A! Space Revolution? Business Model Workshop @ Urban Mill on Thursday 29.8.2013

A group of eight space development professionals gathered around the same table in Urban Cave to think about the future of university campuses and possibilities of utilizing a business model approach in developing spaces. The purpose of the workshop was threefold: firstly, presenting the background of why the approach might be of use altogether; secondly, involving the participants and asking their opinions on the usability of the model; and thirdly, presenting the analysis which had been made on the data collected with the model earlier.

In the first session, major forces affecting our campus environments were presented: Technological change, increasing complexity, globalization and localization, increasing tempo and lack of resources were discussed. The event itself was a good example of the issues we we’re talking about: how difficult it is today to get everybody around the same table during these days as information is overflowing and as there are so many things going on in different communities 7 persons out of 20 invited could attend the workshop. The interconnectedness is evident. The approach of the business model canvas was compared with the approach of an integrated Corporate Real Estate Model (Den Heijer 2011) which is the most recent scientific campus management framework.

The participants got then hands-on and started working and familiarizing themselves with the Business Model Canvas (Osterwalder 2010) by modeling their understanding of the Aalto University Campus in Otaniemi. The groups’ understandings of the campus varied on different levels – even though the customer segments and value propositions were quite similar by nature, partner networks and descriptions of the other units varied group by group. Each group looked at the subject from slightly different perspectives and on different scales.

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As a communication tool between people the model seemed to anyway work quite well and that is the initial purpose of it. However, the feedback included proposals for getting more specific data around the elements and defining relevant KPIs, looking at Steve Blank’s approach, concentrating on key activities, only utilizing the model for conceptualizing and not for describing what already exists. So there is a long way to go but the model elements seem to provide a relevant platform for developing a new campus management model together with the integrated CREM model.

The second session was about feedback and the analysis. In a nutshell, the holisticity of the business model canvas was embraced but on the other hand, more specific data and KPIs were needed – which has become evident in the earlier critiques of the model. In order to make a general enough model, it needs to be simple but then you need other tools to dig deeper into any subject. Different levels of abstraction can be identified in all the analysis of the models and Urban Mill’s threefold operator model – community, ecosystem and space – is the next three-layered generalization to be tested. As a conclusion, the two models seem to provide a good starting point for developing a holistic model for university campus management which was the acid test for my work in the subject so the workshop was indeed useful for me and the participants.

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact:

Eelis Rytkönen, eelis.rytkonen@aalto.fi, 0405502477

Aalto University, BES research Group, Campus dude, doctoral student

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