Business Model You

"Dream jobs are more often created than found, so they're rarely attainable through conventional searches. Creating one requires strong self-knowledge."

- Business Model You, page 84

People drifting from job to job may soon realize that they’ve visited the same crossroads too many times. Changing careers is tough, but some job seekers may be tired of compromises which would only lead to the same suboptimal choices they’ve experienced in the past. While others may seek to become just employable, these rare and brave souls seek to be remarkable and relevant.

The truth is that they already are.  We all are, in fact.  And now, there’s a way to tap into that greatness and bring it into the present.

In the spirit of Alexander Osterwalder’s successful book Business Model Generation (BMG), Tim Clark (who was also BMG’s editor) has written Business Model You: A One Page Method for Reinventing Your Career. Clark shows that you can use the same business model thinking from BMG to unearth your greatest strengths, talents, and interests, and then paint them onto a powerful blueprint.

Business Model You was co-created between 328 entrepreneurial minds spread out over 43 countries. The book is a beautiful designed and succinctly written journey replete with each contributor’s diverse experiences and insight. The common theme is that everyone involved in producing the book struggled, but ultimately succeeded, in reinventing themselves. Their stories will help you paint your personal business model.

What’s a business model? In short, it’s “the logic by which any organization sustains itself financially.” Likewise, the Business Model “canvas” is a structured but simple visual technique which shows how the nine most important components of any business model fit and flow together. First, the original canvas is introduced for enterprises before being translated to the world of the individual.

Business Model You is also an itinerary of thought experiments, anecdotes, and exercises to help align work with purpose. Some of the many experiments include the Lifeline Discovery and Holland’s Six Tendencies. This journey of self-knowledge really counts, because aside from financial sustainability and survival, this is a book about thriving and doing the kind of work that resonates at your core.

So why is business model thinking the best way to sharpen yourself in an ever-changing world? What’s really required to develop our personal business model to the fullest?

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Uncontrollable Environments

"Because they can't change the environment they operate in, companies must change their business models (and sometimes create new ones) in order to remain competitive."
- Business Model You, page 21

Tim revives the classic example of Blockbuster declaring bankruptcy to prove a point. Redbox and Netflix had outmoded the old business model, proving that movies and games could be delivered better via the internet, postal mail, and vending kiosks than through the traditional retail environment.

Even with a rough economic climate, technological trends and societal mores still shift fast beneath our feet. Whether for-profit, non-profit, or government entity, every organization has a business model. The striking parallel between companies and people is that they cannot control their environment. Just as organizations must evaluate and change their business models during unpredictable times, people must change theirs as well.

You are your most important business model. Only those with strong self-knowledge and flexibility can truly grow personally and professionally.

If you’re already part of a great company or organization, can you spot how it has changed and innovated over time? Did it require you to change, too?

“Employees who care about the success of the enterprise as a whole (and know how to achieve it) are the most valuable workers — and candidates for better positions.”

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Knowing the Real You

"One problem with others' expectations, though, is that we might adopt them as our own; a desire for social acceptance can easily overwhelm our internal compasses."
- Business Model You, page 88

Do we remember who we really are?

Tim suggests we ask ourselves this question before our 20s. This was the time when our passions were at their most potent before being smothered by passivity, peer pressure and the expectations of others.

He quotes Marcus Buckingham of Go Put Your Strengths to Work in order to illuminate the point: “Your childish clarity faded, and you started listening to the world around you more closely than you did to yourself. The world was persuasive and loud, and so you resigned yourself to conforming to its demands.”

Sometimes, it’s the ongoing burnout or crises in our lives which make us contemplate our true purpose. This deep self-reflection returns us to the distant past.

There are some questions which can kick off this re-discovery. What did we love? What invigorated us back then? These may be the games, hobbies, or little abilities and fascinations we picked up along the way, but never nourished. The trick now is to concoct all these early interests, desires, and events from the past, and to see what the combined significance may be in the present. This is the sweet spot.

“Reflecting deeply on who you are before crisis strikes rewards both you and your customers because it helps prevent burnout and disillusionment. When you’re personally satisfied, you’re more able to help others.”

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Transcend Your Mental Model

"Everything you perceive about your career, your love life, and your family and friends, is not necessarily reality, it's merely your perception of reality."
- Business Model You, page 166

Sometimes change is hard because there doesn’t seem to be any other way out. Overcome this by altering your perspective and transcending old mental models. Our perception of reality is just one angle. Pivot your view a little, and the real opportunities begin to appear.

To demonstrate, Tim presents a clever exercise which just might catch you off-guard:

Imagine a 3×3 dot pattern. The goal of the puzzle is to connect all nine dots in four (or less) straight lines… without lifting the pencil. The lines may be drawn at any angle, but you cannot exceed more than four straight lines.

Adhering to limiting beliefs, our minds default to the assumption that you must stay within the frame of the nine dots. But do you have to stay within the grid? If you break out of that grid, what happens?

This is a brilliant lesson on unspoken assumptions which radiates into our professional lives. Tim brings up a point that the frame — or confines of a situation — was invented by someone else. We’re so constantly exposed to it that we’ve just silently adopted them as the way things are. This draws upon a point in the book The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zanders: that the dilemmas and dead ends we face only appear unsolvable. But enlarge the box or change the frame of the situation, and then suddenly the problems fall away. A new perspective appears and we discover a new set of opportunities.

There is always more than one way to accomplish something. Do you really know all your opportunities? Be brave enough to expand the box and see a new hypothesis emerge. Once that happens, the last question rests on you: Will you act on it?

Every time an exercise or experiment from the book is completed (and there’s plenty of them), you discover things about your personality and environment which you may have overlooked in the past. Your first prototype canvas becomes closer to completion.  You start to realize that finding a “dream job” takes more than confidence and courage; it also requires a different way of thinking about your talents and strengths.

After working through the “canvas” process, you will no doubt want to manifest your new business model.  Section 4 is titled Act and it is devoted to testing and executing, and is full of valuable insights as well.

Business Model You is visual and surgical, but it certainly leads to one thing: Clarity. It’s truly an architect’s workbook. Reinvent the ways your organization serves its stakeholders, or simply prepare yourself to do something new. Great organizations can be designed, and so can people’s careers. That’s the power of business model thinking and Business Model You.

“If you don’t realign your work with your purpose, you’re just going to relocate that problem to another desk.”

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Bryann Alexandros

ABOUT Bryann Alexandros

I help nonprofits and changemaking organizations become adaptive problem-solvers in the 21st century. My approach includes design thinking, applied creativity, process design, and helping senior leaders apply it to strategy and large-scale social challenges...
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