Book: Business Model Generation from a UX lens

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

Whilst not strictly a UX book, Business Model Generation came into my radar after completing a workshop at UX Australia on Turbocharging your Workshops with Andy Budd of Clearleft.

The book itself is beautiful in the way it was created: It is co-created by the 470 members of the Business Model Innovation Hub, which is a true testament to one of the key aspects of designing business models – collaboration. It’s also been put together as a very visual resource that can serve as a handbook for future reference.

The book is broken into five distinct parts:
Canvas: Describing the Business Model Canvas tool
Patterns: Outlining several model patterns with real world examples
Design: Outlining several techniques and methodologies used to design business models
Strategy: Insights into strategic approaches for designing business models
Process: Tying all the aspects together

So why read this book, if you’re not really intending to create business models yourself?

Firstly, there are many parallels between the business model design process, and the processes we use in user experience.

But most importantly, I’ve always believed that the role of the UX practitioner is often as the mediator – though we uniquely see things through a users lens, we also have a solid understanding of business needs and possible obstructions, of technical limitations, of budget constraints, and the list goes on.

This book provides the ability to draw on the business lens part of our role, and allows us to speak the same language as business stakeholders. Even if we are not involved in shaping the business model (and often, we’re not), it’s important to demonstrate to business stakeholders a strong understanding of their business model. This can help to build confidence in your abilities to achieve a great solution that takes into consideration all aspects of a project – not just the user’s needs.

The Business Model Canvas
The Business Model Canvas tool itself is like a super-charged context map. Often the activities a UX architect performs at the “discovery” phase of a project will involve understanding the context of the project. Involving business stakeholders at the beginning of the project is critical to stakeholder management, as it provides an early platform for them to be heard.

Filling out a Business Model Canvas with stakeholders – overlaid with a SWOT analysis, could be a great exercise in understanding how they see the business working, and where the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats lie.

Business model patterns
The book outlines several business model patterns with real world applications. This part of the book is simply fascinating and truly shows how business models must continually evolve in order for companies to continue to succeed.

Techniques for designing business models
The techniques mentioned in the book will sound very familiar to a UX designer: customer insights, ideation, visual thinking, prototyping, storytelling, scenarios.

It is particularly interesting to see the parallels in process, and made me question whether experience designers should actually be working far further up the design chain than we currently do, in order to affect real change. How can we become more involved in overarching business model strategy, that all affects the end user experience in the end? Can we truly design great user experiences without be involved earlier in the process? Is this where true innovation is able to occur?

Overall, the book was a great read for anyone that’s interested in innovation and design, and I can see it being a great resource to have on that bookshelf.