Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship’

Sustainable Business Models – A Demand Side Perspective

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

As a convener of the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group (SSBMG) at OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) I am committed to developing tools and methods to help organizations become more sustainable. As such I am thrilled with the research of colleagues like Antony Upward in developing an exhaustive business model ontology and deriving new visual tools from it (a super version of the BM Canvas tool developed by Alex Osterwalder). It struck me, however, that not withstanding all the good intentions behind the development of the many tools and methods trying to achieve the same, they all can be classified as “supply side” solutions, that is beautiful and interesting solutions developed without seriously researching what the needs of the intended users are.  I set out therefore to add “demand side” research stream to the research agenda of SSBMG.

To investigate users needs we thought we would start by better understanding how important business decisions are made in organizations and at what stage of that decision process business model considerations come in. We were interested particularly in decision-making processes in situations  involving trade-offs between economic, social and environmental elements. The first steps in that direction was to investigate the mindset of leaders in organizations that are progressive in their views on balancing these elements. This research is currently underway through a Major Research Project by Ben McCammon as part of his  degree requirement at the Strategic Foresight & Innovation (SFI) Masters program. Ben is using the design probe method to collect information on the mindset of leaders in Canadian B-Corps. I am anticipating reading about his findings before the end of this year.

The next step will be to do the same research on regular organizations and comparing the two mind sets and decision making processes to better understand how decisions pertaining to sustainability are made and what the optimal leverage points would be to influence this process. The aspiration is to use these insights to inform the design of tools and methods intended to assist organizations become more sustainable.

Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Last week I attended the Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI. Called BIF-6 in reference to it’s organizer, the Business Innovation Factory and it’s sixth occurrence, the two-day event exposes participants to thirty exceptional storytellers in a intimate theater setting. I had attended last year’s BIF-5 and found it inspiring and energizing, so I went for more.

An even greater value in attending BIF-6 is really in the networking that takes place before, after and between the stories. BIF founder Saul Kaplan calls it “random collisions of unusual suspects” because he and his team use diversity and diversification as a core principle to enrich these collisions. Storytellers as well as participants are from every walk of life imaginable: from serial entrepreneurs, to educators, technologists, business executives, high-school students to a twelve-year old girl that set up a domestic grease collection and reprocessing into bio fuel that helped heat the house of needy families in her town.

Daring to be Great

The last presentation of Day 2 of BIF-6 was by Keith Yamashita, titled originally “Change, to the Power of Ten”. Inspired and moved by previous storytellers and encounters with participants, he changed his title to “Is it worth daring to be great?” As he was reflecting on the role of trust between two people in the larger context of teams and organizations, he recounted an incident, when a business partner and mentor (Alan Webber) vested his full trust in him. For 10 seconds he became very emotional and a tear ran down his cheek. He quickly recovered and continued his presentation, but in those 10 seconds I learned about trust and its importance in personal relations and in social networks small and large more than any books or courses could teach.

Random Collision

Later the next day, in the coach taking us to Providence Airport I happened to sit next to another participant, Monika Hardy (@monk51295). With a long wait for our flights, we settled in one of the airport’s seating areas, opened our laptops, intended to get some work done. But the conversation started in the coach did not want to go away. I was still reflecting on my learning experience from Keith’s presentation, and found myself in an amazing deep-dive conversation with Monika, who turned out to be an innovator herself in the field of children education. I was fascinated and encouraged that in a public school system, a space has been allowed to experiment with new methods and ways. Monika described how children choose what they want to learn and are then guided by a different kind of teacher, a facilitator of learning that connects the dots of the child’s interests without imposing an unnatural regiment of learning. In fact, the children go through a “detox” to unlearn some of the old behaviors learned in school.

Emotional Learning

As I was listening to her passionately describe her work , it occurred to me that the “detox” approach might well be applicable to business. We need to unlearn behaviors drilled into us by the existing system, before we can innovate new ways and structures to do business. I am planning on following up on this conversation.

So, what else did I learn? We seem to be wired for absorbing a significantly higher volume of knowledge, when we are emotionally engaged. Traditional learning, however, focuses primarily on information supply, without much of an emotional component. The result is that we learn the information without the full context that gives the information so much richer meanings in multiple dimensions. We do the same in business. As Keith said: “The biggest fallacy of business is that it’s only rational. All business is personal and all business is human”. That’s why one random encounter with an unusual suspect can teach you more than volumes of HBR.

So as I am soaking up all the learning from these two random BIF-6 collisions, the question swirling in my head is: Could we design emotional components to our learning processes at every level? That’s a very intriguing idea particularly as we witness the emergence of a new system of learning based on modules of knowledge that learners can pick and choose from. Imagine if each of these modules was designed to enlist an emotional component of learning.

I’ll be trying to write about the many other encounters that sparked my brain at BIF-6, so stay tuned!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 1:09 pm and is filed under The Nabou Chronicles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

monika hardy says:
September 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm

nice capture.

i keep reliving our conversation with my students and others.. so much packed in. important stuff.

on the detox project.
when i got home and studied Keith more… his site is very similar to our detox site.. check it out here:

how rich am i to have met you Nabil… :)

Collaboration Tools for Innovation

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

While collaboration tools have been around for a while, recent developments in social networking are rapidly changing the collaboration space, which is becoming a critical component of the productivity and innovation capabilities of organizations.

Collaboration Tools for Innovation is the topic chosen for the April 9 session of the YTA Business Innovation group. John Myers, VP and General Manager of Communications Solutions Group at Open Text will be the speaker for this session. He will demonstrate some new solutions and frame the discussion about collaboration tools in the innovation context.

