Theorizing and Strategizing with Models: Generative Models of Business Models

30 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2010

Date Written: May 31, 2010


The ambiguity around model-based science is witnessed by the proliferation of meanings of the term business model. We argue that a clearer specification of the analytical, theoretical and ontological validity of models is an opportunity to learn about and understand complex organizational phenomena more systematically. We apply this to research on social entrepreneurship and pro-poor business models that has been criticized as being atheoretical and conceptually ambiguous. Business models are presented as narratives that integrate various actors, actions, stories, and outcomes without a clear perspective of why these elements were selected and what we can learn from them. This paper outlines an explicit modeling process as an investigative tool that enables transparent and systematic theorizing of business models. Using an illustrative case study, we develop a generative model that accounts for the social mechanisms that explain how business models achieve multiple strategic objectives and multiple dimensions of economic and social value creation.

Keywords: Business model, social mechanisms, generative model, retroduction

Suggested Citation

Seelos, Christian, Theorizing and Strategizing with Models: Generative Models of Business Models (May 31, 2010). IESE Business School Working Paper No. 857. Available at SSRN: or

Christian Seelos (Contact Author)

Stanford PACS ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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