From Structure to Process: Dynamic Aspects of Business Model Change

Irina Atkova and Petri Ahokangas


Business model, complexity theory, case study


Purpose: Extant research on business models does not address the question of business model evolution. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to explore how we can capture the dynamism of business models.

Approach: We examine the applicability of the principles of complexity theory as an approach to capture the dynamic aspects of business model change. Longitudinal single case study was chosen as a methodological strategy.

Findings: Complexity theory allows capturing dynamics of the business model evolution. It does not picture a business model as a static snapshot but reveals how a new business model comes to be as a result of an intricate interplay between business model elements. In turn, it allows tracing the connection between the elements. This perspective assists in capturing emerging, as well as disappearing business model elements enabling us to understand and explain how business model evolves. Additionally, complexity theory helps to comprehend the connections between different business model elements. The complexity theory approach emphasizes the multi-dimensional nature of a business model allowing to understand the dynamics of the business model evolution by looking at the different levels. Additionally, complexity theory perspective reveals that dynamics of the business model evolution is predicated on different processes. It implies that contrary to the current attempts of the extant research to develop business model kinds and types, complexity theory allows appreciating unique nature of any business model without trying to classify or categorize it.

Value: Understanding the dynamics of business model evolution helps to reflect on business model design and anticipate consequences of change.