The Business Model, a Canvas for Innovation’s Convergence

So where were you when this Business Design Summit was happening? Did you miss it? Well kick yourself if you are remotely interested in where innovation is evolving too. I missed going as it was a sell out fast but I watched the live streaming.  So I had a more detached view but let me give you the flavor of what is bubbling up around the Business Model and its Canvas where a new (and older) generation of innovation ‘tool-smiths’ are all converging in a growing community.

In Berlin, held at the Classic Remise Berlin on 19th & 20th April 2013, around 250 people gathered around the Business Model and started to bring together the converging aspects required in any Business Models design in tools, concepts, and methodologies.

Lucky for many that were unable to attend, the wonderful thing was that the summit also was live streamed and had a dedicated hashtag of #bdsummit. I watched it and got very caught up in the event. They plan to release the presentations and I think a whole lot more from this summit in outcomes through most probably the toolbox center to build better Business Models.

This summit became the place of the innovation ‘tool-smiths’ to meet and exchange so as to begin the forging and crafting of the new tools needed for innovation. These are aimed to help us in today’s and tomorrows world where innovation is more central within business strategic thinking.

Firstly, the Business Model meets one of today’s need

Unless you have lived under a rock, in a hermit’s cave or on a beach disconnected from the world, anyone remotely interested in innovation will have had business model innovation seared into their thinking.  Then you would be aware of the Business model canvas and the book “Business Model Generation” by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur and a core team of leading exponents, that included Alan Smith, Patrick van der Pij and Tim Clark and co-authored by 470 Business Model Canvas practitioners from 45 countries.

The Business Design Summits Objectives

The Business Design Summit had as its primary question: “Are the Business Tools you are using relevant for today’s world? It went on to ask “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them, instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking”.

So this was a summit of different concepts, tools and a host of the forward thinking people within the world of innovation offering the parts that are converging. The different speakers offered a rich diversity of ideas, suggestions and examples to stimulate your thinking. Each speaker contributed a tool and suddenly we had born a whole new community of “tool-smiths” crafting away within innovation.

The speakers included at the Summit

These included Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Patrick van der Pijl, Lisa Solomon, Lisa Chen, Luke Hohmann, Mark Johnson, Stefano Mastrogiacomo, Dave Grey, Karl Landart, Henry Chesbrough, Muki Hansteen-Izora , Steve Blank and Rita McGrath. Regretfully I missed one or two of the speakers as I got sidetracked within my day.

The visuals produced as these sessions developed were stunning.

Example of a visual recording, this is by @HolgerNilsPoh: A Business Opportunity Canvas by @mukiz from the #bdsummit

Apart from Holger Nils Pohl working away, I think there were lots of visual and graphic recorders busy capturing what was presented in terrific event maps. Each of these contributed and made it a visual feast. These visuals significantly improve ways to teach. More and more in our daily work, visual thinking will play an increasing part on the new tools needed in understanding increasing complexity and being quickly able to visualize it in today’s world and become part of our tool box for determining the next steps.

Some “stand outs” that I gained

It is hard to suggest one part was better than another, it was this convergence that made the event come together but for me the timely reminder by Mark Johnson on the strategic importance of the jobs-to-be-done cannot be ever understated. Jobs-to-be-Done are central to arriving at the value proposition as they should “inform” on the needs of the customer that present the new innovation opportunities, perhaps also needing new business models.

The second was Luke Hohmann and his innovation games, something I will need to explore a whole lot more. His tag line of “The Seriously Fun Way to Do Work—Seriously”.  This offers online and in-person games to help organizations to solve problems across the enterprise by using collaborative play to tap into true innovation.

Lisa Solomon who did such a fantastic job of being a main facilitator to much of the summit. She introduced her forthcoming book around Strategic Conversations and spoke about her work and teaching around innovation, leadership and design.

Of course, Alex Osterwalder had his usual high octane mix of presenting, tweeting, facilitating, just physically driving the summit along. He must be shattered after events like this, energized for what’s ahead but drained in the immediate aftermath. He was everywhere, the Innovation puppet master pulling all the strings of a well orchestrated summit.

