Review – Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

Consider a business model to be an engine. One that generates opportunity – wealth for investors, freedom for entrepreneurs, jobs for employees, value for customers.

Like all machines, this can be broken down into its component parts and recombined to achieve different ends. Speed off the line. Social good. Enterprise software.

That’s what this book is about. Understanding what processes make up your (prospective) business, then bundling them together in a way that is most efficient.

In that sense, it’s a lot of Biz 101 packaged in a visually interesting way. (Parts do feel like someone got enamored with the aesthetics. For example, a wall of text cut into the shape of a circle is just goofy.)

It’s also where the business canvas concept originated. (This went on to be a big part of the Lean Startup community.) Here is what it looks like:

At the most basic level, you fill in the blanks with how you’re going to build out your company. It’s a structured hypothesis. Sit down, think it through in these terms, then blow it up on the wall with everyone’s help.

I kind of wish the book ended here. But it goes on.

There’s a spattering of business model patterns, which is old hat if you’ve paid attention for the last decade. (Also, their conceptualization of an open business model is oddly closed.)

Then there’s a section on how to think like a designer. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time with big companies, but this isn’t exactly revolutionary stuff. Brainstorm, draw, solve problems, hypothesize stories/scenarios/products, test. (This section is not in order. You bounce around in a most jarring way.)

They define strategy as “environmental scanning.” That’s smart. Then they gets lost in the weeds trying to shoehorn a lot into the canvas. There’s some pretty ridiculous looking canvas’s near the end of the book.

And that’s kind of the core problem with everything the book discusses after the introduction of the Canvas. There’s a ton of stuff covered, but tethering it to the canvas feels forced. There’s no holistic framework here despite their (well intentioned) effort to treat the canvas like one.

The canvas is a useful tool and I’m glad to have it. Just planning on not getting super carried away with it.

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  • Robert Swope (@robertswope)
    Jun 1, 2012

    @gabe_justpros Read this: Business Model Generation: Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, & Challengers http://t.co/N8L3VvqU by @shloky

  • Cameron Schaefer
    Jun 12, 2012

    Good review – the BMG Canvas fits in the same category as writing a business plan IMHO – the end product is not nearly as valuable as the process of working through it and forcing yourself to examine the business model from a variety of angles…kind of like de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats.’

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