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A proposal for a Design Approach to more Sustainable Business Models: Tools, Process and Outcomes to Envision the Future of an Organization


A proposal for a Design Approach to more Sustainable Business Models: Tools, Process and Outcomes to Envision the Future of an Organization

Joyce, Alexandre (2016) A proposal for a Design Approach to more Sustainable Business Models: Tools, Process and Outcomes to Envision the Future of an Organization. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Stories of organizations transforming their business model is nothing new. At some point in time, any organization, big or small, reaches a crossroad where strategic thinking points towards reinvention. However, we argue that most business model changes are not specifically designed for environmental or social benefits but predominantly economic gains.
From our literature review, we determine that most research in the nascent field of sustainable business models is concerned with the ends of integrating a sustainability dimension to business models, however there is little empirical research on the means towards that transformation. Our research endeavour is constructivist and multidisciplinary and focuses on the convergence of design, management and sustainability. Our interest lies in the creative aspect of business model innovation when an organization conceptualizes future business models for sustainability. At that phase, we perceive a need for a structured design approach to more sustainable business models. Our research question is 'What could constitute a design approach to envisioning sustainable business models?' We define a sustainable business model as the rationale of how a business creates, delivers and captures economic, environmental and social value. Our goal is to lay the foundations for the emerging practice of designing sustainable business models. We create a conceptual framework where we propose three inherent elements of a design approach: design tools, design process and design outcomes.
We justify each element of a design approach to more sustainable business models by reporting from our empirical fieldwork. By following an action based research methodology, we prepared 18 workshops with over 450 participants and 13 manufacturing companies to develop and validate our design approach. During this fieldwork, we created two design tools. The triple layered business model canvas tool that was born from a triple bottom line perspective expanding on the popular business model canvas. Twenty four business model pattern cards were also created to enhance the creativity of participants. For the design process element, we combined co-creation and design thinking processes to build on their strengths and answer for their weaknesses. Our third element focused on design outcomes. We generated 5 cases which demonstrated the coherence of our design approach at three organizational levels: strategic, tactical and operational.
In this dissertation, we join all three elements of a design approach together to envision more sustainable business models. From this we learn how the design tools support a structure, the design process builds on experience and the design outcomes offer direction towards. We then conclude on how our design approach relates to three types of practitioners. First, we recognize the link between our design approach with the creativity and instinctual qualities of designers. Second, managers and entrepreneurs are well served by our design approach because their participation contributes to establishing a problem context before inviting them into an exploration space where they can embrace how the elements of a design approach favours learning. Lastly, because our design approach is applied at a system level of a business model, sustainability experts are empowered to conceive radical improvements with new forms of analysis concerning the sustainability of organization as a whole. That is why we see our design approach as the means to initiate change in organizations by providing a positive vision of what a sustainable business model can be. In the end, we contribute to research on business models for sustainability by exposing how a design approach can serve organizations in supporting the process, tools, and outcomes of their transformations. To conclude, we address how our design approach is relevant to the research fields we explored and its practitioners. We then comment on how this practice of designing sustainable business models will influence the next century's paradigm.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts
Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies > Individualized Program
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Joyce, Alexandre
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Individualized Program
Date:August 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Racine, Martin and Paquin, Raymond and Cucuzella, Carmela
Keywords:Design, Design thinking, Business model innovation, sustainable business models, business models for sustainability, design approach, design tools, design process, design outcomes
ID Code:981551
Deposited On:09 Nov 2016 17:15
Last Modified:02 Apr 2019 19:44
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