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Business Model Innovation

Product and service innovation are essential, but business model innovation can deliver more lasting competitive advantage, particularly in disruptive times.

In the past 50 years, the average business model lifespan has fallen from about 15 years to less than five. As a result, business model innovation is now an essential capability for organizations seeking to drive breakout growth, reinvigorate a lagging core, or defend against industry disruption or decline.

What is Business Model Innovation?

Business model innovation is the art of enhancing advantage and value creation by making simultaneous—and mutually supportive—changes both to an organization’s value proposition to customers and to its underlying operating model. At the value proposition level, these changes can address the choice of target segment, product or service offering, and revenue model. At the operating model level, the focus is on how to drive profitability, competitive advantage, and value creation through these decisions on how to deliver the value proposition:

  • Where to play along the value chain
  • What cost model is needed to ensure attractive returns
  • What organizational structure and capabilities are essential to success

Business Model Innovation and Transformation

Business model innovation is critical to transformation. Many organizations share a common set of concerns: What type of business model shift will help us achieve breakout performance? How do we avoid jeopardizing the core business? How do we build the capability to develop, rapidly test, and scale new models? Inspiring an organization to change is not a trivial undertaking, but given the current strategic environment, it’s a critical one.

Four Approaches to Business Model Innovation

Companies hoping to drive growth through business model innovation face a number of critical questions: How broad should the scope of the effort be? What’s the appropriate level of risk to take? Is it a onetime exercise, or does it call for an ongoing capability?

To answer those questions, it’s important to realize that not all business model innovation efforts are alike. :

  1. The reinventor approach is deployed in light of a fundamental industry challenge, such as commoditization or new regulation, in which a business model is deteriorating slowly and growth prospects are uncertain. In this situation, the company must reinvent its customer-value proposition and realign its operations to profitably deliver on the new superior offering.
  2. The adapter approach is used when the current core business, even if reinvented, is unlikely to combat fundamental disruption. Adapters explore adjacent businesses or markets, in some cases exiting their core business entirely. Adapters must build an innovation engine to persistently drive experimentation to find a successful “new core” space with the right business model.
  3. The maverick approach deploys business model innovation to scale up a potentially more successful core business. Mavericks—which can be either startups or insurgent established companies—employ their core advantage to revolutionize their industry and set new standards. This requires an ability to continually evolve the competitive edge or advantage of the business to drive growth.
  4. The adventurer approach aggressively expands the footprint of a business by exploring or venturing into new or adjacent territories. This approach requires an understanding of the company’s competitive advantage and placing careful bets on novel applications of that advantage in order to succeed in new markets.

Featured Ideas

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Client Impact

Meet BCG's Business Model Innovation Experts

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