Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers - Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

Osterwalder and Pigneur’s book Business Model Generation was first published in 2010, at the turn of the decade. For the past two years, I have been using this text as a core part of class reading for my Masters Publishing students. From the vantage point of 2010, it may have been difficult to truly appreciate the pedagogical value that this work offers, but today, in an educational environment where flipped classrooms, connected curriculums and multimedia teaching tools are the norm, this book seems well attuned to these needs. 

Often the types of books produced to explain and support business development are not particularly well suited to academic study. They focus on theoretical principles that can span many pages and, without clear case applications, can be difficult to understand in more specific terms. For publishing studies, this is particularly so, because these books’ presentation and perception of what business entails is rarely directed towards creative industry. 

However, Business Model Generation provides a twist on this practice by approaching business modelling from a truly refreshing and creative angle. The book provides its readers with a ‘canvas’ template designed around nine different building blocks, all of which are familiar dimensions of any business’ operational model. By presenting the components in this fashion, the canvas offers students a visual representation of the combined features of a business model, and the different components can be separated and recomposed in different ways to see how changes to individual factors impact upon the overall model. The authors claim this approach can ‘allow you to design every possible business model that you can imagine,’ which is key in providing publishing students a flexible approach to addressing the challenges of developing and selling creative products, where the value proposition and customer segments are less directly connected to the unique selling proposition (USP) of the product. 

The visual component of the book also makes it a practical textbook for students, and it can be used as a guide to lead class-based workshops where individuals or groups can work together on a variety of different exercises. However, beyond the canvas and its subsequent explanations, the book also offers chapters which provide varied case studies of how the canvas can be interpreted and applied (including one publishing example), and they discuss other key considerations and concepts which are impacted by the business model, such as the long tail. These elements are compiled into an attractive package which is very accessible. The book, referred to as a ‘handbook’ in its subtitle by its authors, is printed in a landscape format which reflects the canvas template but also offers plenty of space for images and tables that accompany the commentary of each chapter. It is an attractive and welcoming text which seems to avoid overwhelming the reader with a concentration of information at any one point. 

Osterwalder and Pigneur have produced a book which is, in my opinion, a model for textbooks dealing with ideas that combine theory and practice, and they’ve made sure to consider how the book is to be used when designing its contents. For those who want to take these ideas further, the authors followed this title with another book for Strategyzer called Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want, which continues and expands upon the theme and style of Business Model Generation

Helpfulness Rating Out of 5: 4

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Daniel Boswell

Daniel joined University College London’s Department of Information Studies as a Teaching Fellow in September 2015 to work as part of the MA Publishing team within the UCL Centre for Publishing. Prior to his appointment at UCL, he was a Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University within the department of English and Media, and briefly Acting Course Leader on the Publishing postgraduate programme. He has also delivered modules in History of the Book on the English undergraduate programme, and at Edinburgh Napier University. His main research interest centres around small nation cultural production with a focus on issues surrounding minority languages and translation, and also the cumulative and differentiating aspects of globalisation and identity. Digital development is also a key concern. More recently he has been concentrating on pedagogical research concerning the development and delivery of publishing studies.

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