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

A Business Model Canvas Set to Explode

I’d just finished a workshop on Business Model Canvas about gaining clarity in large organizations, when suddenly the flood gates seem to have opened up a day or so later, for me to see beyond and piece more of it together in my mind. After swirling around in this maelstrom of articles, tweets, new publishing, advanced announcements I had to gain some high ground to recover my breath and think a little more. Catching my breath, here is my clarity take and prediction for the BMC.

Ignoring lots of early warning signs

Maybe I should have seen this coming earlier but sometimes you hear a distant rumble but you simply shrug your shoulders and get on with your own work. This week it hit me so I spent some time piecing together different aspects around the shifts taking place on the Business model canvas that have been going on in different parts of the world for my prediction:

2012 is the BMC tipping point year

From what I can see is the Business model is about to go through a really important (further) tipping point and cross that chasm (thanks Geoffrey Moore) into mainstream adoption. Why?

The convergence of so many things seem to be coming about to make this about to explode. Let me try and piece these together. Those on the inside will knowingly just smile while those that didn’t know they were on the inside and those positioning themselves to ride on the crest of this wave will all just nod their heads and recognise their parts in this pending explosion, but it is a set of events that is bringing this all  together.

Firstly the Macro events- those outside our own control but happening now.

  1. Key Trends– the foresight part. Society, Technology, Socioeconomic are all shifting or altering shape. We use technology more, we are being challenged more in society and the rapid behavioural interactions of individuals and groups through social capital and social “markets.” The formation around the new social norms of Facebook, twitter and numerous other social media is disrupting much of the existing norms
  2. Macro-economic forces have changed dramatically. Global market conditions are very much living on the edge, capital markets are drying up by the day, money is going under the mattress more and more, banks are stopping to lend to business, Economic infrastructures are tottering on the brink, commodities and resources are dramatically dwindling or becoming more scarce that prices are rising way out of the old norm (gold for instance).
  3. Industry forces– the incumbents in many markets are being challenges. The difficulty of letting go, of being ruthless, of radically altering the existing business models is moving to slowly. New Entrants, those insurgents, are beating at the door and blazing new paths. The supplier and accepted value chains are being attacked and altered. Stakeholders are demanding more and more and the amount of substitute products and services abound.
  4. Market forces are altering. The traditional market segments are altering before our eyes, new needs and demands are expected to be satisfied at break neck speed. Market issues rise and fall catching many slow to respond in the net of destruction. Switching costs are falling, like stones around organizations necks dragging them down and dramatically altering the revenue attractiveness of many.

Now let’s go climb into the micro stuff- getting down and dirty.

The current business model everywhere is under these powerful macro attacks. Business models need to become slim lined, leaner, rapidly ready to be bundled and then quickly unbundled, to react at speed. They need to be quickly seen for what they offer so they can attract the attention of others and show you (or me) where the value is. Business models need to shout “show me the money”  and “show me the reason” in these times so we do a swift sweep of the approaches to Business models and the Business model canvas comes quickly into view to help in this.

Each business model has its time- BMC is entering its time.

So why do I think we are entering a new tipping point for the BMC? A ‘potted history’

The amount of seeding that has already taken place

If you follow Alexander Osterwalders travels you will see he has been on a crusade to spread the gospel of the Business model and why his (and Yves Pigneur’s) canvas works. It has been going through a classic adoption curve. Firstly the curious who worked on a collaborative book with him (about 470 people from 45 countries) in different shapes and contributions with an amazing end product on the revolutionary design of these labours- the Business Model Generation book, published in 2009. This was firstly self published and then picked up by Wiley (smart move that).

Alex is spreading the word according to the BM gospel, that the Business model needed a common voice, a common language. He demonstrated everywhere the ease of the BM canvas so ‘all around’ were recognizing the value of this tool in many different situations as valuable, so a BM can be understood, easily and quickly. He demonstrated this could be a major advance on what we presently use in having to explain our business models and took his message out across the world last year and seemingly continuing in 2012 but perhaps a little more focused.

