When technical and business students get together to work on a new venture or project, what common language and tools do they use?
The innovation canvas is a tool for teams to develop integrated product designs and business models. The canvas focuses attention on critical technical, market, resource, and execution issues that can determine the success of a new design or venture. The canvas inspires innovation by focusing attention on the difficult challenges from multiple perspectives and encouraging the rapid revision and alignment of critical themes.
For engineers, the innovation canvas improves product and service development by including business and market themes in the development process. For entrepreneurs, the innovation canvas improves business model generation by incorporating high level design themes as integral components of the venture vision.
For educators, the innovation canvas is a teaching tool that integrates product and market themes in design and entrepreneurship courses. The canvas merges engineering and business content in a collaborative and iterative environment that can result in improved product designs and business models.
As the canvas concept and tools are rapidly being adopted by practitioners, this prototype innovation canvas is presented to make the tool available to a broader group of engineering educators, designers, and practitioners - we encourage you to use it, and we would appreciate hearing your feedback on its utility.
What if there were a tool that encouraged technical and business experts to work together to create the business model and offering through a process more closely aligned with how it happens in a successful venture?
That is the question behind the Innovation Canvas. The answer has the potential to impact education and practice in design, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
"In entrepreneurship and innovation education, the design, innovation, and entrepreneurship processes are often modeled as step by step processes, chapter outlines, or some other structured format. In reality, the processes are anything but structured and far from orderly or linear. They typically contain intertwined relationships and a process of jumps, loops, roadblocks, and pivots. Success or failure is often reached in mysterious ways though a team approach and management of a broad range of technical, people, market, and execution issues." -- Bill Kline
The Innovation Canvas includes four quadrants of Explore, Ideate, Design, and Market surrounding the core themes of creating value, thus it
- encourages both sequential and simultaneous thinking,
- encourages repetitive testing and refinement of the themes and basic building blocks critical to the development of the business model and product or service offering
- promotes a team-based approach, where team members populate the canvas according to their particular perspectives and needs
- inspires innovation by making visible the connections, interactions, and alignments among themes across the canvas
- approximates the reality and complexities of developing a successful business venture through its lack of start points and end points.
In practice, a team interacts with a poster sized version of the canvas and populates it with Post-It notes of critical information for each theme.
- This makes the experience more physical - team members interact with the canvas
- The use of color and Post-It notes aligns the experience with "fun" or "creativity"
- Post-It notes also set an expectation that input may be temporary and subject to change
The idea for the Innovation Canvas
was expanded upon at an event called "unconference" and was inspired by the work of Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, in which they looked at a 'business model canvas' and documented it in their popular text Business Model Generation.
The business model canvas is a great tool for business model development and innovation but it includes only a cursory consideration of the product or service offering. For ventures or projects involving complex technical products or processes, product design decisions including functions, features, and components must be merged into the development of a successful business model. The Innovation Canvas includes product design themes and enables simultaneous development and innovation of a successful business model and business offering.
Where do we take this concept from here...?
Currently a prototype, it is available for use by educators, designers, and entrepreneurs - use it, test it, and provide feedback on its utility. We are currently testing it in design, entrepreneurship, and systems courses at Rose-Hulman and other partner schools. Test it and send us your feedback. (For more about the Epicenter "unconference," visit our Innovation Blog.)