There is no single right answer

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“Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury define negotiations as simply a matter of figuring out what you really want, what the other side wants and meeting in the middle to satisfy both parties’ interests. A problem that arises during negotiations is that people engage in positional bargaining instead of principled. This means that the focus is more on taking a side and defending it and then making concessions to reach compromise. I find that this same approach to negotiations is being used in the generation process for business models.

If you are still with me I apologize for digressing, but it was necessary to get to my main point. For the purpose of discussion I will focus on the newspaper industry, since there is a currently a scramble to come up with a business model to save them. Different models have been put forth from different institutions, experts, consultants and individuals from all walks of life, however just as with positional bargaining, their models tend to take one side. What do I mean by this? In generating their new models, the process is usually to first disprove the models that are out and come up with a “better” one. This coupled with the fact that, whoever produces the model that works hits the jackpot, makes this an inefficient process. Whether this process has worked before or not does not interest me at all, and I do not have a problem with the whole process. My problem is with the need to disprove all other models and then produce a right one.

I do not believe there is a single right answer to any solution. There never is. We live in too complex a world for the answer to be simply A or B. Back to my newspaper example; no two newspapers are alike for the same model to work for all of them. They have different audiences, in different geographic locations, with different cultures. What would work in the Midwest, may not work in California, let alone New York. What might work in one location, may not work in another, therefore making it easy to disprove a model, by analyzing it in a location where it does not work. They also have different goals. A case can be made that a shared goal is to generate revenue and maximize profit, yaddi yaddi yadda, however each paper has its core goals it wants to achieve. This makes it almost impossible to come up with a business model that will save the whole industry.

What do I propose? Compromise. The single best form of innovative development, in my mind is open source development. Instead of disproving old models, use them as a resource. Build upon them. Take the good parts from them and find ways of adding value to allow them to fit. This allows you to then take the model and apply it to different newspapers with different goals. Disregarding them completely has no value, because until implemented, it is difficult to determine what might work and what might not.

One institution currently doing this is CUNY. They developed four business models to try and solve the current newspaper crisis, and put them out to the public to “play” with. This gives us the opportunity to tweak the models and see what could work, and build upon it to come up with a model that works.

To end this rant, collaborate, share, find value in other business models, incorporate those in your model and be specific. Instead of having model A and B, shoot for model 1 and 1.5. There is no single right answer to any problem, which almost makes writing this post pointless. Hopefully you find some added value in this, and build upon it.

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