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What is business design?

And how it can serve social entrepreneurship

In the last few years, there has been a lot of buzz around the topic of Business Design. As a matter of fact, the rise of Design Thinking paved the way for embedding design-driven approaches into business practices. But precisely, what do we mean by Business Design? And how can social enterprises benefit from this new approach?

What is Business Design?

Traditionally, design principles and methods were mostly adopted by companies to create value propositions people would love. That’s why people still struggle seeing design as anything but fancy products, nice visual content and so on. Truth is, design can go much further than that.

As a matter of fact, there has been a growing interest in applying design methodologies in the business world. Not just end products or services, but the overall business model spectrum. Eventually, this is how we got to Business Design (BD).

In its essence, BD is a new human-centered approach that helps practitioners design, test and validate whole new (or improved) business models. Because of its human-centricity, this approach makes sure that every component of a business model can positively affect the end customer, without failing to deliver solid, sustainable business value for the organization.

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This methodology, together with the set of tools it comes with, can work great for both established organizations and growing startups. Thanks to BD, SMEs as well as large corporations can indeed strategize not only over value creation, but also over value delivery and value capture, whilst mapping related assumptions and testing them before even entering the market.

What does a business designer do?

We must admit it: there is no agreed definition for those practicing BD (namely, business designers) either. Nevertheless, business designers are usually hybrid profiles with an interdisciplinary background. They are “business thinkers with a design mindset”, so to say.

But then again, what do business designers actually do? According to IDEO, “business designers take juicy, creative, human-centered innovation and make it succeed out there in the real world. They use strategy, analysis, and financial modeling as generative design tools, and help organizations turn their biggest, wildest ideas into businesses with long-term viability”.

In this sense, business designers use design principles and methods to solve business challenges. They translate human needs into achievable business goals. That’s why they have to be knowledgeable about subjects such as strategy, marketing, organization management, while mastering design methodologies and tools. Through this diversified skillset, business designers can help organizations prototype, validate and build viable business models ready to enter the marketplace.

How can Business Design relate to social entrepreneurship?

Since it builds on design principles, BD is by definition “human-centered“. This means it constantly takes the human perspective into account, at every single stage of the problem-solving process. A process that may address problems of all kinds, including social ones.

So, BD practices become fundamental for social enterprises seeking financial sustainability while tackling complex social problems. By empathizing with people, digging into their needs and behaviors, business designers could indeed help social enterprises (or socially-oriented projects) prototype, test and deliver sustainable business models.

Eventually, this could pave the way to brand applications of BD, strictly related to social entrepreneurship and social business modeling. A new movement we like to call Social Business Design.

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Conclusion

BD is a new, innovative approach to build solid business models. As we have seen, it builds on three main pillars: customer discovery, prototyping and business strategy. Because of its human-centered outlook, its tools and processes can be easily applied to tackle complex social problems too.

In conclusion, we believe (social) business design might be the right framework to foster social entrepreneurship. If you agree with us, then keep exploring our website.. we are on a mission to facilitate the rise of this new discipline, one blogpost at a time!


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