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What to Do Against Disruptive Business Models (When and How to Play Two Games at Once)

Established companies in industries as diverse as airlines, media, and banking have seen their markets invaded by new disruptive business models. The newcomers succeed not only by stealing customers from the established firms but also by attracting new customers into the market. As a result, established companies need to decide how to keep their existing customers while taking advantage of the new ones.

One options is to use existing business models to cater for both markets. Another is to develop a new business model specifically for the new market. This is not an easy decision because entering a new market can be risky. But if a firm decides to do so, it must decide on what business model to adopt and then make sure that the new business model co-exists peacefully next to its existing business model.

Based on research into 65 companies that chose to enter markets created by disruptive business models (including Nestl_, Edward Jones, Waitrose, Reuters, and Tesco), the authors say that established firms should develop new business models that are different from their existing business models and different from the business model of the disruptor. However, designing these business models is not only difficult in its own right but also raises the challenge of how to operate two different and conflicting business models in the same company.

The authors argue that the usual prescription of creating a separate unit to house the new business model is not enough. The company needs to achieve a delicate balance: establishing enough separation between the two business models to avoid conflicts, but not so much to take advantage of synergies between the two. To achieve this balance, the company needs to create an ambidextrous organizational environment.

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