Scanning Your Business Model's Environment

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by: Alexander Osterwalder

Business models are designed and operated in a specific environment. Developing a good understanding of this environment helps you conceive better, more informed and likely more competitive business models.

Scan your environment by mapping out four main areas. These are a) market forces, b) industry forces, c) driving trends, and c) macro-economic forces. Each can be divided into sub-areas that allow you to draw a picture of your business model’s environment (see image below).

Continuously scanning your business model’s environment is important because the economic landscape is driven by growing complexity (e.g. networked business models), increasing uncertainty (e.g. technology innovations) and market disruptions (e.g. new disruptive value propositions). Understanding the changes happening in this environment help you more rapidly adapt your model to shifting external forces.

You should apprehend this environment as a sort of design space. It is a context in which you conceive or adapt your business model by taking into account a number of design drivers (e.g. new customer needs, new technologies, etc.) and design constraints (e.g. regulatory trends, dominant competitors, etc.). This environment should in no way limit your creativity or define your business model upfront. However, it should influence your design choices and help you make more informed decisions.

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