Article | Harvard Business Review | January – February 2011

How to Design a Winning Business Model

by Ramon Casadesus-Masanell and Joan E. Ricart


Most executives believe that competing through business models is critical for success, but few have come to grips with how best to do so. One common mistake is enterprises' unwavering focus on creating innovative models and evaluating their efficacy in standalone fashion—just as engineers test new technologies or products. However, the success or failure of a company's business model depends largely on how it interacts with those of the other players in the industry. (Almost any business model will perform brilliantly if a company is lucky enough to be the only one in a market.) Because companies build them without thinking about the competition, they routinely deploy doomed business models. Moreover, many companies ignore the dynamic elements of business models and fail to realize that they can design business models to generate winner-take-all effects similar to the network externalities that high-tech companies such as Microsoft, eBay, and Facebook often create. A good business model creates virtuous cycles that, over time, result in competitive advantage. Smart companies know how to strengthen their virtuous cycles, undermine those of rivals, and even use them to turn competitors' strengths into weaknesses.

Keywords: Business Model; Design; Strength and Weakness; Competitive Strategy; Competitive Advantage;


Casadesus-Masanell, Ramon, and Joan E. Ricart. "How to Design a Winning Business Model." Harvard Business Review 89, nos. 1-2 (January–February 2011): 100–107.