Startup Advice

Canvas session done and dusted? For what comes next, you’ll need your brain

Vinne Schifferstein Vidal /

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Botown media founder Vinne Schifferstein Vidal. Source: Supplied.

The extremely popular lean startup methodology’ and the canvases available to practice it surely has its benefits — visually mapping out ideas, values, resources and their relation to each other is one of the best ways to develop a business.

I’ll share one piece of advice with you though. Be careful not to forget your brain.

I, myself, am a practitioner. I often use canvases provided by Strategizer. A few of my favourite and most utilised are the value proposition canvas and the business model canvas.  They are certainly helpful when it comes to structuring the mind and keeping yourself and the team in check, making sure you don’t miss any steps in your thought process.

But, as with most things in life, I’ve found canvases give their best only when used in moderation.

With the right approach from the beginning, you can create a valuable tool for your business. I’ve outlined below what I have discovered that approach should include.

Tick those boxes

Getting into a breakout room together with your team — with or without a consultant moderating the process — fuels you with energy and the hope of cracking the challenge.

You start filling out the boxes on the canvas. Post-it notes and sharpies fill the room and everyone is keen to have their ideas heard and up on the wall.

You may find that aspects of your business that have never been discussed are suddenly explored and picked apart.

Using canvases forces you to think about all the elements required to build a strong business.

For instance, Osterwalder’s business model canvas looks at nine building blocks, of which, the cost structure and revenue streams, are ultimately the key performance metrics to judge the financial state of a business.

All these building blocks are very relevant when starting your business, launching a new product or pivoting an existing proposition — and canvases are ideal for making sure this foundation is structured properly.

The devil is in the data

Usually, the energy during a canvas session is buzzing, and idea generation is always inspiring.

Capturing and keeping this vibe can be another matter completely.

Once all the ideas are out in the open and on the wall, the next step can be disenchanting.

First of all, stepping away and seeing the big picture takes some effort. And, finding the data to back the ideas isn’t always easy either. 

Sometimes the data doesn’t say what you would have hoped it would, and walking away from your conceptual baby can hurt. And, debating the validity of ideas as a team can end up suffering from either group think or concessions — neither turn out to be the most fruitful ground for good and feasible ideas.

So, here’s where your brain really needs to kick in, because playing devil’s advocate is necessary.

Often you need to do this with a different group of people than the group involved in the initial canvas session.

Make sure that every thought is backed by data as much as possible, and if you can’t back it up, try to validate your assumption in the market as much as you can.

Hear that? It’s your intuition

One thing you need to let go of before starting the canvas process is the thought or hope that after just one session you will have the solution to all your problems.

Canvases help you begin to put your brain into gear so it can solve a challenge that is on your mind.

However, it is simply a tool that assists in kickstarting this process — it can’t take you all the way to the end of it. That is what your brain is for.

And by brain, I mean both sides. Although data is vital and the canvas process is a logical one, a true entrepreneur should never dismiss their intuition.

It requires hard thinking and deep feeling about your personas and their real pain points, the actual gap in the market, the way your company can make money on the back of these insights and what your compelling value proposition is.

Just using a canvas as a box-ticking exercise is not going to make you the next Jobs, trust me. Or better yet — trust your brain. 

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Vinne Schifferstein Vidal

Vinne is the founder and managing director at Botown. She has global experience growing digital B2B and B2C businesses and in-depth expertise in marketing, publishing and SaaS. She has worked with many startups and scale-ups across the globe, leading fast-growth digital businesses for over 15 years.

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