Skills for new business models

Last week's memorable discussion focused on new business models. One person arguing hotly that there were no people with the skills and know-how to change legacy computer company business models into cloud computing business models, or how to change company IT departments running standard software and hardware into 'cloud' departments (or no departments).

This may or may not be true. That same day I'd been reading an article, The Business of Sharing, on the new business model of renting/sharing items. Organizations mentioned who used a renting model included Zipcar, Bag Borrow or Steal, Netflix, Rent that Toy, and TechShop. Couch Surfing and thredUP were discussed as sharing models.

These are all new, or newish, business models in the US, maybe less to do with cloud computing but all illustrating the point that there are, perhaps, specific skills to generate new business models. Taking the argument into the internet world I suggested that in the emerging markets there were skills available – not so, countered others. Their view was that the world of cloud was too new to have enabled people to develop skills necessary to build viable businesses.

OK – no point in arguing with a fixed view. But later in the day I turned to a previous article that I'd filed (I teach a course on business models on an MBA program and collect articles on new business models). It's called The wiki way: Two cyber-gurus take a second look at how the internet is changing the world

It is interesting because it takes the view that 'the web is the most radical force of our time' And in discussing the book "Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World" by Williams and Tapscott the article author endorses the book author's view, saying "they are surely also right to predict that it [the web] has only just begun to work its magic".

Both articles point to the notion that new business models are not an outcome of developed skills, rather as people have ideas about new or different ways of doing things and then try putting them into practice they develop skills to continue along the new path. It's rather like someone taking up running – they learn how to get better the more their running improves.

A legacy model does not have to wait to find in the market the skills needed to change it. Within any organization the skills exist to do things differently if the will and the power structures enable these to surface and act. One of my favorite books on this theme is Debra Meyerson's, The Tempered Radical

It struck me as I watched my colleagues not listening to each other but forcefully putting their views and over-riding anything that sounded different from what they were saying, that listening, reflecting, asking open questions, and allowing other views to surface might be the very skills needed to help change legacy business models to new business models. Technical skills in cloud computing could well be of at less value than interpersonal skills in helping people with the ideas surface new thinking and then helping them act on it.