An exercise in business model generation.

The last altMBA project involved working with a group to come up with 99 business plans in the space of about 36 hours.  They didn't have to be great, and they didn't have to be fleshed out beyond more than a few sentences to sketch the idea, the value proposition, and specific customer segments if that wasn't already obvious in the idea itself.  Due to illness and poor planning my team dwindled down to just one other person and me.  We did our thing, he came up with an idea to use the other people in our class to inspire his ideas, and I went and wrote a few related families of things that I came up with as real-world solutions that would help people I know with issues they have or services they would like to see.  We decided to add a bit of a framing device to our final presentation because our approach was so different, so we presented it as if it was a script for a shark-tank like tv series, with all the people and "their" ideas, and then "commercial breaks" which were my more self contained themes - around athletic gear, hobbies, and quilting, primarily. 

Every other team did a spreadsheet or a plain list.  Ours was a big hit with people.  Here's a few things I learned from this.

  1. Sometimes I need to just let go of my inner control freak.  I thought my partner's idea was insane and destined to fail, and if I hadn't made the conscious decision to put a smile on my face and "yes, and" him, we either wouldn't have gotten along as well as we did during the process, and we probably would have ended up with the same old spreadsheet.
  2. In general there was nothing particularly unique about our ideas.  Some of them were straight duplicates of other groups, which isn't surprising.   Simple service oriented business ideas aren't hard to come by.
  3. There did seem to be a big difference in style between some groups.  I hadn't really thought about it, but ours were all people oriented - he was focusing on the bios that our peers had written about themselves for inspiration, I was focusing on real people I know and the things they'd like for inspiration.  There were a lot of ideas like ours, but there were a lot of teams that focused on "sharing economy" type ideas.  And a lot of those felt a little gross to me.  I have mixed feelings about things like Uber and AirBnB, but there are some that seem pretty evil in the aggregate - like TaskRabbit.  It's a great idea to have this marketplace for people to offer services, but they're all chasing the bottom and undercutting competitors on price.  I don't find business ideas like that to be appealing.
  4. I think that even though we really didn't have a plot, the fact that we used a familiar story structure, that of a reality TV show, it helped readers feel like it's a story and made it easier and more desirable to engage with the content.  There were several comments from people who said they actually read the whole thing, and a few more than once.  Story is king, and it's important to me to remember to find the story even in places where I don't think there is one.