posted 26 Oct 2007 in Volume 11 Issue 3
Book Review: New Business Models for the Knowledge Economy
Authors: Wendy Jansen, Wilchard Steenbakkers and Hans Jägers
Publisher: Gower Publishing
Reviewed by Lucy McNulty
OVER THE past decade, we have seen the emergence of an economy in which the digital component has become a constant presence. In this digital world, connectivity and communication are greatly enhanced and knowledge resources have superseded economic property in importance. In this increasingly knowledge-based economy, meanwhile, the old principles of business can no longer be applied. The business world has been forced to adapt and, in this environment of change, the term ‘business model’ has become an increasingly repeated buzzword, discussed time and again in the press, in academic literature, in boardrooms and across organisations (Google alone lists 439,000,000 references to the concept).
In this current climate, you could be forgiven for thinking that Wendy Jansen, Wilchard Steenbakkers and Hans Jägers’ book, New Business Models for the Knowledge Economy is just yet another instructional tome dedicated to the discussion of the latest buzzword in business.
Jansen, Steenbakkers and Jägers are, however, quick to refute this assumption. They frequently reiterate the assertion that their book is entirely original. “We realise that a lot of the aspects of business models are not new,” they write. “We are convinced that the typology described in this book will add a new dimension to the discussion about business models.”
This “new dimension to the discussion” comes, it seems, in the form of three types of business model based around the concepts of ‘customisation’, ‘innovation’ and ‘authenticity’ and referred to as the “Chameleon”, “Innovator” and “Foyer” models. Each is the result of study conducted by PrimaVera, a research group based at the
The reference to “existing business concepts” is a telling indication that, despite the authors’ protestations to the contrary, in reality, New Business Models for the Knowledge Economy, offers little in the way of fresh discussion.
The Chameleon model, which integrates the growing demand for individualisation with developments in information and communication technology to create a more internet-based customer-centric business strategy, is undeniably a sound approach, but one that surely has been practiced in some form or other by many organisations since the dot-com boom of the early 1990s?
The Innovator model follows the same vein – it outlines a strategy which focuses on improvement. “To be successful in the growing global economy of the 21st century, organisations are obliged to develop new products and services continuously,” write Jansen, Steenbakker and Jägers. “This means that many organisations need to focus not only on innovation, as a direct condition for survival in today’s world, but also on choosing an innovative business model.” Of course, innovation and the adoption of new ideas, new products and new processes into a business is a sure-fire way to encourage business growth, but again it is hardly a new concept.
The Foyer model focuses on encouraging greater collaboration between customer and organisation through the adoption of new networking technology into the business culture. It is again old principles, of harvesting communication and connection with clients, repackaged to incorporate the development of web 2.0 technologies. “The Foyer model fits today’s spirit of age,” assert the authors. “The fact that [it] currently enjoys surging popularity stems from the fact that the Internet now enables such communities.”
New Business Models for the Knowledge Economy may not, as the title would indicate, provide readers with any ground-breaking business models with which to revolutionise their businesses, but that is not to say that it is not a good read. It is an easily accessible and rigorous, albeit slightly rehashed, guide to alternative strategies for this digital age. With several real-company examples and thorough accounts of each model from a integrated design perspective, it acts as a systematic guide for any managers interested in organisational development and business strategy in both profit and not-for-profit organisations. Just don’t expect anything wholly original…