Want to make a shift towards the next business model? Appoint a new CEO

  • Business Model Innovation
  • Design Thinking
  • Design your Strategy
  • Validate & Experiment

Don’t worry you current CEO’s, your job is not at risk. I am not talking about replacing you. I mean appointing a second CEO: Chief Experiment Officer (also known as CExpO). Why? Because there is a fundamental difference in running and optimizing an existing business (Chief Execution Officer) versus looking for new ways to create value and shifting towards a new business model (Chief Experiment Officer). It requires a different mindset which has a hard time flourishing in an execution environment if you do not pay specific attention to it. That’s the role of a CExpO.


All existing companies have an existing business model which makes that they generate revenue. The game there is to do this as smart as possible and to extend the value in that business model for as long as possible: incremental innovation. That is great! That’s what you’re good at and where you should spend the majority of your time and resources on (around 80%). A good way to make this work well is with an agile culture and structure.

But you need to realize that this environment, the structure and mindset are not getting you to think and act beyond your current business model. So, if you really want to make a business model shift (adjacent or disruptive innovation), you need to spend time and resources on that (20%). And you need another sheriff in town, a CExpO.

The role of a CExpO

The main role of the Chief Experiment Officer is to create room for learning and to transform the insights into future business value (and revenues). It’s about creating a solid base for innovation (based on a clear vision), designing different value options for the future, rapidly moving into the validation mode and making sure that you start realizing new value for your customers while validating.

That means a lot of things but some of the main ingredients are:

  • A strong vision: without a strong vision for the company you can innovate into any direction and not knowing if you are on the right track. Your efforts will not get traction. A compelling vision and story function as a compass and inspiration for those involved.
  • Changing the mindset: make sure that everybody involved in the search for the next business model (from top to bottom) is aware that it takes time and that the short-term currency is not dollars or euro’s, but insights and data. And that it requires a different mindset, skills and tooling.
  • Search KPI’s: make sure that everybody involved has (partly) an adjusted set of KPI’s which are focused on the search and not on short-term revenue or inflow objectives.
  • Structure: get people (physically) out of the building and their execution teams and work in multi-disciplinary teams; to create new perspectives and traction.
  • Tell the story: make sure that the valuable insights and successful new business initiatives are shared internally (and externally) so people see that this new mindset and approach leads to new business.

The question that arises is of course where the CExpO should be in the organizational chart. That depends on the company and its objectives. If the company is really convinced that you need to evolve into new business models to stay relevant and future proof as a company, the CExpO should be besides the CEO. Execution and search side by side. But it is also possible to be a CExpO in a specific business unit or for a specific country. In that case you do need to make sure that you have true buy-in from your superiors. And I mean true buy-in, not only by saying or on paper, but by heart. You need to believe in this. It’s should be part of the purpose of your company.

Hacks: start small and smart

If the idea of a CExpO triggers you, you can start immediately. Wherever you are in the organization. Here are two hacks how to start small and smart.

Celebrate your greatest fuck-ups
We have the habit to celebrate our successes. But the downside of that habit is that you try very hard to make every idea or initiative look and feel like a success. Although there’s great value in this habit, it does not stimulate the search mode. If you celebrate your greatest fuck-ups, you trigger people to go on the edge, to fall in love with the problem, to experiment, to fail and to learn from that. And there is the true value. So, stimulate yourself and the people around you to celebrate your greatest fuck-ups!

Create a war room

By making your vision, the different business model options you have and your search for new insights visual, you make it real. It structures your thoughts, creates a lot of energy and tells the story. You create a physical place which shows what you do and the progress you make. Changing the mindset bit by bit.

Excited to spar about what a CExpO can do for your organization or how to become a CExpO? Feel free to contact me.




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