#48/111: Seizing the White Space

What is it about?

What have Amazon, Hilti and Hindustan Unilever in common? Each company revolutionized its business model. Mark W. Johnson studied these and more companies and found a process for business model innovation.

What can I learn?

What’s the job-to-be-done? Don’t ask your customer what he wants your product/service to be. Find out what tasks he have to do. This allows you to use your expertise to build a better solution. This will be your starting point.

How can you satisfy it? Now it’s time to build a company around your product. What are your key resources, your key processes and how can you make money out of it?

Let’s take the first business model of Amazon for example. The job-to-be-done was offering a wide range of books. You can only make profit, if enough books will be sold. Also the warehouse costs have to be reduced. Furthermore, people want to read their books as soon as possible.

To ensure that you are going to sell enough books, you have to build a platform. So the key resources and processes are the technology for warehousing, IT infrastructure for the website (channel) and a partner for shipping.

Change is hard: Often there’s a discrepancy between your company and your new business model. If possible, take the easy way and build a new company. It will save your lots of time, discussions and compromises.


I really like Seizing the White Space. It is more practical than Business Model Generation which focuses more on building a meta solution. There are lots of interesting case studies with uncommon companies. Furthermore, I like Johnson’s approach of Customer Development, i.e. searching a solution for the job-to-be-done and then building the rest of the company around it. Great recommendation for everyone who wants to start a company and solve a job-to-be-done.

#46/111: Startup

What is it about?

If you want to start a business, you need an idea and a business model and money. Elizabeth Edwards focuses about the latter. She shows you how to cut your personal expenses, how to calculate your financial numbers and why venture capital isn’t always the best option.

What can I learn?

Is your business profitable? Before starting your business, you should check if your business model can generate enough profit. How high is your initial investment and how much does it cost you monthly to operate your business? The next step is to calculate your profit on this basis. How long does it take you to break even, i.e. you aren’t losing money anymore? You should reject your idea if it will take longer than two years.

Capital can be expensive: Before you are going to look for venture capitalists, you should think about your need of outside capital. If you can do it alone, go for it. If you can’t do it without outside money, she recommends you to thoughtfully calculate your costs. Don’t forget to include your opportunity costs for searching investors.

Know your metrics: A business runs on numbers. You should monitor your industry key metrics (e.g. page impressions for social sites) and of cause your ordinary indicators like sales, costs and profit. Even if you aren’t a numbers person, learn how to read your key numbers.


This book is an accumulation of tips but lacks the explanation of why you should do they. This is a bit of a downer. The good parts of Startup were clearly the financial and legal knowledge. If you start your business in the US this information is possible pretty valuable. Lastly, besides of the financial and legal advice most advice is out of other books like Made to Stick or Business Model Generation. I would recommend reading those, if you want to deepen your knowledge.

#22/111: Eyeballs Out

What is it about?

What is life about on an aircraft carrier? And how can it be applied to business? Donna Sturgess experienced this for her own for two days and wrote about her discoveries she made.

Key points?

Create thrill: Often big organizations lack of risk-taking people. If you want to turn risk-averse people into risk-taking people you should try to create thrill. Introduce new concepts, let people take risks for themselves. This action can revitalize your company.

Immerse yourself: One key point of IDEO’s success is observing the consumer. Mrs Sturgess recommends a similar concept. You should immerse yourself into a new setting (e.g. NASCAR racing, glassblowing). This allows you to get a new vantage point which probably results into new ideas.

Use games: I really like this point. Use games – built a game-like environment. That is, you can use badges for achievements, e.g. first 100 sales, first product shipped or first marketing campaign launched. Furthermore, she proposes to use more interactive strategy games for business (maybe realtime?). It’s an vague idea but somehow really cool and exciting.

Empower young employees: Empowerment isn’t new to business but this approach is. On the USS Stennis (the aircraft carrier) the average sailor is 20 years old and they got a lot of responsibility. In companies, the average age is usually much higher. But if you don’t allow young people to learn and take responsibility, you don’t empower them.


This book is pretty short but got some really great ideas. I can’t really estimate the impact because it was published this year though I think that it can improve the business world. In conclusion, read it for yourself and decide if it is worth or not.

#14/111: The Wizard of Menlo Park

What is it about?

Thomas A. Edison – the inventor of the modern world! Really? Randall Stross investigates Edison’s story and tries to find the real Edison. He doesn’t talk so much about the technical achievements, he rather focuses on Edison’s self-marketing. Showing how Edison exaggerated, told lies and played with the media.

Key points?

Famous doesn’t mean profitable: Edison got famous while working on the first version of the phonograph. But it took him four years for the first commercial version and another 20 years for the improved one.

It’s not about you: Edison’s life and business was about Edison. He wanted that the phonograph was used as a dictating machine. But the customers wanted to use his machine for music because its dictating abilities were pretty poor. It didn’t interest Edison, he was too pigheaded to commit himself to his customers.

Don’t try to control everything:  Moreover it did not stop there. Henry Ford called Thomas Edison “the world’s worst business man” but it didn’t bother Edison. Also, there were so many opportunities which were missed. Furthermore, he had big problems operating his companies efficiently. While building his first power grid he needed about $30,000 per square mile to install the power lines, while his competitions only needed about $500.

Look into new fields: Edison worked in lots of businesses. From providing electricity to mining. He immersed in different fields which helped to stabilize his aura as the inventor of the modern world.


The stories are highly interesting because you see how he failed (See: Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur) and you’ll learn about his most remarkable move: He built a strong relationship with important journalists how praised him continuously. He knew how to market himself.

In conclusion, Edison didn’t invent the light, but he did invent personal branding for business people.