, Finance, and even University Relations. HR and accounting weren’t integrated, at least not in the chapter I got to read, nonetheless it’s an impressively comprehensive synthesis of a vast array of strategic management topics into one concise construct, the Business Model.

By having a single definition of a Business Model, managers within a corporation finally have a common language to relate to each other when changes need to occur. This common language is critical to ensuring that innovation happens holistically. For instance, from a company’s end-customer’s perspective, it doesn’t make sense for the company to innovate on its core technology if it doesn’t translate into new marketing messages the customer would care about. To pull off integrated innovation, departments in a corporation need to recognize when changes in other departments—that is to say innovation in other departments—should ripple through the organization as innovation in other functional areas of the business.

The shared language of a Business Model allows one department or job function such as R&D to suggest a new idea that will have a certain departmental benefit but entails a change to the company’s business model. Because all other departments are listening for potential changes to the business model, a signal from another department that a change is coming to the business model can spark cross-functional debate, planning, and cooperation to ensure the change is implemented for global, not local, departmental optimization.

Maybe there will even need to be a new profession called the Business Model Manager, akin to a Product Manager, that’s responsible for looking after the health of the business model. Will there be a new management association for these professionals? The Business Model Managers Association (BMMA), or will it become an extension of Product Development Management Association?

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