Finding a common language is one of the critical tenets that Alex has been arguing with his Business Model Canvas approach- I think we are getting close on this. Here is some of the events merging to make this happen.

Then we had a set of different Epiphanies

The realization by Steve Blank ( that the Business model could be incredibly useful for his area of work on the customer and venture capital investment sides. The BMC suddenly was manifested into something of more meaning and value. He went about wanting to find a solution stack for Entrepreneurship. He combined his work on customer development and Business Model Design. He argued the canvas needed to be moved beyond a tool for brainstorming hypotheses and it needed more formal ways to test them. He then alongside Alex, saw the canvas could be a wonderful scorecard for visually tracking iteractions as they changed. Others not so deeply involved could use this as a change dashboard of seeing real learning as a Business model evolved.  Lastly, when you are pitching for funds the canvas provides a top picture that others can quickly see and appreciate the why and how- they ‘see’ the value and the $$ potential and how it constantly evolves as the entrepreneur learns from exposing the business concept.

Then enters Eric Ries and the famous “pivot” that enters our main stream thinking for business and political explaination of what we are doing and why we made a change. Eric Ries is the creator of the Lean Startup methodology and the author of the popular entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned and provided us one of the more exciting books “The lean start up”(  ) on how today’s entrepreneurs sse continuous innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

As Eric explains the concept of the pivot, is the idea that successful startups change directions but stay grounded in what they’ve learned. They keep one foot in the past and place one foot in a new possible future. Over time, this pivoting may lead them far afield from their original vision, but if you look carefully, you’ll be able to detect common threads that link each iteration. By contrast, many unsuccessful startups simply jump outright from one vision to something completely different. These jumps are extremely risky, because they don’t leverage the validated learning about customers that came before.

So these events have brought together customer development, start-ups, the entrepreneurial environment and the lean/agile movement- a set of giant leaps and validations for the BMC but we needed more.

Continuing in our convergence

Then we are faced with the arrival of ‘plug-ins’ – a beginning of a set of toolboxs for working with BMC. Firstly for the iPad that combines “the speed of a napkin sketch with the smarts of a spreadsheet”. This app enables you to map, test, and iterate your business ideas — fast. As the iPad app was released and is now available on the iTunes App Store and for those with questions, challenges or comments, Alex and his team have created a forum for discussion around the iPad Business Model Toolbox to learn from and develop beyond.

As an additional add-in post post I forgot to mention that AO and his team have shifted their (software) company name to Strategyzr. The reason is that they have a vision beyond the business model: the goal is to integrate all the best (visual) tools and weave them together to an integrated toolset. Something that Steve Blank would call the solution stack. That’s their breaking vision.

The site of Alex’s is www. and it is been undergoing a quiet reconstruction to structure the different aspects of the BMC concept to make it more ‘holistic’ where you can go for tools, knowledge, about the book, forthcoming events, blogs, a forum and a place for a growing community. For example back on Dec. 31, 2008 they had 148 members. By book publishing that grew to 470 members and recently they welcomed the member # 5’300 on Nov. 19, 2011! All busy contributing to the evolution of the BMC, all building knowledge and getting involved.

Michael Lachapelle, an administrator on the Business Model Hub but actually far, far more,  recently commented  that for some time now he has been experimenting with a couple of plug-ins to help clients work out the details of their value proposition in the business model. He has used the Value Mapping tool from the Board of Innovation, and the Whiteboard value map that is described in Cooper & Valskovitz’s Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development. He also experimented with some of the approaches in Ash Maurya’s Running Lean; in particular, identifying three key problems and three solutions. So ‘Apps’ are rapidly becoming the new muscle for BMC.

He goes onto comment “one of the best approaches I have plugged into the customer-value proposition analysis is the ‘job-to-be-done’ approach of Clayton Christensen and Mark Johnson”.

Then we enter late 2010 and early 2011 and connect some seperate parts.

