Business Model Innovation: How Iconic Business Models Emerge

Laure Cabantous (Cass Business School, City University London, London, UK)

Business Models and Modelling

ISBN: 978-1-78560-463-8, eISBN: 978-1-78560-462-1

ISSN: 0742-3322

Publication date: 27 October 2015


Despite ample research on the topic of business model innovation, little is known about the cognitive processes whereby some innovative business models gain the status of iconic representations of particular types of firms. This study addresses the question: How do iconic business models emerge? In other words: How do innovative business models become prototypical exemplars for new categories of firms? We focus on the case of Airbnb, and analyze how six mainstream business media publications discussed Airbnb between 2008 and 2013. The cognitive process whereby Airbnb’s business model became the iconic business model for the sharing economy involved three phases. First, these publications drew on multiple analogies to try to assimilate Airbnb’s innovative business model into their existing system of categories. Second, they developed a more nuanced understanding of Airbnb’s business model. Finally, they established it as the prototypical exemplar of a new type of organization. We contribute to business model research by providing an elaborated definition of the notion of the iconic business model which is rooted in social categorization research, and by theorizing the cognitive process that underpins the emergence of iconic business models. Our study also complements research on the role of analogical reasoning in business model innovation. Finally, we complement the market categorization literature by documenting a case of the emergence of a prototypical exemplar.



Tatiana Mikhalkina and Laure Cabantous (2015). 'Business Model Innovation: How Iconic Business Models Emerge', Business Models and Modelling (Advances in Strategic Management, Volume 33). Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 59-95

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