Monday, February 28, 2011

Learning with the Business Model Generation’s Canvas

Synchronicity. That is the best word I can come up with to describe my first introductions to ‘Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionairies, Game Changers, and Challengers’ - simultaneously via my neighbours the Ortelli’s who know lead author Alexander Osterwalder and rightly thought it was a book I would love, and via my Hub Geneva collaborations with Patrick Keenan of The Movement who’s partner Alan Smith led the handbook’s design. Thank you all!

It aims to help people understand and methodically address the challenge of business model innovation. It addresses the questions:
- How can we systematically invent, design and implement powerful new business models?
- How can we question, challenge and transform old, outmoded ones?
- How can we turn visionary ideas into game-changing business models that challenge the establishment - or rejuvenate it if we ourselves are the incumbents?

Not the typical strategy or management book, it is designed to convey the essentials of what you need to know to work with business models quickly, simply and in a visual format. Examples are presented pictorially and the content is complemented with tools, exercises and workshop scenarios you can use immediately.

Having incorporated the core tool - the Business Model Canvas - in a couple of workshops, there is plenty of learning to share. So here I write up some of my own process notes to help anyone else interested in using the Canvas in a workshop setting when time is limited. It is a very participatory, learner-centred, peer-learning approach.

Using the Business Model Canvas in Workshops

1) Set Up: Mount a very large Business Model Canvas (approx. 6 flipchart sheets) on a wall. Mark on this the block names: Customer Segments; Value Propositions; Channels; Customer Relationships; Revenue Streams; Key Resources; Key Activities; Key Partnerships; and Cost Structure. (See sample in photo above.)

(If you are dealing with ‘Beyond Profit’ business models, you may like to add also Social and Environmental Costs; and Social and Environmental Benefits as described on pp265.)

2) Understanding the Canvas Blocks: Having prepared ahead of time an A4 sheet for each block - on which is written one question that best guides people in determining what content goes in each of the canvas blocks - ask participants to randomly pick a sheet (e.g. place them face down and ask them to select.) Depending on group size people may get more than one or may share one between a few people. Ask the group to read silently the questions on their sheets and consider which block the question relates to. Once they have a good idea, ask them one at a time to read out their question and suggest where it belongs. The rest of the group then says whether they agree or think it belongs somewhere else, and - once there is consensus - stick it on the wall-mounted canvas.

For example, for the block ‘Customer Segments’ the question on the corresponding A4 sheet may be along the lines of: “To whom do we offer products and services in response to their problems / needs?” Continue until the group is satisfied that all the questions are in the right blocks.

Already the group is actively engaged in establishing understanding of the different Business Model Canvas blocks, and participants are helping one another learn about it along the way - rather than listening to an ‘expert’ present it to them.

3) Detailing the Features for Each Block: The next steps also require some advance preparation. This time it is post-it notes (or ‘stickies’); lots of them! For each block, write up a handful of examples or prompts, drawing from the material in the handbook if desired. For example, if we take Customer Segments again, we know from the previous step that we are looking for clients to whom we are offering products and services in response to their problems / needs. In this step, the post-it notes might include: mass, niche, segmented, diversified, multi-sided, and so forth - with a brief explanation of each. Take the group of related post-it notes, and stick them to an A4 sheet labelled with the block title. So for each block on the Business Model Canvas you an a sheet of prompts.

Repeat the process for step 2, asking people to choose a sheet and then determine - as a group - where the post-it notes belong. Note that these prompts are not necessarily the answer to the question “To whom are we offering products and services..?”. Rather they just provide a means to better describe the business model, so we can say, for example - “we offer our services to X, a niche market...”

4) Designing Your Business Model: Once the the group has constructed this canvas, complete with questions and prompts, it’s time to dive into working through an example. I like to divide the group into small teams and have all these teams work on describing a "business" that is known to everyone - such as their own! Then when they present back, consider where there is agreement and where some divergence is present. A great launch pad for the next step - considering what the business model could be!

