Designing a Business
“Designing a business isn’t a one-time activity; it’s a continuous and evolving pursuit. Every component of a business can be tested, and all components must work elegantly together to successfully sustain your offer out in the world.”
—Kerry O’Connor, IDEO Design Director
Designing a Business
At IDEO, instead of coming up with a plan for how every part of a business could work, we design an ongoing sequence of small, rapid prototypes to learn if and how the business will work. Learn an agile way to remove risk from creating new business models by testing your assumptions early to build stronger, more innovative solutions and get to product-market fit faster.
In this course, you’ll combine traditional business strategy with the methods and mindsets of design thinking, and prototype three parts of a business—value proposition and offer, revenue model, and sales channel. You’ll unite the analytical with the creative, prototype to get tangible early, and focus on people to uncover new opportunities and unlock more value from existing offers.
To get the most out of this course, come prepared with a customer need and an idea for a new business, product, or service.
Introduction Use design thinking to stay generative, prototype, and test your assumptions early.
- Understand the key mindsets of business designers: unite the creative and analytical, prototype to get tangible early, and focus on people.
- Learn to utilize a tool like the Business Blueprint to visualize the different parts of a business that you can design.
- Hear about a three-step process for prototyping different components of a business: frame a question, build a prototype, and collect evidence.
- Activity: Identify what new business or business line you want to work on during the course.
Creating Value The Value Proposition: Design the essence of your business.
- Identify different forms of your value proposition that are insightful, unique, and targeted and come up with an idea for a compelling product or service that ties closely to your value proposition.
- Discussion: What’s a company with a strong value proposition that you really love?
- Activity: Stretch your thinking about your business's value proposition, build prototypes to test different ideas out, and collect evidence to refine it.
Capturing Value What revenue model is right for your business?
- Learn how your business's revenue model and price can be designed to provide even more value for your customers.
- Discussion: What's one example of a product or service where price is being used to signal something about its quality or availability? Is it working (are people buying it)?
- Activity: Review some of your business's most important costs, and stretch your thinking about your revenue model and price. Then, build a prototype and collect evidence to help you further refine how and how much your customers will pay.
Delivering Value Designing the Last Mile: Deliver value through the channel.
- Expand your thinking about the ways you can use channel to improve how your business delivers value.
- Discussion: Think back to a time when you took real pleasure in the experience of buying a product or service. What made the experience delightful?
- Activity: Sketch a storyboard prototype that captures key moments around your channel, and collect evidence about which ideas most resonate with people.
Why Take Designing a Business
At IDEO, we don’t just prototype products and services—we prototype all the essential parts of a business. We believe you can design the parts of your business, just like any product, service, or brand. It helps us understand what’s needed to make a business desirable for customers, financially viable for stakeholders, and feasible to build and deliver to the world. Designing a Business will help you utilize design thinking to stay generative, prototype, and test your assumptions early to build stronger, more innovative solutions faster.
This Course Will Help You
- Pair business strategy with the tools of design thinking.
- Test your business model assumptions early when the stakes are low.
- Create an authentic value proposition.
- Determine what revenue model is right for your business.
- Experiment and get creative with your channel to add value to your business.
“Simple and elegant course, but powerful impact. Just being introduced to the business blueprint was an aha, and knowing that each piece is always a working prototype. More specifically, I had no idea that channels can be made into so much more (e.g. transforming the customer experience) than just something static.”
Managing Director, Headfirst Group Ltd
“The videos were informative, short, factual, and applicable to real-world examples. All the material was memorable by using case study examples. The structure of the Assignments Workbook was a great process to follow and learn; you work through sections of the blueprint, make adjustments after each lesson, and then tie it all together in the end to make a refined business plan.”
Brand Manager, Smucker Foods of Canada
“I think this approach is super practical but also super insightful. I love the focus on the customer, the marriage of the creative and analytical, and the risk mitigating nature of the process/prototyping.”
Director, Portfolio Strategy, Financial Services Company
“I thought the course was invaluable in getting people to think differently. I loved the idea of making assumptions and then testing them to refine ideas. The resources and ability to globally connect were exceptional.”
“This was the kind of experience that says, you may read tons of books, but nothing compares with putting the concepts to work and testing them.”
Strategy Designer & Innovation Catalyst, Agafitei + Partners
Sneak Peek of the Course
Applying design to creating new business offers is all about focusing on people and prototyping to learn quickly when the risks are low. This peek inside the course will show you how Sensis, the Yellow Pages of Australia, prototyped an app-based service in one day rather than spending weeks building a working app and recruiting beta testers.
About the Course Community
Learn from IDEO Business Designers
Amy Bonsall is a Senior Design Director of Venture Design at IDEO's Palo Alto studio. She helps clients and design teams approach innovation from a holistic, go-to-market perspective, using business design to bring new ventures successfully to market. An avid supporter of digital fluency in the world of business, Amy is a mentor to startups in the tech and wellness worlds, and has previously advised at accelerators in Singapore and Brazil. Amy earned an MBA from IMD in Switzerland and holds a master's degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of New Hampshire. In business and in life, Amy believes that we learn from failure. Outside of the office, she's recently been applying this principle with regularity in the ocean, as she attempts to master the art of surfing.
A Senior Portfolio Director in the Business Design practice at IDEO, David has helped develop initiatives such as the Startup-in-Residence program as well as other novel approaches and instigations around venture design and corporate entrepreneurship. Outside of IDEO, David is a Clinical Associate Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and a Venture Partner at Pritzker Group Venture Capital. He is the Co-Founder of MATTER, Chicago’s 25,000 square foot healthcare technology incubator which is home to over 150 startups and corporate ventures. David earned his MBA from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his B.A. in International Relations from Boston University. His articles on entrepreneurship and corporate innovation have been published in Forbes, Fortune, Inc. and Entrepreneur magazines. As much as David would like to think he’s one of a kind, he’s actually one of triplets; and outside of work you can find him chasing around his two young kids, and attempting to channel his “inner-Neil Peart” on the drums.
Kerry O’Connor is a Design Director and Business Designer, who works in IDEO’s San Francisco and Tokyo offices. As a leader in the Business Design discipline, Kerry develops new and sustainable ways to monetize innovations. Her training in linguistics and anthropology gives her a unique understanding of people and the cultural context in which they live. Passionate about designing for women, Kerry co-founded Materna Medical, a medical device startup focused on maternal health. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology, with Honors, from Boston University and an MBA from Stanford University. She completed a fellowship at the d.school at Stanford, and continues to be involved there through lecturing, coaching and mentoring students. Outside of work, Kerry can be found wandering paths, near and far, where she can get lost and stumble upon sights and scenes that confuse — and ultimately delight — her.