Three Questions for Staffan Hedén, Author of Business Model Innovation: How it Really Works

One of the great things about LinkedIn is getting to (virtually) know and interact with people who live far away from you, whom you might never meet otherwise. A good example is my connection late last year with Staffan Hedén, who leads Cecia Consulting, based in Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve long been interested in business model innovation, the topic of his new book. But in reading his LinkedIn bio, I became even more intrigued by his varied work and educational background, and his super-dedication to lifelong learning. Much of that is evident in a new article, “DBA graduate pens book on business model innovation,” from his alma mater, Warwick Business School, in the UK. I’m grateful to Staffan for answering my questions about the book, and his considerable professional and educational journeys. For the non-specialist reader, how would you characterize the basic premise of, and the research that went into writing Business Model Innovation: How it Really Works ? The idea that informed my writing of this book is that business model innovation is going to be critical in the next 15-20 years due to policies around sustainability, global connection, and climate change. I wanted to show paths towards how we can help create better companies and how we can make them live longer. We’re in a really exciting era of change in the business world so the goal was to be able to match up data with information to help business leaders be able to adapt to change going forward. It is critical that managers and executives can find strategies to stay calm in an environment that is changing quickly and constantly in ensuring stable and secure transition projects. My interest in research in this area began back in the 1980s when the question was whether this kind of data could really be used in the future. As I evolved as an action researcher, I developed a background of research using a variety of mid to large sized companies from a wide range of fields at local, regional, and international levels. I was able to conduct seminars, surveys, and one-to-one interviews, which then led to a rich data set that I was able to apply to my doctoral thesis. When it came time to write this book, between my business and academic experiences and the manual coding of the data that I have been using for the past 25 years, I was able to pull from both to select the best examples to highlight the themes, factors, and insights in this book. You have quite a varied educational background, earning a number of degrees over a long period, including two advanced degrees in recent years, well after you became professionally established. How have your educational experiences informed your life, at work and otherwise? It was never really a question of whether I would go back and forth into university. I was raised being taught that knowledge is valuable and I am a strong believer in lifelong learning, so it doesn’t matter what age or experience you have, education is always worth striving for. Within my working life I’ve found that education has been critical in forming networks and fostering relationships that can be brought into the workplace. You study with these small groups of people that focus on specific questions but after you move on you can always circle back to them when these questions come up again. It’s also key to remember that if you don’t learn today, you’ll be off the market quickly. Things are changing so fast these days, particularly in technology, so knowing that even if I don’t fully grasp the new concepts that there have been others who have studied and will be able to teach me and grow my skills. Education has informed much of my consultancy work by teaching me that there will always be gaps in my knowledge, but I have learned many techniques to seek knowledge so I’m confident those gaps can be closed over time. Being curious and adaptable works in every part of my life. I see that those who strive to always be learning something new are curious, energetic, and they have a strong belief and confidence in themselves. Between work and education, you have significant and varied global experience. How does this contribute to your ongoing work, study, and writing? This area of work and study has been my life for 40 years and is a deep interest for me. I’m passionate about understanding how people act, how they react and how they make decisions. I’ve always looked at how people feel about a situation and what they’re getting out of it. I can see this right back to one of my earliest jobs. I had to get to know people, what they wanted and what their goals were to be able to create a package for them. Research has always been part of my working life in one way or another, all the way to founding my own company. I have had the opportunity to use my curiosity to explore many different industries in many parts of the world. It really is in my blood. I have always had this desire to travel and explore the world. I was taught that I could find solutions in myself and in traveling in different cultures. It doesn’t matter whether I’m on holiday with my family or working on a brainstorming activity in a seminar, I can pull in different experiences and ideas because of the many roads I have taken. You can always learn whether from a formal environment like school or just from daily interactions and hearing other people’s stories and experiences. By being an observer, I’ve seen how experiences in different cultures and work environments feed new thoughts and valuable insights that I couldn’t have found without that broad perspective.