I hope this helpful. Perhaps one last thing - the ISBN: 978-2-8399-0580-0. Happy Modeling!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Make your business cards “Moo”

As learning practitioners, we are always looking for new ways of engaging people and helping people learn. When it comes to helping people learn about what we do, we have a handful of cards up our sleeve. Moo cards. We love them - and we think that you will too.

Moo cards = business cards with a difference. Ours are mini; only half the width of a normal card. We have 50 different designs in full colour on both sides. We created them ourselves on the Moo site. And they are printed on paper that is sustainably sourced, as well as acid and lignin free.

Each of the 50 designs features one of our photos. Each highlights a diverse aspect of our work - so if someone is beckoned by our blog they can have a business card with our blog on it; if they are seeking systems thinking and crazy about causal loop diagrams - hey presto, a card to match; or maybe they want to get their fingers on some of our favourite books... a card featuring our bookshelf!

Of course, we also enjoy saying “here, take a look and take your pick”. They get a photographic tour of what we are all about. We see some great conversations sparked and engage in great two-way learning. And of course, they get a great card they chose (and chatted about) which means they are much more likely to remember us and keep in touch.

Go a step further and we can design our business cards into our learning and facilitation processes. For example, if we want to divide a group into teams for group work, we could hand out a selection of our business cards (ensuring that there is the appropriate number of duplicated or themed cards) and use them as the means by which the group organizes itself into teams. They pay attention to our card - which has a valid purpose in the process - and they get to keep it afterwards, which means less work networking after!

These are just some reasons why we love our Moo cards. Visit the Moo site and subscribe to their creative newsletter for stacks of ideas helping you to help others learn about you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What to Do With the Stack of "Reading"? Creating A Personal Knowledge Management System

Confronting Your Reading Pile

I have been writing about my spring office cleaning exercise, and that has included much frustration about what to do with an enormous stack of great articles in a "Reading" pile. Do you have one of those?

I pawed through it; it is really excellent stuff, titles from David Stroh's "Leveraging Change: The Power of Systems Thinking in Action" to  "5 Insightful TED Talks on Social Media" from the Mashable blog- all great information that I want, but I just don't want it right now (and especially don't want it taking up prime real estate in my tiny office).

Information is a Flow

Of course when I do need it, realistically, the last thing I will do is paw through that stack to find the most appropriate articles. Even putting them in topical files (like in the old days) seems like dooming them to the dark corners of my filing cabinet - and so many of them would have multiple filing locations, so I would have to go through many files anyways. Enough to put me off of that.

There is a limit, and a kind of perverse unintended consequence in this type of system in that the larger the pile grows the more good information that is there, true, but the more time it would take to go through it and therefore lessening the likelihood that I will spend the time to "query" the pile for information. Plus, let's be super realistic, in the face of that I would probably just Google anyways. Information is now a flow and not a stock.

The Search Revolution

However, Google has its limits too. Some work has been done to filter out good stuff, say, from the 8.7 million results that you get when you put "informal learning" into Google. We are now using our Friends as filters, whether real friends or the mavens  in the topics we care about. To use this new Search system cleverly we just need to  know who knows what and who is doing what. So I follow the leaders, and they throw up good tidbits of information that are useful and interesting, but again too much and often not what I need at the moment when I find it.

So I do need some type of personal knowledge management system that I can query, that is between "I'm Feeling Lucky" of Google, and my former OCD response of printing and carefully "filing" by placing on top of the stack of reading under the table in my office.

Personal Knowledge Management System - Building for Scale

Please do not do the math (as in how long would it have taken me to just read that stack), I just spent some hours (still in the single digits) putting every single still-interesting article in my stack into Evernote (as in "Remember Everything").

