Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Does Method Matter? an Experiment on Collaborative Business Model Idea Generation in Teams

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Does Method Matter? an Experiment on Collaborative Business Model Idea Generation in Teams

Article excerpt

Generating new business models presents one of the most challenging tasks for management teams today (Chesbrough, 2006; Christensen & Raynor, 2000) because the need for a new business model often emerges from a serious crisis concerning the firm and its current business model, which in turn threatens its survival in a changing market (Johnson, Christensen, & Kagermann, 2008; Meehan & Baschera, 2002). According to evolutionary models of the innovation process (Campbell, 1960; Romer, 1993; Simonton, 1999; Singh & Fleming, 2010; Weitzman, 1998), generating a variety of new ideas is the first step in developing an innovation. In the context of business model innovation, this step translates into generating various ideas for new business models (Gallupe et al., 1992; Girotra, Terwiesch, & Ulrich, 2010; Jung, Schneider, & Valacich, 2010; Osborn, 1957).

Thus, this article (based on Eppler, Hoffmann, & Bresciani, 2011) focuses on idea generation as the first crucial step towards developing a new business model - after identifying the need and desire to change a firm's current business model. Developing business model ideas is not an individual task. Rather, it requires group collaboration and the integration of knowledge from different divisions within the firm. Idea generation tasks are generated in both formal and informal group collaborations (Garfield, Taylor, Dennis, & Satzinger, 2001; Maccrimmon & Wagner, 1994), which makes idea generation both a cognitive and a social process (Dennis, Aronson, Heninger, & Walker, 1999; Garfield et al., 2001; Nagasundaram & Dennis, 1993). Teams are considered the building blocks of many organizations (Nijstad & de Dreu, 2002) because they allow a company to integrate expertise from different fields, ease coordination, and assure mutual accountability. These advantages are also important when creating business model ideas.

However, while many firms have established processes for generating product innovations in teams, no established team processes exist for generating business model innovations. The academic community has predominantly focused on explaining ex post facto how firms conduct business model innovation (Johnson et al., 2008; Meehan & Baschera, 2002). Yet no established processes or tools are available both to manage complexity and foster creativity in the context of business model innovation. Successful business model idea generation requires sharing, creating, and integrating knowledge across epistemic boundaries (Gavetti & Levinthal, 2000). Knowledge sharing, creation, and integration occurs through insights resulting from the information pooling process (Carlile, 2002, 2004; Dougherty, 1992; Peterovic, Kittl, & Teksten, 2001) and from interacting with knowledge sources both inside and outside the team (Harris & Woolley, 2009). As teams may have prerequisites to work on complex issues, they also encounter challenges beyond their prior knowledge and experiences (Nonaka, 1999) that may require them to include experts from outside the organization and support these experts through fitting tools.

The overall complexity of the task presents an additional challenge for the generation of new business model ideas (Chesbrough, 2010) because business model idea generation requires the innovation team to consider and understand the various and potentially conflicting positions of the stakeholders and units affected. Thus, complexity needs to be structured and mastered.

Some of these challenges can be addressed by using artifacts to facilitate the group process of developing new business model ideas. Evidently, artifacts provide useful support for creative tasks in organizations (Lawson, 2006). For example, three-dimensional objects used for 'Serious Play' in organizations have been found to support both the abstraction and construction (Heracleous & Jacobs, 2005; Schrage, 2000) of novel ideas in complex environments. …

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