Business Planning for BiomimicryAn introduction to identifying a market strategy
Why Business Planning is Essential
Biomimicry is a powerful force for sustainable innovation. However, the reality is that many innovative ideas, biomimetic or not, do not find success in the market. Some fail because they were not designed in context for a specific, viable market need, others due to a lack of resources needed to get to market. Biomimetic solutions are often disruptive innovations that can be seen as a threat to entrenched competitors’ interests. For these reasons, market entrants need to identify mutually beneficial ways of working with industry players and points of entry into a market ecosystem. Alternatively, innovators must sometimes create their own ecosystems to get their product or service to market. It all starts by taking a systems view.
A Biomimicry Business Model Canvas
Because we want to remember to use nature as mentor in all aspects of design and business innovation, we have integrated some of nature’s unifying patterns into the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvase to create what we call the Biomimicry Business Model Canvas.
A good method for using the Canvas is for your team to jot down individual thoughts and ideas onto sticky notes that can be grouped and moved about on the canvas. Visualizing a variety of scenarios will help you identify priorities and needs in your design process.
Fit: Designing in context
Fit is the essence of how nature works. An organism must fit into its ecosystem by exchanging value with other organisms or its environment in some manner. Good fit is essential in the business environment, too. In the early phase of business planning and innovation, you must find a fit between a specific value you might create and a customer.
Fit is the result of a winning connection between two (of nine) blocks in the Business Model Canvas: value proposition and customer segment. These blocks are the priority to consider in the early design phase of your biomimetic idea.
Nature’s designs fit into a specific ecosystem and context; so should your design. Think about fit to connect your design concept to a viable market niche. Fit is hard to find and maintain and, just as in nature, your business model needs to fit a niche and then be adaptable to disturbance. Your team will start with hypotheses, or guesses about needs and wants for a customer segment. You will prove or reject your hypotheses as you research and iterate. Prototyping your solution will provide the opportunity to assess for true product-market fit.
Many of the global challenges we face today are the result of flaws in our economic models and require people to look more broadly to system level solutions. In order to address these market failures, teams may address needs of both “customers” AND “stakeholders.” Stakeholders include investors, funders, program intermediaries or service providers, beneficiaries and other constituents. Whether the stakeholder is exchanging a monetary currency or not, the value proposition should still meet the criteria of helping solve one of the stakeholder’s jobs, while creating gain and/or reducing pain. Teams should consider the scale of the need for stakeholders and customers in their design concepts.
While the focus of this introduction is value proposition and customer segments, we do so in context of the full Business Model Canvas and the broader business model environment. The Business Model Canvas asks you to consider the key partners, activities and resources that comprise your cost structure and the customer relationships and channels required to deliver your value proposition to a customer segment, while generating a revenue stream. The broader ecosystem view includes four additional drivers and constraints: macro-economic forces, key trends, market forces and industry forces. Teams should consider all three levels of their ecosystem in their design concept. However, it will be in the prototype phase that most teams move from business model to business plan development, and address all three of these nested levels.