The session is held 12 noon to 1:30 PM at the Regus Business Centre, 15 Allstate Parkway, 6th Floor, Markham. Attendance is free but you need to register at the YTA web site:

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 3rd, 2010 at 12:24 am and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Design with Dialogue – Bodystorming

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Design with Dialogue (DwD) is a community of practitioners of facilitation and collaboration methods that meets monthly at the Strategic Innovation Lab at OCAD. DwD members were recently involved in facilitating collaborative design events at ChangeCamp and the XCLINIC‘s XCAMP.

DwD is inviting all who are interested in designing user experiences to a special session (additional to the monthly DwD meeting) welcoming Dennis Schleicher, Director of User Experience for Sears, to Toronto Tuesday, March 23 from 7-9 pm at OCAD’s sLab, room 600.

Dennis’ workshop will provide an introduction to the practice of Bodystorming as a method for engaging people in simulating experiences and processes by designing them through joint acting and improvisation of envisioned situations. Dennis has written about three forms of Bodystorming on his noteworthy blog site Tibetan Tailor. Guess which one he will do, and come prepared to play!

Attendance is free but you have to register here.

Canadian Business Leadership Forum

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Now in its sixth year, the Canadian Business Leadership Forum shares first-hand accounts of successful strategies and leadership initiatives that teach attendees new skills and innovative ways of thinking.

Organized by Canadian Business Magazine, the day-long program will be held on October 21, 2009 at The Carlu in Toronto and is aiming to inspire, motivate, and help deliver competitive advantage to organizations. The Foush is a featured speakers at this conference. More details on the speakers lineup can be found here.

Rahaf will be also signing her book Yes We Did on location.

The Business Model Generation

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

After months of hard labor, several writer blocks, and many inspirations co-authors Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur have completed their book Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. It was released hot off the press September 30, 2009.


The book provides an excellent overview of business models, both existing and emergent. It includes the Business Model Canvas tool, which has been put to the test already in a variety of situations with excellent results. Business Model Generation also stands out among similar business books in the care and effort invested in its design under the creative auspices of Alan Smith of The Movement.

Adding to the many interesting aspects of this book is the story of its writing. 470 practitioners from 45 countries collaborated with the co-authors on its content through a wiki-type collaborative environment called the Business Model Innovation Hub. [Full disclosure: I am one of the 470 contributors – No material interest in sales though]. The authors released chunks of their book as they were writing them and hub participants engaged in review, critique and contributions to those chunks. Even designs were put in front of the hub members. On the day of its release there were already 1000 copies pre-purchased in 55 countries!

The result is an outstanding book that is definitely worth reading. The story of the book making is worth telling on its own. We were hoping it could be told at the Fifth Business Innovation Factory conference held next week in providence, RI. Timing problems prevented securing one of the slots for story telling. We’re still hoping to be able to tell this remarkable story on the sidelines of BIF-5 and in other venues.

You can see a 72-page PDF preview of the book here. If you are interested in getting your copy, you’d be well advised to purchase it from the authors site here where the book will be available for limited time at the affordable price of $36. After that the book will be sold through Amazon with an anticipated price of $70.

Congratulations to Alex and Yves on their achievement. We are proud to have participated in this interesting and creative undertaking.

Commerce Virtual Worlds

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Last week Helix Commerce International invited a select group of guests (including Manara) to a breakfast event at the Cricket Club in Toronto to share some of their research and findings on commercial use of virtual worlds and launch their first report on the subject, based on over 2 years of research on 27 companies using virtual worlds.

Helix CEO, Cindy Gordon, provided an interesting overview about Canada’s latest ranking in innovation among OECD countries (we ranked 13 out of 17, which is a D!) and some thoughts on how to support a revival of innovation leadership in North America. Then Kathryn Gibson presented a live demo of the newly launched Helix Innovation Center in Second Life (SL) with a brief guided tour to a number of business properties as well as a sophisticated jazz club in that virtual world. Kathryn is the virtual world Ninja at Helix and has designed an impressive space for the Helix Innovation Center. You can read her blog or follow her on Twitter or better by seeking her outstanding avatar in SL.

Kaline Hax Avatar

Kaline Hax Avatar

In the discussion we learned of several technology initiatives underway, most of them at the pilot stage and exploring various social media applications for building communities including virtual world presence. Major Canadian corporations involved included Rogers, a couple of Canadian banks, and investment firms.

Not many people think of virtual worlds when speaking of social media. Judging by the serious investments being made by a number of technology heavy weights (IBM, Intel etc.) it is safe to predict that this space will witness increasing importance and growth in the near future.

Stay tuned for more as we delve deeper into this aspect of social networks.

New Brunswick Securities Commission’s Fullsail Summit

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Taking place at the Delta Hotel in Fredericton, New Brunswick on May 11 – 12, 2009, Fullsail is an initiative of the New Brunswick Securities Commission aimed at encouraging and increasing equity capital opportunities and entrepreneurship in New Brunswick. As a panelist Rahaf will inform delegates about online technologies that can help advance business goals and transmit messages in new and innovative ways.

Back in February of this year Brett Bundale of the Telegraph Journal interviewed The Foush about her participation in the panel. You can read the full text here.

Yes We Did!

Yes We Did!

The count down is on for the launch of Rahaf’s new book “YES WE DID: An Inside Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand” on June 4th in the Fleck Atrium (ground floor), Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, 105 St. George St., Toronto. Registration Fee: $29.99 per person plus GST (includes the session, 1 copy of ““Yes We Did!”, and refreshments). To register online click here then scroll down and select Innovation in Business Speakers Series.