In early 2010 Mark Johnson, a cofounder of Innosight published an alternative book for solving Business models, called “Seizing the White Space”. It is a very different book to Alex’s but it comes from a very different perspective- one that is written by a strategic consultant that looks at the challenges from a larger organizations perspective to Business models.

Mark offered a most helpful four component model for every successful business model exploring a compelling customer value proposition (CVP), a winning profit formula and key resources and processes. He raised the critical area of jobs-to-be-done and why it was important to focus on unmet jobs customers want to get done. He linked existing core space in existing enterprises and offered thoughts and approaches to exploring these white spaces.

Recently I heard that Alex and Mark have been exchanging thoughts on how and where there are fits and ways to collaborate together. That piece of convergence was or is important. It brings some excellent skill sets together if it can be worked out.

Early January 2012 a new plug in prototype

In the first few days of January of this year Alex provided his next step where he has been thinking even more about “plug-ins” that complement the Business Model Canvas for a while. One concept he had been looking at more closely over the last few weeks is the invaluable “jobs-to-be-done” approach. In his work-in-progress he is wanting to turn this concept into a visual approach like the Business Model Canvas (BMC). The result is a prototype conceptual tool, the Customer Value Canvas v.0.8., that he present in this blogpost

He explains that he originally set out to design an ultra applicable, simple, and visual Canvas for the (customer) jobs-to-done-concept with his  motivation to create a dedicated and complementary Canvas that helps organizations sketch out and analyze the fit between their value propositions and the customers they target in a more granular way than the Business Model Canvas mapping does.

The result is his endeavour at a prototype conceptual tool, the Customer Value Canvas v.0.8. He has been testing this out over several iterations of prototype concepts, test runs with workshop participants, try-outs students, applications with my own team, and several conversations with my #bmgen site buddies and co-author of the book Yves Pigneur.  It seems he has arrived at a result turned out to become a mash-up of several approaches from various different thinkers but trying to absorb the JOBS canvas concept, where he started.

So far so good- now to moving more into 2012 and the ongoing BMC roll out

Saul Kaplan of Business Innovation Factory fame ( ) or BIF has written his book, due out in April 2012. Saul suggests Business model innovation is the new strategic imperative for all leaders. Today, all organizations must be capable of designing, prototyping, and experimenting with new business models. His book The Business Model Innovation Factory provides leaders with the survival skills to create a pipeline of new business models in the face of disruptive markets and competition

Saul’s observation is exactly right. Business models don’t last as long as they used to. Historically CEO’s have managed a single business model over their entire careers and that is just not going to be the case in the future or even know.

Self-reinvention is the new imperative

As Saul pointed out in October 2011, in his article “Five Reasons Companies Fail at Business Model Innovation ( ) for the Harvard Business review blog where he suggests companies routinely fail at self-reinvention because they are so busy pedalling the bicycle of their current business models they leave no time, attention, or resources to design, prototype, and test new ones.

Saul & Alex are combining on Friday Friday, September 21, 2012 following the BIF-8 Summit, so those that participate in the BIF can get their hands ‘dirty’ with Business Model Innovation collaborators, Saul Kaplan and Alex Osterwalder, in an exclusive Workshop digging into the challenges and opportunities of business model innovation, “an emerging but still poorly understood discipline” as suggested by the promoting of this event.

Their aim here is for developing and experimenting with new business models that  transform how a company delivers value (while continuing to drive the performance of your current business model) as this is one of those real exceptionally difficult points.

The argument is to compete in a world where the “shelf life” of business models is shortening, leaders need the tools, skills, and experience to envision, test, and implement new business models. Moreover, successful organizations will establish an ongoing process to explore new models for delivering value—even those that are disruptive to current operations.

Business Model You hits the stands! Get your copy.