Yves Pigneur did such a great job, introducing the BM Canvas but also in both wrap ups of “three minutes” to summarize each of the days sessions. The way he did this has some real lessons on how to recall and conclude succinctly.

Dave Gray and his evolving cultural mapping tool is yet another topic I need to climb into more following this appetite teaser “as a tool, the hammer sees everything as a nail… culture itself is a tool” where he introduces the tool steps of Evidence, Levers, Values & Assumptions. This seems a more diagnostic tool and I feel will develop the more this is progressed, improved and used.

Then the whole topic of where large corporations need to fit into this business model movement with the challenges and emerging issues discussed by Karl Landart and Henry Chesbrough. This is where the Business model canvas has to deepen its presence. The Business Model Canvas has still not fully found its way into large corporate culture, certainly not easily into the boardrooms. Time, short attention span and limited patience are real constraints. Should it- certainly yes, how it is going to happen is a real challenge.

This whole area or corporate challenge needs some real intellectual capital in solving this as it is a necessity for BMC to really take hold in large corporations. By the way, this was the best presentation in my opinion I have heard from Henry Chesbrough and I was intrigued by his emerging thoughts on providing a Corporate Conflict Detector.

Muki Hansteen-Izora( @mukiz) of Intel talked through their internal tool, a first in a public forum, the Opportunity Identification Tool or Canvas- the opportunity space is bringing their perspective into a conversation, developing up the essential components, and getting these rooted and traceable.

The summit finished with a conversation between Steve Blank and Rita McGrath around “the end of competitive strategy” Both are real influences within innovation, firstly they talked through the new playbook for strategy and where so much is due to change. The sum of this was that Organizations are still awfully reluctant to give up power, we simply can’t continue as we are, as all our ground is eroding and that long term quest for finding sustainable competitive advantage is rapidly disappearing .

Transient short term competitive advantage is taking the place of sustainable competitive advantage. This will become a “big idea” and influence our future in how we set about dealing with this. Rita is about to launch her book around this whole area in the coming weeks and I feel will “rattle a few cages” in a few boardrooms, when they read it I suspect.

Steve worked his usual magic of weaving both the start-up and established organization into much of this conversation. He provided numerous examples, spoke of the different “epiphanies” he has had on his customer process and where the link comes together in his work and the Business Model Canvas. Always throwing in the amusing story but always underscoring a powerful learning outcome.

Between Rita and Steve there was such a wonderful conversation between two deeply experienced people, full of knowledge to share, stories to tell and ways to bring these together in practical ways that you could relate too.  A great, great finish.

Are tools or ideas enough?  The world is moving really fast

My growing concern is not the enormous energy being invested in new tools and methodologies; these are good, really good, my concern lies still in the iteration process. The issue is do we crowd source these more and more, with growing built in bias, to keep improving on them as soon as an idea hits us or do we slow them down from “just being put out there” (alpha versions) to being better “beta” versions? I’m not sure when the right time is to release tools.

We have to remember Alex’s original foundation for his Business model canvas was a PhD and that was incredibly well-grounded and why it has taken hold to such a level. Steve Blank’s customer work has integrated his enormous set of experiences and lots and lots of experimentation but that comes in a fairly unique package.

Just having tools for tools sake is not the ideal place to go but tools, well thought through, placed out in the broader community to be experimented with, reiterated and improved is highly valued and needed. Finding the balance is going to be the key from all these tool-smiths.

Congratulations to the organizers of this Summit  

The Business Design Summit brought together an enormously talented group- could it have looked out into the future more, could it have debated more instead of the “tried and tested” listen and group work? Perhaps not, the group needed to begin to work together, to find a greater common language. To have this streamed was incredible and valued by us that were not able to attend. I offered this tweet to Alex:

Alex terrific day tweet.
But I do have a “what if” as my wish?

We do need to plot all the tools into the Business Model Map so we can have a more comprehensive roadmap of what tool or methodology fits where and why. I’ve love that to emerge from this summit. We really need a “live” mashup of all that is going on in a “dynamic” business model canvas environment so a growing community can all provide the next generation. I think this is where the summit has begun to provide a real momentum – the shifts we need to make “to teach people a new way of thinking.”

