Interested in learning more about business models? Join us on Thursday, February 21 at 6:30 for Cooper Parlor. Can’t make it to Oakland? Watch the event stream live from the Cooper Google+ page.
You’ve just created the last slide detailing an amazing product experience that is sure to delight users. It took months of understanding the technical limitations; and even more blood, sweat, and tears to get the design patterns down. Your visual design is swelling with sexy, and you’ve even managed to prototype the interaction for the final delivery. After an epic presentation, of plot twists and role play, you see smiles, hear laughs, and witness awe within the crowd. But then, six words give way to an air of collective capitulation:
“That's not how we make money.”
As designers move beyond wireframes, we will butt up against supply chains, distribution channels, partnerships, any of which can constrain or shape the way a product or service is delivered. Increasingly, design is being heralded as powerful lens to reexamine how businesses evolve. Without the necessary tools, those who are tasked with redesigning businesses will come from the boardroom rather than the studio. Design is a process more than an output, as so many great designers have shown. By learning the language of business models, we can answer those six words with six of our own:
“Well, let's explore how you could.”
We’re good at wireframing for engineers, but less so for financiers. Technical constraints can be specified, but the activities of a business are often intangible. That's why it helps to work with a shared understanding of what a business does; then we can begin to propose trade-offs.
By modeling how businesses work now, and by explaining how they might achieve viability differently, we can hit on big wins for the customer experience. Even beyond the customer, there is an opportunity to improve the lives of employees, suppliers, partners by redesigning how industries work together. But, if you don’t consider financial viability as a constraint, you’ll never know why your design fell short. If you instead consider viability as a goal, you’ll face allies in your path to implementation.
So what's an example of a redesigned business?
Coffee trading companies were among the first corporations and their model hasn’t changed much over the centuries. Driven by an urge to improve the lives of farmers, Fair Trade was born to connect farmers more directly to consumers. At first, Fair Trade approached the consumer with a proposition: "You pay a bit more for your coffee, and we’ll ensure there are good labor practices on farms. We'll ensure that farmers are not exploited by middlemen and that you receive high quality coffee." Not only do customers get the products they want, but they also feel great about having a positive impact in the world.