Designing Invincible Companies with Alex Osterwalder

Barry O’Reilly is delighted to welcome Alexander Osterwalder, famed author of The Business Model Canvas, The Value Proposition Canvas and most recently The Invincible Company. Alex is also an entrepreneur and speaker, and one of the world’s leading experts on innovation and entrepreneurship. In this exciting episode, they discuss some of the aspects that help innovation and entrepreneurship flourish, including how business leaders can identify what they have to unlearn to be successful in the future. 

Failure is a Door to Opportunity

Oftentimes we overstate failure, and we don’t look for the opportunities that come out of it. Alex relates how failure often turned out to be a door to new opportunities for him. “I think you just have to be ready to embrace the surprises that life gives you and learn from every failure,” he says. He advises listeners to own their failures and don’t blame others. “If you focus on the positive, all of a sudden you know how to instrumentalize failure.” Entrepreneurs distinguish between reversible and non-reversible decisions, so they can make calculated bets. While failure is never the goal, it is an inevitable consequence and a good thing. You can become more dispassionate about failure if you view it as experimentation, Alex posits. [Listen from 2:35]

Designing Invincible Companies with Alex Osterwalder

Designing Invincible Companies with Alex Osterwalder

Listen and Subscribe to the Unlearn Podcast at

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You Get Better Over Time

You get better at innovation and entrepreneurship over time. Most successful entrepreneurs are 40 years and over, and have been through several startups. They learn what not to do through practical experience. However, Alex says, you also need to learn the technical aspects of entrepreneurship and innovation. [Listen from 9:30]

Stay Humble

“No company is invincible,” says Alex, “but companies that constantly reinvent themselves because they don’t believe they’re invincible, those are the ones who are going to stay ahead.” Staying humble and keeping the mindset that there is always something new to learn, some new way to reinvent your company, is the difference between growth and stagnation. Barry adds, and Alex agrees, that successful leaders are always creating scenarios that take them out of their comfort zone. Alex shares an exercise he does with leadership teams to help them visualize their current state, and recognize what they need to do differently. [Listen from 15:55

Create the Environment for Innovation

“As a leader you don’t pick the winning ideas; you create the conditions for the winning ideas and the winning teams to emerge,” Alex remarks. Research shows that only four out of every 1000 projects will succeed, so leaders need to foster an ecosystem for those winning ideas to surface. He describes a practical system companies can adopt to incrementally fund winning ideas. He emphasizes that innovation and execution must work in harmony to enable each other. Barry comments that entrepreneurs should ask, “How quickly can we get these ideas in front of people to see? Should we build it and then test? Can we execute it?” [Listen from 28:30]

Alex and Barry discuss why innovation is a moral obligation for companies. “My belief is innovation is almost a moral obligation – not to create more money but actually to create more stable jobs,” Alex says.  [Listen from 43:40]

Looking Ahead

Alex is excited about the boost of distributed work that the pandemic has accelerated. He loves that the software tools being adopted are leveraging human creativity, and sees huge opportunities coming out of this difficult period. [Listen from 47:00]


The Invincible Company: How to Constantly Reinvent Your Organization with Inspiration From the World’s Best Business Models 

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