The next summit will be tentatively in Berkeley late this year or sometime next year.

amended version 27th April 2013

12 thoughts on “The Business Model, a Canvas for Innovation’s Convergence

  1. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for an excellent recap of the event. I was able to watch the live stream from the San Francisco Bay Area. I captured the tweets with a storify to include all of the voices reporting and observing the event here:

    I totally agree with your point that “we need to plot all the tools into the Business Model Map so we can have a more comprehensive roadmap of what tool or methodology fits where and why”.

    This is exactly the intention of an endeavor by over 60 members of the product management community collaborating on a product management body of knowledge grounded in the Product Management Lifecycle Framework developed by the AIPMM, Association of International Product Managers and Marketers. It essentially identifies what actions, decisions, functions, expertise and deliverables are required at each phase of the product’s life in 7 phases from inception through development, delivery and retirement.

    The Business Model Canvas captures the decision making on the front end and enables the strategic and holistic product thinking that used to be acquired solely by the product manager. The content, tools, and procedures are available, just not yet depicted with the elegance and cognitive simplicity that the canvas enables.

    It is an exciting time to be involved with product management, innovation and business process.
    Please be a showcased speaker on the Global Product Management Talk to discuss this further!
    To be scheduled, please fill out this form:

    I look forward to enjoying your insights.


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  3. Hi Paul

    I enjoyed your summary of the conference and look forward to being able to access the content online. On your final points I think we need to constantly assess how the tools are being used in practise and refine them based on field tests. But I would be wary of ongoing crowdsourcing of the tools since we could end up with a series of tweaks based on personal biases as you suggest. I have always looked at the need for educators, advisors and entrepreneurs to use a synthesis of some great work on entrepreneurship and apply it as the situation needs. Christensen’s work on jobs to be done and disruption, Geoffrey Moore’s thinking on early adopters combined with the work of Osterwalder and Blank provide a pretty good toolkit to pick from. It would be difficult to combine these into one framework that applied everywhere.

    I look forward to following your blogs in the future.

    Vince Bulbrook


    • Vince, thanks for your compliment. I think we need to combine both the “established” or “forward” thinkers- Christensen, Blank, Osterwalder, Moore where someone does do some better synthesising than present, plus we need these “toolsmiths” that Alex and his BM movement are exploring and encouraging. Combining them would give us the richer canvas to work from. Pulling it together needs a dedicated resource, deep knowledge and commitment to throw it open for others to build and deepen in input, understanding and use. A total Innovation toolkit.


  4. Hi Paul, thanks for your amazing blog. First I thought: “I haven’t seen you in Berlin” but reading your blog I learned you followed the stream. Amazing coverage. Cheers from Patrick


    • Patrick,
      I missed your early presentation, so I was unable to include any comment, although I would have loved too. What you do within BM Innovation keeps reiterating as we learn and one day we should find a way to meet up, I’m based in Ticino, Switzerland so if you find yourself in this part of the world, beat a path to my door or visa versa.


  5. Paul,

    Excellent detailed and comprehensive write-up. I myself was able to catch most of it via streaming during my biz trip in Frankfurt last week(very close).

    As well I do agree with you the Jobs to be done track by Mark should be imprinted within everyone’s mind as a giant take-away.
    He covered this in quite detail from his book and the HBS paperback book ok Business Model Innovation. I’ve always thought that this and Christensen’s work/approach ties in nicely with the VP Canvas.

    Henry Chesbrough track laid out some interesting new thinking on how to approach the open innovation business model conflict solving and future exploration within the Canvas.
    The tools do serve a purpose and should not be overlooked from a practical perspective.

    The event did exactly what it’s goal was!



    • Karl,
      I think you pick up on two of the essentials to bring more into BM thinking. The jobs-to-be-done has an even greater champion over at Strategyn. I think the two books, one written by Tony Ulwick “What customers want” and the recent one by Lance Bettencourt “Service Innovation” really do a more detailed build of all surrounding “jobs-to-be-done”
      Add that into the Christensen / Innosight mix and you have a fairly comprehensive roadmap of the understanding and difficulties within JbtD

      Henry began to bring to the top of mind the inhibitors within large organizations on the adoption of the BMC. I have written in the past on different ways to gain entry and establish the BMC into large organizations. Perhaps I should dust this down again. Take a look at


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