Business Model Canvas Iteration, and Marshmallows

– Business Model Canvas Iteration and Validation

Business Model Canvas iteration by Alexander Osterwalder

I have a love hate relationship with Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas. Steve Blank uses it brilliantly in his Lean Launchpad class, I’ve had less success using it in my own curriculum.

Part of this is the format of the canvas itself. There are some small things about the canvas that irk me from a user experience perspective, like the fact the canvas starts (left to right) with Key Partners, but I’ll get into that in another post.

tl;dr Skip to the end and start iterating!

Teaching the Business Model Canvas

The other part of my general annoyance has more to do with the structure of courses where it’s taught.

The one month program I designed for TechBA was condensed we could only spend a couple days devoted to the Business Model Canvas. We could have put more time on it, but teams wouldn’t have had enough time between sessions to do a reasonable job of customer development. (Especially since many of their customers were not local to the venue.)

So despite the excellent job Victor Reyes did teaching it, there was insufficient time to really dig into the nitty gritty of the canvas and iterate on it. The same thing is the case for those who simply read a blog post, fill out the canvas, then bury it in the drawer.

So unless you have someone like Steve Blank handy to badger you every week, I’m skeptical this is the universal, off-the-shelf tool it’s cracked up to be.

The moment a Business Model Canvas becomes a static document is the moment it becomes useless. Click To Tweet

If it’s just another dead piece of paper, you may as well write a business plan. It’s just as valid to take six months to write a business plan and then ignore it, as to take one day to make a Business Model Canvas and then ignore that.

Don’t waste your time.

Make Habits, Not Plans

Steve Blank is likely more successful using the canvas for a couple reasons:

  1. Lots of experience (duh)
  2. 10 week format

With a 10 week format, entrepreneur teams determine their riskiest hypothesis (with the advice from mentors), get out of the building to gather data, then adjust their business model canvas for the next round of feedback. In this way,

Business planning must be a habit, not a one time occurrence Click To Tweet

The same is true of any User Experience (UX) design artifact or lean startup tactic. Do people change over time? Do we expect more features? A better experience?

Yep.

If your user persona isn't changing over time, you're no longer innovating. Click To Tweet

Iteration is a Habit

Stay Puft Marshmallow Anti-Lean StartupLots of people get by just fine without the Business Model Canvas iteration. At the end of the day, it’s one of many paradigms to view your business through that may help you.

If you don’t use it, that’s ok. You can still be a lean startup, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man fat, or whatever you want to be.

But

If you're going to use the Business Model Canvas, do it right! Click To Tweetif you’re going to use the Business Model Canvas, do it right!|]

Every week, block time with your Business Model Canvas. It should be a regular time boxed slot of no more than 30 minutes so you’re not spending endless hours in a terminally dysfunctional meeting filled with ego and false assumptions.

  1. Throw away the assumptions you disproved last week
  2. Dump and sort your new assumptions
  3. Prioritize the hypothesis you will test this week
  4. Get out of the building