Provoking your Business Model

This post continues my exploration of lateral thinking techniques and their application to the business model generation space. You can see my original post on how lateral thinking applies to business problems here, and a previous post on using random word entry to stimulate business mode innovation here.

Edward de Bono invented the term “PO” to indicate a provocative statement which is being used to provoke movement. By using a deliberately challenging statement, we are given a lateral starting point from which to begin our search for answers. The hope is that some of our answers will be creative, and valuable. Here is an example:

  • Challenge: we want ideas to improve public transport
  • PO: Trains never stop
  • Response: Oh gosh, that sounds a bit ‘creative’. But what if they really didn’t stop? What would that mean…how would you change driver, how would passengers get on and off, how would you do repairs?
  • Exploration: let’s start exploring driverless trains, or in motion repairs, or self repairing trains, or trains that diagnose their own need for repair, or trains that don’t use stations at all because they are personal private trains leaving from people’s houses…

Provoking your business model canvas

So I was wondering about how to use PO to innovate a business model, and came up with the idea of using cue cards to help direct PO statements within the business model canvas. Here is an example:

All you would have to do is fill in the blanks. Apart from extending the number of cue cards for each of the 9 areas, it might also be useful to include specific examples from existing businesses. For example, under channels we might have “PO: trucks do not take goods from the warehouses to our retail outlets”.

A Group Example of Provoking a Business Model

Here’s an example of how it could work, assuming you have a small group of people:

  1. Write out a number of PO cue cards for each building block. Each cue card would have a single, directive statement on it
  2. Give each team (a group of 3 or 4) a cue card and have them create a couple of PO statements each
  3. Teams then pick a favourite PO statement, and start listing ideas individually
  4. After a couple of minutes, groups transfer all their ideas onto a whiteboard (or similar), removing any duplicates
  5. Team leads can then present their top 5 ‘launch’  ideas to the room
  6. Each team can then explore their selected ‘launch’ ideas in more detail, making sense of it and coming up with more ‘do-able’ ideas.  This is really the convergence part where lateral ‘launch’ ideas are used to generate usable ideas. If it works, you should come up with some creative solutions that wouldn’t have thought of otherwise

I haven’t tried this out on a group yet, so I’d be really interested in getting feedback from anyone who does. Particularly around what cue cards work, and whether or not a set of specific examples is more useful than the fill in the blanks approach. .


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