Visualize your business model! Why?

Visual thinking is indispensable to working with business models*. By visual thinking we mean using visual tools such as pictures, sketches, diagrams, post-it notes to construct and discuss meaning. Because business models are complex concepts composed of various building blocks and their interrelationships, it is difficult to truly understand a model without sketching it out.

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We help you sketching out your business model in any style you would like to have. See here the example of Sellaband. Why is it so important to visualize your model? Sketching a model transforms it into a persistent object and a conceptual anchor to which discussions can always return. This is critical, because it shifts discourse from the abstract towards the concrete and greatly improves the quality of the debate. Typically, if you aim to improve an existing business model, visually depicting it will unearth logical gaps and facilitate their discussion. Similarly, if you are designing a completely new business model, drawing it will allow you to easily discuss different options by adding, removing or moving pictures around.

The benefits of visualization

Drawings can be more powerful than Post-it notes because people react more strongly to images than words. Pictures deliver messages instantly. Simple drawings can express ideas that otherwise require many words. Let’s examine four processes improved by visual thinking:

  1. Understand the essence. The Business Model Canvas serves as a visual grammar. By sketching out all the elements of the Canvas you immediately give viewers the bigger picture. Understanding a business model requires not only knowing the compositional elements, but also grasping the interdependencies between elements.
  2. Enhance dialogue. You improve the dialogue by visualizing your model as a collective reference point. The business model canvas then serves as a shared language resulting in joint understanding.
  3. Explore ideas. The canvas is like an artist’s canvas. It triggers ideas. And… provides the opportunity to play with the model and start the discussion.
  4. Improve communication. When it comes to communicating a business model, a picture is truly worth a thousand words. A BM visual is the best way to create a company wide understanding. In fact, a way to sell the model internally and externally.

We do visualization for you! in 7 steps

Visualization of the business model is a very important step in our methodology. We see our clients ask us more and more to make that work. Also online. We help you visualize your business model in 7 steps:

  1. Send us your Business Model (BM) in post-its, or written text
  2. We will challenge you on your BM composition through ‘live’ discussion (skype)
  3. We sketch your BM building blocks and their relationships in the style you like!
  4. BM is sent to you for discussion
  5. Edits are done if any on sketches and relationships
  6. Coloring is done if any and re-sent for approval
  7. On color approval and full payment final files will be sent.

If you need help on your business model to be visualized in any style, please contact us by skype, phone or email.

* source: Business Model Generation

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Sellaband Business Model Visualized

Picture 1 Although strategy consultant Ouke Arts had seen many businessess and business models before – he had a hard time figuring out how the model of Sellaband exactly works. How does their model differentiate from the established music industry players? Who are the clients of Sellaband? What are their activities? How do they sell their services? What are their core assets and how do they make money in the end? 

Ouke could not imagine he was the only one trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Would it be an idea to visualize the business model? Ouke contacted Sellaband owner Johan Vosmeijer to arrange a meeting to explore their business model. I (Patrick) joined Ouke and together with Johan we put the post-it notes in the Business Model Canvas. Interesting. We understood the business model is a Multi Sided Platform. This means that Sellaband brings together two or more distinct but interdependent groups of customers. Such platforms are only of value if the other group of customers is also present (source: Business Model Generation book by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur). In this case the Believers, Artists and Music Buyers. Johan got excited about the results of the session and said: “I would love to put the visualized model in my room so I do not need to explain it all the time.”

Together with Wouter Boog (JAM) we worked on the visualisation of the model. We translated the Business Model Canvas with post-it notes to visuals. According to the visual design process JAM developed, we first understand what the several elements are. Then we try to understand their relationship. The Canvas helps as the 9 building blocks are put in the right order. By means of several discussions and feedback Wouter drew the first version. IMG_1398

Ouke and I went back to meet Sellaband with a big poster drawn by Wouter. Now we had a meeting with Sellabands’ General Manager Dagmar Heijmans. We put the poster on the table and started a discussion. Can you explain us your business model? Are there things missing? We had a very interesting discussion how Sellaband is working on his business model from the start, creating various prototypes, learning by doing. But what is the advantage of this visual? “Let’s bring the other colleagues to the table” Ouke said. Dagmar invited his colleagues and the discussion started again. “Wow!”, one of the new colleagues said. “Now I know exactly how Sellaband is making their money.” “Very powerful tool!” 21072009409We concluded that Sellaband now has a common language when it comes to their business model. 

We concluded ourselves that the model of Sellaband is a very good example of how a complex business model at first sight can be easily explained through visualization with the canvas. The Sellaband model now serves as a case study in the Business Model Generation book that will be released in September 2009.  You can read all about it in the book.

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