I will admit that this whole process of converting paper to online links took me longer than needed as I first linked the sources through my Delicious account (thinking it would be great to share this good work with others - still a good attitude I think). Only to be informed by my husband, a tech news devotee and generally up on all this stuff, that the talk on the street is that Yahoo (owner) will soon close Delicious. So, I went to Evernote. After I got the hang of it, it was pretty easy to just open the Delicious links in new tabs and copy the content of the article with the URL into Evernote, adding a tag called "Articles". Although it took time, the system now is built to scale  -as in, it can get as big as needed and is still as useful as it would be if it was a small resource - unlike that pile of papers, which can only get as big as the table top, or the ceiling if I wanted to live like that. It's useful because it is searchable by content, not just tags (like Delicious) or titles (like in a paper file I would skim).

Filtered Resources On Demand

It is also more useful as the content of the articles will be stored locally in Evernote on my devices (laptop, iPad) as well as on the cloud, so I can read them on the plane (yes, I could also read paper, but I would have to carry that around, and still have to do something with it afterwards to be able to refer to it later - choke up my GTD files, or back to fire hazard under table).

Now I can recycle those papers, and still query them electronically by any word I want through my Evernote interface. And I can add more as interesting things come in from the people who know. This is just one part of a greater Personal Knowledge Management system, as there are lots of other go-to places for knowledge. However, I am feeling good now about managing those articles and other resources that really stand out. And I rest easier knowing that this was an initial set up investment of time, and that upkeep will be faster.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of an enormous pile of reading hitting the recycling bin!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Connected Facilitator: What's in the Online Toolbox?

Full disclosure: I ran a workshop at the  International Association of Facilitators Europe Conference a little while ago on Facilitation and Web-based Tools. It went well, and the participating facilitators were enthusiastic users and happy to share. We did a quick mass collection of what and how people were using different tools - I diligently took down the flipcharts and promised to send out the results.

Well, in an office clean today I found those flipcharts, buried in a stack of papers. Hmmm, to keep my promise, I thought I would share the results. If any of you who attended read this post - I will apologize profusely and sincerely hope that "Better Late Than Never" is actually true. A sheep seemed to be the best picture I could use for this blog post.

So here they are, a list of tools that this group of facilitators reported using (I have checked, added some notes, and updated them where necessary). Some of these are obvious and some a little less so, in any case it is an interesting snapshot of what web-based tools are in a facilitator's online toolkit:

