clb blog 2

Innovative business model part 3


#3: Visual Thinking

The Value of Visual Thinking
It was Extremely Boring – When I recall my memories that I had to spend lots of time writing a lengthy business model using a corporate template, the only term that comes to my mind is “Boring”. I’m sure you agree with me that the traditional way of writing a business model was not really efficient.

To save time and achieve your results faster, especially when using business model canvas, it is absolutely beneficial to keep it as visual as possible. To do so, you should use visual thinking techniques that allow you to easily discuss different objectives in a most visual manner.

You know that your business model has more than on aspect to look into and the complexity of a business model and the inter-relationships between 9 building blocks are inevitable. In fact, lots of entrepreneurs face difficulty seeing the big picture when that work on more than 1 starting point and inter-sections in their business model design. In case you are wondering why, it all goes back to lack of visualization skills.

However, using visual thinking tools such as pictures, sketches, diagrams, and sticky notes can greatly help you develop and design your business model in no time.

Let me walk you through a few absolutely amazing techniques

Visual thinking allows you to co-create your business model, have clearer discussions and make changes as you go.
Using visual thinking techniques work best for you when designing a new business model and making changes to an existing one.
Today, entrepreneurs and business owners rely on tools such as Microsoft Excel and other similar spreadsheet software to discuss their challenges, plans and reports.

It’s funny because visualization tools such as graphs, charts, diagrams, etc. are rarely used to discuss ideas, explore opportunities, and define business issues.
At this point I’m going to take you through the process of defining, discussing, and changing business models & help you understand how visual thinking can transform your business model design.

Visualizing with Sticky Notes.
Since you can’t write on your business model you need a set of idea containers to sketch on and move them around. Sticky notes are the most essential, must-have tools when you work on designing your business model canvas.

Having sticky notes in your business model discussions is absolutely necessary because it rarely happens that everyone immediately agree on one topic.

As you practice using them, sticky papers won’t be just a piece of paper anymore, instead, they represent a business model building block and become a vector for strategic discussion.

Here is a 3 steps guideline to use sticky notes in your exploratory discussions:

Use thick marking pens as it prevents you from writing details; it also makes it easier for others to read.
Only write one element per sticky note
Don’t write an essay; a few words per note would be sufficient to capture the essential point.

Visualizing with Drawings
It’s obvious that drawings are more powerful than words because you can instantly deliver a message with pictures.

One of the reasons that many people waste their time on spreadsheets is the fact that they were not exposed to drawing. You’d be surprised to see that a simple drawing can express ideas that otherwise require many words.

Let me give you a few examples:

Think of a smiling face, it conveys emotion right?
A bag of money and Dollar sign can refer to revenue.
A heart can convey a good relationship with your customers.
Drawing your customer and her environment to illustrate one of your Customer Segments using emoji help you understand her needs better
You see, that’s much easier that you think but the issue is that we think we can’t draw.

Of course I’m not asking you to replicate Shakespeare’s work, so you shouldn’t be embarrassed if your drawing appear unsophisticated or childish.

But your drawings will likely trigger constructive discussions and help the team to generate more innovative business ideas.


Capturing the big picture through Visual grammar.

If you have ever written a business plan or designed a business model using the traditional methods, you’d agree with me that Business Model Canvas template is more like a conceptual/functional map with corresponding grammar.

It clearly tells you which building block stands for what, and how should you work with it
Image you have a meeting with investors or stakeholders. You want to discuss your new business model ideas. Unlike spreadsheets or lengthy documents, your audience can immediately see the big picture when you’re sketching out all the elements of the Canvas.

Most of executives don’t like to go to certain level of details and would see such discussion as waste of time.
Using visual thinking tools such as sketching enables you to furnish them with just the right amount of information and help them grasp the idea, without presenting too much detail to distract them.

Enhance Dialogue through Collective reference point
It’s a fact that we all feel comfortable presenting an idea using our own jargon because we, like others, have tacit assumptions in our heads. Sometimes it becomes difficult for the audience to follow what we are talking about. Using sketches and posting an image is an absolutely powerful way to discuss ideas because it helps you convert your implicit assumptions into explicit visual information.

Besides, we can only remember a limited number of ideas in our short memory, let aside the inter-relationships of all 9 building blocks. Your startup business model design will no longer be a piece of paper with business jargon on it, instead, it becomes a tangible and persistent object that serves as a reference point for your participants to refer to.

Joint understanding: Get everyone on the same page!
One efficient way to achieve joint understanding is using visualization techniques.
Job descriptions, operational procedures, and even part of business plan might be very clear in many divisions of an organization but what’s certainly not clear is a solid grasp of the whole business model.

Involving all experts to jointly draw and design a business model develops a shared understanding among different functions of your organization. It is not limited to the big picture, because all inter-relationships between these building blocks are now visually clear to everyone.

Explore Ideas & Play
The fun part of visualization techniques in business model canvas starts after you put all sticky notes on the canvas and decide to move them from their current building block.

Your discussions are now more meaningful because everyone can clearly see what happens when you remove certain elements or insert new ones to the canvas.

For instance, what if we remove the least profitable Customer Segment? Depending on your business model pattern, should you keep the segment to attract the profitable ones? What happens to your costs and key activities if you eliminate that customer segment?

Only a visual model can help you speed up your process and clearly show you the systemic impact of modifying one element or another.


Telling a Visual Story
Story telling is one of my favorite methods to explain a business model. Although your canvas is a visual tool, presenting a full description may overwhelm an audience.

The best way to present it is to It’s better to introduce your business model piece by piece, whether you use power point or you draw everything on the spot. You can also pre draw everything on a few pieces of papers and place them on your business model as you present.

Here is an effective 4 steps approach to telling a visual story using business model canvas.

Map your business model
You can start by putting up a text based version of your business model.
Write each business model element on different sticky notes.
You can do this exercise individually or in a group
Draw each business model elements

Now it’s time to replace the text based notes with your drawing on the sticky notes
One at a time, take each sticky note and replace it with a drawing that represents the element.
Try to keep the images as simple as possible and do not get to the details yet.
Bear in mind that you are not expected to draw like Picasso, but make sure that your drawing can convey the message.

Define the story-line
It is important to decide how to tell your story.
Plan your presentation ahead and decide which sticky note should go up first and which one should follow.
Be creative and test it a few time.
Start from different epicenters and consider these two points
Which starting point are you more comfortable to begin with; it can be your value proposition, Customer segment, Revenue stream, etc.
What building block can have the highest positive influence on your audience
Tell the story
Rehearse as much as you need and tell your business model story one sticky note at a time
You can, of course, use a power point or presentation tool, however, it might just lack the intuitive impact of sticky notes.

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