Changing Times, Changing Business Models- enter Business Model You. Much of today’s job market turbulence is driven by factors beyond our personal control: recession, sweeping demographic changes, intensifying global competition, environmental issues, and so forth and enters the one page model for re-inventing your career. Go to the preview here

Then we have the meeting in Berlin in November  2012 (dates to be fully confirmed)

This is ‘billed’ as the Business Design Summit. This is where a group of invited (?) parties come together to understand, design, rework and find better ways to implement Business models. The emphasis will be on greater use of new web applications, the growing input of design into BM’s and perhaps where the Business model generation comes together, to create the future.

So I just see much is merging, combing and making BM the talking point of 2012.

The arguments for BMC are getting compelling; there are a lot of forces at work. We are moving well beyond mobilization of the Canvas we are in the era of the buy-in. Of course we all have to get comfortable before any ‘bar’ is lifted. The reality is the goal posts have dramatically shifted on the need for new Business models than ever before. Just go back and read the macro analysis here again.

The build will occur thoughout 2012 and this meeting in Berlin will consolidate as well as push out I’m sure.

Reality will dictate we are facing multiple industry breakpoints in 2012.

There is a once-in-a-decade or our lives set of events heading our way. Can you spot the signs? There is a growing possibility that there will be falling demand for standard and existing products, they will need some radical overhauls. The pressure on declining margins and sources of sustaining profit are drying up, competition is going low cost, low price in many areas. The application of new technologies continues to disrupt existing approaches to business, we have more (over supply) of sources of supplies and new entrants are pushing new value curves supported by completely different economics. It all is getting disruptive and this will cause new behaviours that will make it even more disruptive.

There is a time, a certain time, when we all have to reach for the napkin, sketch out as new business model or dozens of them and then set about validating them. As the speed of disruption ‘kicks in’ even more the Business Model Canvas and all the growing associated tools, techniques and methods will be needed more than ever.

I’d recommend getting going on knowing this BMC framing device inside out to keep in pace and touch with considerable change in the need for new business models.

Shifting perspectives

We have seen the significant shift from internalizing to externalizing through open innovation. In seeking differentiation, businesses have had to loosen up and give up some of their ‘control’ in these face changing times. The world is heading for an even  more dynamic and complex place where you have to find a unique position in the market, and one that quickly builds on competitive advantage seen through the eyes of your customer not from within your four walls.

For me there is something intuitive about the BMC approach.  We all must simply empower everyone, to go out and seek increased value from new BM’s, often seen but not captured in its interpretation. We need to simply communicate this quickly, on one page and well that’s the real power of the Business Model Canvas, for any organization, large or small.

Business Model Canvas will become adopted as a main stream need, it will explode (or implode) in our thinking- one way or another in 2012– as we deal with so much change about to occur.

Multiple Use of the Business Model Canvas

Recently I was having a ‘conversation’ with Alexander Osterwalder concerning the limited adoption of the Business Model Canvas within large organizations. I was asking him if he agreed and if he had any thoughts on this.

Now if you know Alex, he is either jetting off to somewhere in the world to keep spreading his Business Model gospel, or about to get immersed in his next idea associated with it, so these conversations are grabbing him through twitter or short email exchanges.

Short and sweet

Excellent! One thing I’ve seen: once the Canvas is in an org it spreads organically, virally without my intervention… interesting research topic!”

Those of you in the business world that have either been hiding under a rock recently or obviously as it seems, in a number of larger organizations, the Business model canvas comes from the pioneering work Alex did for his PhD. This was published not just in his thesis but in a bestselling book, as lead author, called ‘Business Model Generation” Also take a look at his site :

The books claim of “You’re holding a handbook for visionaries, game changers and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models, and design tomorrow’s enterprise” on the cover, it sets itself up for the imaginative person striving to alter the status quo within their business.

Without doubt this book weaves design throughout, to give you a visual feast through its canvas approach. It leads by example in wanting to replace or alter the more established business book with its style. It is a beautifully designed book to enhance the pleasure of reading it and it is not a typical business book, it conveys the essentials that you need to know quickly, simply and in a highly visual format.

So what is holding the large organization back?