  • Creating and posting video clips to be played in face-to-face events or a WebEx event when participants/speakers cannot attend live, or to save costs or carbon, or just for additional time-restricted content (e.g. you need an on target 5 min clip and not a speaker who will go over by 10 min);
  • Using video clips as an information and learning source for facilitation ("Facilitation" has 2,970 YouTube video clips available today);
  • Uploading videos of you in action for promotion of your facilitation work (and to answer the "What is Faciliation?" question as you would answer it);
  • Uploading videos of your work for funders as a part of evaluation or reporting process;
  • Uploading video for participants of projects and events in addition to or replacement of a written document (as in a final "video report").
Blogs (e.g. Wordpress or Blogger)
  • Sharing written blog updates relating to facilitation work and linking them to your company or institutional website as information about your work;
  • Blogging for knowledge sharing on facilitation;
  • Setting up a new blog to support a particular training or facilitated event (I also like for this, as it is very easy to use it in sessions to share group work and keep real time track of products created, mainly because posting is done by email);
  • Creating an internal blog for a group of facilitators- for in-team learning, requests for help and challenging management decisions (sic);
  • As a place to connect to and share web-based facilitation resources (e.g. you could set up a blog to aggregate other blogs and online resources on facilitation, or you could simply connect up to relevant blogs through a dashboard, a reader, or using something like Delicious (one of a number of social bookmarking sites - Note: Delicious is owned by Yahoo and might be closing, so do some research if you want a good social bookmarking site - I personally just switched my Delicious links to Evernote). 
  • Setting up one to support specific training or facilitated events, for posting updates for a distributed community during an event, and community development more generally before and after a facilitated event;
  • A place to facilitate or join topical discussions related to any theme (there are 65 nings that are tagged with Facilitation);
  • As a support platform for building new organizations or networks (Note: This used to be free, and is now a pay platform).
  • Creating an internal wiki in an organization to collect and record learning (such as pbworks);
  • Using other wikis as an information source and for sharing on things like games - such as the gaming wiki  WoWWiki to understand everything from "chat" to "bloodcurse" about how the game works (you might wonder about using World of Warcraft for learning - try a 30-day trial and see what you think - I enjoyed exploring it for examples of negotiation, teamwork, collaboration etc.) (Anyways, another facilitator put this down as being useful for him, so you don't have to take my word for it :-)
  • Useful for promotion and business for facilitators (I have now had a number of requests come through LinkedIn and not email initially);
  • Helping to manage professional links - especially people who work with many different teams and organizations;
  • There are many functions for networking (e.g. slideshare, events, etc.);
  • As a place to tap into ongoing discussions through LinkedIn Groups - today in the Groups Directory there are 219 Groups that deal somehow with Facilitation and 8,280 with Learning. 
Twitter and Twitter-like tools
  • Can be used to generate energy around a project (keep people posted, update on activities, achievements, learning etc.);
  • A place to talk facilitation business with other facilitators ("Follow" other Facilitators - and see who they are following to find others);
  • To identify communities through hashtags (such as #Facilitation, #AppreciativeInquiry and #Learning and anything else you care to find);
  • Useful as a way to gather customer appreciation (what are people tweeting about your facilitation work?)
  • Using Yammer  (a private Twitter-like tool) internally in an organization to keep track of people and their work, ideas, etc.;
  • Using Backnoise in events for more audience participation.
  • Maintaining "social" work contacts;
  • Using the Events (+CreateAnEvent) function for announcements and promotion of your facilitation work;
  • Starting a business page for your facilitation work (to inter alia "Invite your friends", "Tell your fans", "Post status updates" etc.)
Second Life (This dates us a little)
  • Useful for dialogue and storytelling practice;
  • Keeping in touch with the virtual world technologies;
  • Useful as an alternative to conference calls, to make them more interactive.
  • for meeting time planning and invitations (MeetingWizard is another);
  • Basecamp for project management and as a collaborative tool for teams of facilitators or facilitators and their partners;
  • Personal Brain ( - Useful to develop self-managed learning applications or even as support for group mind mapping, brainstorming, and more;
  • WebEx and DimDim- video conferencing for facilitation and training;
  • Campaign monitor - for email marketing campaigns;
  • Zoomerang and Surveymonkey - free places to create and run surveys and questionnaires - useful for both demand articulation/needs assessment as well as post-workshop evaluation/feedback.
  • To this list I would add Evernote to keep track of the photos of flipcharts that I take, and I attach any other job aids I produce, I also have an image of all the visual facilitation icones that are standards that I might want to include on a flipchart, this is in addition to all my online links which have become a valuable on-demand resource for me (as mentioned above)
I think this list is interesting as a snapshot of what and how Facilitators are using web-based tools in their facilitation work, as well as a way to acknowledge that we all are using new media today in so many different ways. (Please feel free to add to the above!) I'll bet you are using something in each category above - before you read through this list did you realise how many online instruments were on your facilitator's dashboard?

Oh, and next time I hold a workshop at an IAF conference, I won't wait so long to report back (she said sheepishly).

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Good Learning Design Discussions: Where to Start?

Sometimes as a learning practitioner you are working with a third party process holder, and not (at least not in the most initial stages) with the learners themselves.

For example, you might be designing a lessons learned workshop to collect experience that informs planning for a large conference, you might be designing a capacity development programme for farmers around rainwater harvesting, you might be helping high-level decision-makers develop better policy frameworks for climate change adaptation, you might be helping a whole staff strengthen their facilitation skills, etc.

How do you structure a discussion that gets you the design of a learning programme, process or event? Where do you start?

Of course, there are plenty of ways to go about this. Here are a set of questions that I often use to inform an initial design that I might offer, providing the basis on which the design conversation continues:

Question: What change do you want to see after your programme/process/event?

