Business Model Generation & Engaging with Visual Graphics

One of my clients turned red and burst out “They are eating our Lunch!” last year. He was belatedly aware that it wasn’t just the GFC or an industry recession that was causing his sales downturn. Instead a new competitor was stealing his market share. The recent start-up was using web direct ordering with a mobile distribution channel. This cut him out of the supply chain – a classic disintermediation play.

Technology and turbulent times are creating alternative business models in almost all industries. The impact of the web is changing communication channels and streamlining distribution. This creates new business opportunities that are threatening traditional models and incumbent businesses that prefer the status quo.

Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) World

Kevin Roberts, the CEO of advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi pitches to multinational CEOs around the world. He said recently that most are wondering how to plan and grow in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world full of ‘black swan’ events like the Libyan turmoil, tsunamis and earthquakes. Kevin announced that strategy was dead and that “surfing opportunities” is the new order.

I call it the ‘Serengeti desert’ scenario – there are many opportunities lying out there like fresh carcasses in the desert. The first few to find them get a profitable feed and the last to arrive pick on bare bones. Having a sense of urgency and being nimble pays – get in quick, know when to get out and keep searching for the next opportunity.

So how do organisations innovate and keep up with the rapid pace of change in a VUCA environment? Clients don’t want old-school management consulting and “sold by weight” hefty strategic documents– they want miracle workers with powerful tools!

Perhaps you’ve noticed that people don’t read much anymore – they are too busy. I was with a CEO last week who pointed to a two foot high stack of strategic reports that he had not yet read – let alone absorbed, ratified or heaven forbid – had time to implement!

In order to get a CEO’s attention, advice has to be short, quick and to the point. To be implemented by the whole team it has to engage hearts and minds. Teams have limited resources – time, energy, attention, money and staff. If you want your strategy to get implemented, it’s time to try some new techniques that appeal to busy people of all ages – it’s time to think Visual!

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Business Model Generation

>A new book called Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder et al and is based on a website of the same name and is a terrific place to start your visual learning journey. There is even an ipad application coming soon too to make these models even easier use!

The book provides a set of useful tools for developing strategy, opportunities and new business models including ideas for canvas, patterns, design, strategy and process.

Nine Building blocks are covered in detail – Customer Segments, Value Propositions, Channels, Customer Relationships, Revenue Streams, Key Resources, Key Activities, Key Partnerships & Cost Structure

A chapter of the book gives examples of new BM patterns including Unbundling, The long tail (for example – Amazon), Multi-sided platforms including models like Free! (like Google) and Freemium (like Skype) Even the popular – Bait & hook model (like Gillette, HP Printers and Nespresso), Outside in or inside Out models, Open Business Models, Crowd sourcing and others

The book covers a range of hot Design techniques including Customer Insights, Ideation, Visual thinking, Prototyping, Storytelling and developing better Scenarios.

Graphic Facilitation and Graphic Recording are great techniques to engage groups in the business modelling process. I couldn’t draw to save myself yet have been a big fan of visual graphics since doing a graphical facilitation and drawing course with Donna Mc George of PEP ( She introduced me to the work of David Sibbet, Grove International in the US ( ) – strongly recommended templates and tools) and the IVFP

Visual Meetings – How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping can Transform Group Productivity.

The book contains a huge range of eye-popping visual tools that you can print out or draw to really energise your retreats and meetings.

When people work visually they have better ideas, make better decisions and are more committed to producing better results. The visual outputs from planning events become great co-created artefacts for the team and assist later implementation.

I have been using visual planning with CEOs and execs now for many years and am always surprised how my scribbles and drawings become the basis for executive group discussions and problem solving. A picture is truly worth a thousand words.

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Two other visual solution books I would recommend are:

The back of the Napkin by Dan Roam – all about solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. Teaches you a whole new way of thinking in a few hours.

Gamestorming – A playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers by Dave Gray et al

Contains 80 games to help you break down the barriers, communicate better and generate new ideas, insights and strategies.

This book has a range of tools and techniques for encouraging group engagement, innovation and creativity.

Get better results from shorter meetings, more communication and collaboration happening.

Implementation is everything if you want to be known for results! – have a read of Dan Heath’s book called Switch – How to change when change is hard. Dan uses some techniques similar to lean manufacturing to get things done. Try the 5 steps to successful change:

  1. Start with small changes
  2. Repetition gets results!
  3. Celebrate ANY Improvement
  4. Use Planning not Willpower
  5. Commit to others & get Help!

Develop 12 week Celebration Cycles (lean thinking) because it takes 6 to 8 weeks to change a habit!

Another book on Business Models has a different yet useful approach – “Seizing the White Space”- Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal -a book by Mark Johnson, published by Harvard Business Press.

Best Wishes from Big Dave!

Find out more by contacting David Staughton today and booking him as your next keynote speaker!

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