I’ve previously commented Business model innovation meets one of today’s business needs. Many of the tools we have relied upon for decades just simply do not ‘articulate’ the job on hand. Models enshrined in business folk law like Porters 5 forces, Boston matrix and a host of others gave insight, were very analytical, but gave declining comfort on foresight and this is what is needed today.

the times they are a-changinbob dylan

We have seen the significant shift from internalizing to externalizing through open innovation. In seeking differentiation, businesses have had to loosen up and give up some of their ‘control’. The world seems more dynamic and complex, it is a place where you have to find a unique position in the market, and one built on competitive advantage seen through the eyes of your customer not from within your four walls. The business model captures ‘breaking’ opportunities and clarifying existing value propositions, so why this lack of uptake?

Often a potential problem is to do with it’s positioning- for the BM is it:

  • Alex spends an incredible amount of his engagement time with entrepreneurs, small business owners and to a far more limited degree, I sense, within the larger organizations. Is this one reason? There is only a certain amount of time and I’m sure Alex has to be selective with what and where he wants to deliver this message across the world. He might though, need to draw in a fellow BM disciple, who could focus and spread the message to the larger organization as his ‘patch’.
  • Is his message skewed towards the entrepreneur more? Even the subtitle on the front of the book might be a little challenging to the incumbent. “You’re holding a handbook for visionaries, game changers and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow’s enterprise”. Maybe those (the majority in large organizations) find this more of a “oh, I wish” but are simply not sitting in that sort of position to change the world? Maybe the book needs a mini-repositioning? Or a further one where a new book brings all the ‘collective’ knowledge that has been learnt since the first one, all together as a companion, or as a field guide?
  • Is it also because it might be hard to imagine that you can capture a complex picture within a one page canvas? Within large organizations you deal in pages (I mean pages) of business plans, marketing plans, briefing papers and countless justifications. Could a business model be captured so easily? Well actually yes, if anyone is wondering.
  • Is it partly because the Business model does not have enough of a blueprint of proven techniques or follows a more (comfortable) descriptive process, yet to be fully established? I’d argue that this has dramatically been changing in what I saw in a recent workshop given by Alex- it is going more along that route but perhaps not there yet, for wider adoption or ‘comfort’ for some. Perhaps it now requires a more radical ‘layered’ supporting structure that underpins the canvas? Or you simply shout “get on the train, it is about to leave without you”
  • Or more than likely, it is far more to do with that classic ‘lead and lag’. Larger organizations are slower in adoption; it is just a matter of course. Be this in new technology, new processes, social media or a host of new things they tread more cautiously, they are slower to adapt. Those that get ‘it’ internally spend often frustrating months, sometimes years, trying to convince others to make a change, to change a process, a planning structure, even a widget within an established product that often holds it back. Then the CEO reads it in a magazine, hears it from a friend and away we go. Why not buy him/ her the book and save yourself the time and trouble!

Irrespective of the answer to any of the above, my question here is: “can they afford to keep on ignoring a brilliant tool? One that will help them ‘galvanize’ the understanding of their business model and provide an amazing tool to explore other potential ones?

I would argue to the large organization “simplicity can sometimes be deceptive” and just find the time and really focus upon the potential that lies within the Business model canvas. It is a powerful tool in the right hands. Let me suggest a number of reasons here:

So the BM Canvas and its value to large organizations.

BMI provides an increasing value, my opening set of arguments.

  1. It can help discover new perspectives on challenges, also new perspectives on solutions.
  2. These perspectives can be new insights, new customers, new resources and new channels.
  3. Framing BMI in the canvas approach can underpin the Business Case through the nine building block analysis and provide a great one page justification.
  4. It can define needs- needs in the market, needs required from solutions and their impact. It can compliment ‘jobs-to-be-done especially.
  5. It can investigate value propositions (ranking, impact, capability, competition).
  6. It can help investigate higher impact propositions (value- based, enhanced economic, applications etc) to stimulate internal thinking and greater generation of potential BMI’s.
  7. It can form the basis of any model for showing where the money lies in potential profit, the possible costs and the resources needed.
  8. It can help in evaluating competition or watching for new entrants if ‘it’ or you understand the needs of the customer and where opportunities might lie.
  9. It can explore and explain consumer thinking (pre and post discovery and execution) in easy visual ways.
  10. It can be used as a neutral observer, uncovering opportunities or validating them in other industries that today may not be relevant but need to have a ‘watch’ placed upon them.