This is a great question as it gets to the purpose of the event, it helps the process holder be clear about the outcome they want, and lets you, the designer, gently probe some of their assumptions about what and how things change in their context. It also signals that learning, in this case, is not an end in itself. A next question might be:

Question: Who needs to make these changes so that the practice or context changes in the desired direction?

This question explores the learner group - to see if it includes all the people that are needed to make the change.  It might also open up some discussion of segmentation, perhaps the programme needs to have different components for different groups - for practice, policy, support etc. If you want to probe the audience question a little further in terms of readiness, and to get some good material for the rationale for the learning initiative, you could ask:

Question: If I would ask some members of this group if they needed or wanted to make this change, what would they say? (and why?)

Further questioning might give you some information on what this group needs to learn, according to the process holder (this can be tested through some useful demand articulation with the learner group later - but not too late!) The following question also expands the notion that learning is just about information (knowledge acquisition), towards the behaviour change aspect (e.g. practicing using knowledge and know-how):

Question: What kind of information, tools, practice does this group need in order to make this change?

You could explore learning preferences and good practice further by asking for some stories of successful past behaviour change and learning:

Question: When this group has changed its behaviour in the past and learned something new, how did that work? What conditions were present?  How long did it take? What helped make it stick?

You could find out what kind of methodologies for learning are preferred- no doubt they will be mixed and individualised - but there might be some interesting patterns in the answer to this question:

Question: How do group members like to learn, and in what format do they like to engage in learning?

Through the above question you can explore how the group might react to innovation or new methodologies and techniques. This might also give you some idea about how "safe" the environment is for learning.

These are just a few starters of the many questions that can help guide an initial learning design discussion - what other questions might you add? Where would you start?

Monday, February 07, 2011

So You've Been Asked to Give an Ignite or Pecha Kucha? Scott Berkun on "Why and How to Give an Ignite Talk"

As we frequently use Pecha Kucha's and other presentation techniques, I thought I would share this great video of Scott Berkun giving an Ignite (5 min presentation - 20 slides autotimed at 15 seconds each), on the topic "How to Give an Ignite". His lessons are terrific and his engaging modelling of the technique itself in giving the tips just makes it even better.

I found this video through Anecdote's blog which featured a post today (or yesterday or tomorrow - I am never sure which since they are based in Australia) titled Scott Berkun encourages storytelling. Have a look at this interesting musing on the storytelling aspects of Scott's presentation.

We have written a few blog posts with tips from our own learning too: Taking the Long Elevator: 13 Tips for Good Pecha Kuchas and The End of Boring: Borrowing, Adapting, Mashing for Facilitators. The video is highly recommended for anyone giving a Pecha Kucha or Ignite presentation, and the basic messages are transferable to anyone looking for punch in broader speaking and presentation contexts.

In the Absence of Metaphor: Games and New Groups

As Facilitators and Trainers working with new groups and organizations, we occasionally get strong reactions to descriptors like "interactive", "games-based", "experiential" when explaining our work. When you dig a bit deeper into those responses, you hear stories of team-building sessions gone awry, icebreakers that were too "silly", or activity choices that were "pointless", in someone's estimation.

The gap in meaning, I might guess, is due to the absence of metaphor.

Metaphor is the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another - or constructing an analogy between two things, ideas or actions.

Picking the right team building game for example, is not just a question of what the facilitator likes or feels competent delivering; it is selecting a game that provides a platform to explore some of the key issues that the team has, and creating a metaphor in a game that lets team members identify them, work through them, test options, discuss them based on the behaviour in the game, and then draw lessons or ideas that can be useful in their daily work. 

Even a quick activity, like an icebreaker or introductions, can be linked to a useful metaphor too. For example, I recently used Thiagi's Hello game to both have people collect information about their experience, expectations, etc., which was good insight in itself, and then in the debriefing asked the group to think about how the exercise might be a metaphor for their work. This game features a number of small groups concurrently collecting information from the whole group in very short segments for planning, collecting, analysing, and reporting of around 3 minutes each! This particular group had some issues that team members wanted to explore about dealing with time pressure, with cooperation and information sharing, and this game was perfect for both introductions and to begin to lightly focus and reflect on these things, even in the first 15 minutes of the day.

