Freeing the Business Modelling process from a results-oriented lens

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Publication Details

Output type: Presentation

UM6P affiliated Publication?: Yes

Subtitle: introducing a socially responsible Dimensions of Capitals perspective on venture design

Place: virtual

Publication year: 2021

Languages: English (EN-GB)


Attempts to address social, environmental and sustainability issues within business modelling have extended from the cosmetic to the incremental to the modular (Henderson & Clark, 1990, Laasch & Pinkse, 2020), and frameworks from the grounded to the theoretical (Osterwalder, Pigneur, & Clark, 2010, Zott & Amit, 2010) have been innovatively tweaked.

All of these extensions however share the same meta-ethical consequentialist or utilitarian perspective, which is unsurprising since this is one of two prevailing perspectives in business schools and the other (legalism) stems from within internally focused disciplines less inclined to inflect business modelling rethinks (e.g. accounting, HR, applied law, MIS). Alternative perspectives include personal integrity/values-driven, following nature and skepticism towards any formal ethical system (Idelson, 2018, Inglis & Lau, 2012).

We also note that five dominant designs (McGrath, MacMillan, & Tushman, 1992) shape the business patterns of contemporary societies. They are: money (Dalton, 1965) that jump-started early economies; benchmarking that enabled comparative performance assessment and fraud detection in early 1st millennium AD hydraulic empires (Arnoux, 2003); 12 centuries later, visualization techniques, that became so pervasive in Europe in all matters of disciplines that (Crosby, 1997) coined the term “pentametric mentalité” to describe it; double-entry bookkeeping that decoupled business ownership and business management, enabling periodic profit-taking (Gleeson-White, 2011), centuries before (Smith, 1776) coined the term “capital”; and limited liability and its antecedent, private property, that deepened the owner-manager distance (Berle & Means, 1950). We argue these five disruptive technologies form the micro-foundations of modern capitalism.

We propose to use the plastic notion of capital to holistically reappraise the process of business modelling agnostically from a meta-ethics perspective.
Our literature review identified fourteen types of capital in use in various areas of applied social science research on business activity and the wider economy (accounting, communications, economics, finance, human resources/organizational behavior, international business, law, management, marketing, operations management, political science, strategy).
We argue nine of these are conceptually redundant and five dimensions of Capital suffice to comprehensively grasp, design, appraise, articulate, or orchestrate any venture, be it an ongoing or nascent concern, be it for profit or non-profit, be it public, private or hybrid, be it formal or informal. Extending Financial Capital (Marx, 1894, Schumpeter, 1962, Smith, 1776) beyond its Accounting roots, this plastic notion of Capital can now be understood to encompasses four other complementary dimensions: Human Capital (Pigou, 1928), Social Capital (de Tocqueville, 1840, Simmel, 1910-11), Cultural Capital (Bourdieu, 1979) and Natural Capital (Schumacher, 1973).

We propose to use our Entrepreneurship Education practice (2006-2021), wherein were produced 192 new venture business plans for-profit and non-profit, and 824 international business plans for 10 existing ventures in 8 industries and assess them from this perspective of five-dimensional Capital creation, transformation, preservation, exploitation, depletion and destruction (Idelson, w.p).

Finally, we argue for a sustainability-mindful reform of Accounting standards as the only avenue from which sustainable development goals may be institutionally addressed, leveraging this framework.

Accounting Reform; Business History; Capitalism; Communities of Practice; Cultural Capital; Entrepreneurship Education; Finance; Human Capital; Natural Capital; Social Capital; Sustainable Development Goals.

Author and Affiliation
Marc Idelson, Africa Business School, UM6P (Morocco)


accounting, business history, capitalism, change management, communities of practice, entrepreneurship education, law and finance, sustainability


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Last updated on 2021-10-09 at 11:27