My other powerful argument lies in the yet to be fully explored multiple uses:

I call these my “large organizations eight powerful reasons to adopt the Business model canvas” and place all the options in front of you, to be explored, to be tested, to be given a decent trial.

These are:

  • To simply explore new business models as the book originally sets out in the how, what and where of doing this through the canvas approach.
  • To ‘map’ changes to existing business models as they evolve or need to pivot differently. There is a growing body of work on the pivot by Steve Blank and Eris Ries. This is not exclusive to the entrepreneur, where they have tended to focus but much of their thinking can be applied to the larger organization to learn, understand and gain from ( and ). Just spend some real time on these two sites, it is time well worth spending to learn and challenge your current thinking on many approaches to your market and knowing the different value generation points in any engagement with your customers.
  • To sketch out competitors positions to explore possible opportunity gaps should be one of those consistent ‘habits’ that so many large organizations often have a real blind spot to undertake and then get caught out and surprised when they see their share slipping away. The BM Canvas can spot and track competitors.
  • Use it as a dashboard for innovations that have an impact on existing business models. Whenever you have any major BM change you capture it on your BM Canvas so all above and below can see the change. Again Steve Blank has been pioneering this concept for using the BM Canvas to ‘signal’ significant changes that he as a VC investor really only needs to get involved in. This can apply also as a ‘trigger’ point for communicating significant changes happening, up and down the organization.
  • Use it to compare business model components across countries where different models are being applied to build businesses. This enables all involved to quickly focus on the differences on these operating models and market formations to get quickly at strategic discussions. This gives the visitor clarity and draws out critical ‘talking points.’ for allowing the visiting fireman to actually say more than “how can we help” but “let me show you ways to be safe.” It brings everyone onto the same value proposition and to rapidly explore the different options far more quickly than through those countless power point slides we have all endured, explaining each of the factors within the market. It gives business reviews a (fantastic) template. Try it!
  • When you are pitching for funds it provides the top picture that others can quickly see and appreciate the why and how- they ‘see’ the value and the $$ potential, Again this has been grasped by some of the more enlightened venture capital investors, just wanting to know where the money is coming from, and then when the changes occur, as they always do, why the ones running the business made the changes from the original BM proposition. This offers ‘intelligent enquiry’ not getting involved in the running of the business but supporting owners or business managers with appropriate experience to compliment theirs.
  • To have ready alternative scenario’s for volatile business conditions as ‘early ready’ that have mapped out potential changing conditions and where and how the business model might be adjusted or radically changed. The earlier ‘warning system’ pays in volatile times and we are all facing those at present.
  • Rapid concept brainstorming to move into prototyping evaluation and market testing. Testing many different variations in small bite sized bets is rapid prototyping, do this through the effective use of the business model canvas. Testing fast in the actual market place new business models and then learning from them to improve the approach is absolutely critical. Get the customer involved.

Just consider all of them. Learn the basics then experiment and you will not look back. I will be doing some more research and validation in the coming months on these, hopefully with large organizations willing to open up to this exploration and thinking.

Find a common language is simply needed

I do think the Business Model Canvas is about to go through a (further) tipping point, that crossing the chasm into mainstream adoption. Finding a common language is one of the critical tenets that Alex has been arguing with his Business Model approach. To find this common language and recognizing the value of this tool in many different situations can be valuable.

Gaining this common voice to the business model, so all those around can understand it easily and quickly, is a major advance on what we presently use in having to explain our business models. For me there is something intuitive about the BMC approach. But to then empower everyone, to go out and seek increased value from new ones seen, that can then be communicated on one page, well that’s the real power of the Business Model Canvas, for any organization, large or small.