If you’ve ever read the fantastic book ‘Mastering the Requirements Process’ by James & Suzanne Robertson, you’ll be familiar with the ‘Brown Cow’ model. If you’ve not read it, I’d highly recommend you get a copy, and in the meantime you might want to watch this short video which explains it.
The ‘brown cow’ model gets its name from English elocution lessons where well-to-do students were taught to annunciate correctly by repeating ‘how now, brown cow’. When used in a business analysis context, it reminds us that we tend to start a situation with a “How Now” view, a current state.
The brown cow model has two dimensions: it separates the ‘real world’ from the ‘conceptual essence’ (how vs what) and it separates what’s happening now from what could happen (now vs future). Although it isn’t designed to be used in a strict order, one way of navigating it when looking to understand problematic situations and solve them strategically is to look at the situation through all four of the brown cow ‘lenses’. It is usually the ‘above the line thinking’, the redesigning of the work between the ‘what now’ and the ‘future what’ where the innovation really starts to take shape. See the diagram below: