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Using design tools for strategy & innovation

Patrick van der Pijl
CEO of Business Models Inc & producer of the Business Model Generation

How can visual tools help the innovation process? Patrick van der Pijl, CEO of Business Models Inc, explains why thinking like a designer can improve the way you work.

Business Model Generation book


We live in a time where little is predictable. Many organisations, both profit and not-for-profit, navigate a space where competitors appear overnight and unexpectedly, customers demand monthly innovations, and business plans rarely last a full year.


Organisations are looking for new revenue streams, new ways to add value for their customers and new business models. To achieve this, we need new skills, new tools and a new mindset.


Think like a designer

In today’s world, CEOs and (innovation) managers need to think like a designer and use visual tools for strategy and innovation. These tools can be used to make complex issues simple and understandable, to create future scenarios, to generate different options and to develop prototypes. No more lengthy business plans full of Excel sheets, with numbers no one reads or understands.


Visual tools are easy to understand by everyone in an organisation and help you to co-create with your full team. They help you unlock the potential within your organisation, collect all feasible ideas for a future strategy, engage your full team and make strategy an experience.


Business Model Canvas

The Business Model Canvas is a strategic and visual management tool that allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model. It helps you create a business model around your idea and find out how you really add value for your clients and partners.


On one sheet of paper you map out your complete business model, which can then be easily shared with other members of the organisation, partners or stakeholders.


In our innovation consultancy projects, we use the Business Model Canvas in combination with a multitude of other visual tools. For example, our Vision Canvas helps you map out your aims in a visual way, while our Context Canvas lets you visualise the context you are operating in. Depending on the results you want to achieve, you can select i need to order tramadol different visual tools.


Business models beyond profit

Particularly in the social sector, we see that there are a lot of ideas to improve the sector and make the world a better place. But people find it difficult to make their ideas concrete, actionable and also profitable.


In the end, being ‘profitable’ is also an important aspect in the social sector, as you cannot operate a sustainable business without profit. We call this ‘profit with a purpose’. One section of the Business Model Canvas is called ‘revenue streams’, but revenue doesn’t always mean money. It can also be the impact you create with your business, or a combination of revenue and other value.


That’s why the Business Model Canvas is also a perfect tool for social entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organisations. We have studied and worked with social models and have seen features that characterise social business models. These models often apply the same patterns, such as multi-sided platforms (combining a free platform with a revenue-generating side), working with volunteers, providing education programs or offering freemium models (where you get the basics for free, and pay for more).


Use visual tools to make innovation concrete

In order to be able to use visual tools, you need a completely different mindset, so forget (almost) everything you learned during your business classes.


First of all, you need people in your innovation team from different kind of backgrounds – not just your management team, innovation managers and entrepreneurs. It has to be as diverse as possible.


Plan your strategy meetings beforehand and decide which visual tools you need to get the results you want. For example, do you want to create a shared vision, a new business model or a new product/service for your customers?


Using the Business Model Canvas, or any other tool from the DIY Toolkit, you can then think like a designer and change the world!


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