Think about where you can find or create metaphor in  facilitation and training work. Any extra design element, no matter how small, that makes the link between the activity or game and the work that people are doing (or hoping to do better) can deepen the connection and the learning. And of course, it is important to bring attention to the metaphor, through debriefing, questioning, noticing. Your role as a facilitator is to help people see and make those connections. When done with skill, this helps makes both the meaning of the activity as well as your choice in introducing it much more obvious to participants. Finally, it optimises the time and refreshingly gives people permission to play again ("serious play" of course).

Some groups might need some extra work to help regain credibility for experiential learning. By strengthening the metaphor and meaning of games and activities, you are both investing in a group's future success learning together through interactive techniques, and also hopefully softening resistance, making your life easier on the day and afterwards.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bringing Behaviour into 360-degree Performance Conversations

As learning practitioners, we are always interested in reflecting and learning for improved performance. Here's a little summary of some recent research in performance development trends.

Approaches to performance development in organizations are shifting significantly. A clear trend is emerging, moving from ‘evaluation’ or ‘assessment’ - which has historically focused greatly on the achievement (or not) of quantifiable goals and contribution to the organizations strategic objectives - towards performance ‘conversations’ - which explore also the behaviours that account for specific business outcomes: the ‘how’ in achieving and contributing. Exploring this ‘how’ requires paying greater attention to professional ethics and inter-professional relationships. Hand-in-hand with this behavioural element of performance conversations is the trend towards a more ‘positive psychology’ - and a more ‘appreciative inquiry' - cognizant that performance conversations have great potential to incentivize and result in improved performance when designed and managed with a future-orientation, implying future success when positive traits are cultivated, key strengths encouraged and individuals’ motivational needs addressed.

Well aligned with these trends is the emerging and growing use of 360 degree performance conversations which are proving a powerful performance development approach. As conversations related to behaviours are subjective and difficult to quantify, these benefit from a 360 degree approach allowing much greater differentiation than any ‘assessment’ by one person alone. The 360 degree approach allows each member of the team to understand how his/her effectiveness is viewed by a wider variety of others (colleagues and potentially also customers) based on the behaviours they may variously see, generating a more accurate, balanced conversation. In the process, team members become more accountable to each other - an accountability intrinsic to the success of teams with interconnected, interdependent members - as they share the knowledge that they provide input and have the opportunity for positive influence on each member’s performance. Another great advantage to the 360 degree approach is encouraged communication, exchange of information and learning.

If you'd like to read more, try the following:

1. “360 Degree Feedback: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” by Susan M.
Heathfield, 2010.

2. “Positive Words for Key Strength Performance Reviews” by Erick
Kristian, 25 July 2010.

3. “Can a positive approach to performance evaluation help accomplish
your goals?” by Karen S. Cravens, Elizabeth Goad Oliver, Jeanine S.
Stewart, in Harvard Business Review, 15 May 2010.

4. “Embedding sustainability/ethics into performance reviews” by
Miriam and Marc, Harvard Business Review blog, May 24, 2010

5. “360 Degree Feedback” by Alan Chapman, , 2009.

6. “Performance Conversation Tips: Effective Performance Coaching” by
Joni Rose, 30 April 2006.

7. “Motivating Positive Performance; Understanding Motivational Needs
by Joni Rose, 15 April 2006.

8. “Appreciate Performance Communication Process - a Manual” by Unity,
2006, in the Appreciative Inquiry Commons.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Thought for the Day: On Balance and Learning

Two things I heard today just converged for me. The first one was a report from a meeting where a senior government official, considering a learning proposal, exclaimed:

"More results, less process!"

The other is a quote sent to me by a wise colleague from the Balaton Group, a cherished network, which is simply attributed as being a Japanese Proverb:

"Vision without action is just a dream, but action without vision is a nightmare."

As learning practitioners, I guess our challenge is to find this delicate balance.