As a senior innovation coach at DNB my job is no less than fixing corporate innovation. We are moving away  from a portfolio of products and services to a portfolio of business  models. While product and service innovations are important, they by  themselves are not enough to fuel the growth we’d like to see. Since  that small issue has numerous potential causes and countermeasures, it  makes sense to pick the best methodologies and tools as a starting  point. (Avoiding reinventing the wheel, and all that.) That is why we  decided to have The Corporate Startup framework and Strategyzer tools as a core part of DNB’s innovation toolbox.

Strategyzer bootcamp is an intensive five day training on business model innovation, led by Alexander Osterwalder,  the creator of Business Model and Value Proposition Canvas. To be  accepted you are required to have a strong command of the business model  innovation toolbox, as well as experience with lean startup and  innovation within large corporates. Since I couldn’t find any reviews  when I was thinking of joining, I decided to share my experience.

My reason to attend, as well as learning goals, were to understand:

  • if our current application of the Strategyzer tools can be improved,
  • if we can teach these tools more efficiently at DNB, and
  • development of new Strategyzer tools (e.g. business model portfolio management).

Bootcamp was divided in to five days, where every day had a different topic:

  • Tools
  • Design & Prototyping
  • Testing
  • Evolution
  • Management

Besides Alexander Osterwalder, there were five other speakers:

It was around 50 hours of learning and working, and I’ll share some  thoughts on each day. If you have any other questions related to the  bootcamp and my experience with it, leave a comment or email me.

Day 1: Tools

First day was heavy on the Strategyzer core tools: Business Model and  Value Proposition Canvas. It was interesting seeing how they design and  plan their workshops. Since they live from them, they have standardized  them to such a level that they were able to capture workshop blocks  into what they referred to as content card deck. It was good to see that de Bono’s thinking hats are still alive. I finally understood that activity Alex uses in all  his conference talks. You know, the one when he suddenly tells you to  turn to your colleague and discuss the topic with him or her for exactly  two minutes? It turns out that helps to activate the brain, which in  turn helps the participants remember more. He also shared a book which  inspired that exercise – Brain Rules by John Medina.

Holger Nils Pohl took us through a series of exercises to help us  think more visually. He also presented a simple three-step framework for  reaching clarity: (1) understand, (2) create, and (3) share. His  reflection was that most of the time we are trying to answer the  following three questions:

  • Where are we today?
  • Where do we want to be tomorrow?
  • How do we get there?

I completely agree with Holger’s selection of questions. One of the  common issues I see is having a weak understanding of where we are  today, a fuzzy understanding of where we want to be tomorrow, and a  jargon-laden understanding of how to get there. Some clarity would be a  breath of fresh air.

Yves Pigneur explained the most important design principles for a visual inquiry tool:

  • conceptual model (ontology)
  • shared visualisation (empty problem spaces)
  • directions for use (great UX)

It was a great talk, and helped me better understand how Business  Model and Value Proposition Canvas were built. I do believe this  knowledge will serve me well when assessing the usefulness of other  similar tools.

Holger Nils Pohl visualizing.

Day 2: Design & Prototyping

Second day was focused on rapid prototyping using as primitive  methods as possible – napkin sketches, paper prototyping, story boards,  brochures, etc. They also introduced a “design brief”, which outlines  the challenge or opportunity to address, defines the scope of the  project (what’s in/out), and provides a means of measuring success. You  can think of it as a simpler variant of project charter. We used the culture map (created by Dave Gray) to look into blockers and enablers for lean startup in corporate environments.

It is easy to forget that the quality of the business model can be  assessed before it goes into market, either by using the SWOT analysis  or seven questions provided by the Strategyzer. While ultimate truth  lies in the market, there is little point in testing a shitty business  model. Alex announced that their new book will be focusing on the  business model patterns.

Alexander Osterwalder explains how to assess business models.

Day 3: Testing

We continued working with the culture map, this time looking at the  ideal innovation culture in a corporate environment. Apparently someone  said something I liked so much that I’ve written it in my notebook, but  without the source: design a culture like a garden, not like a car.

Most of the third day was focused on innovation metrics and testing.  It was interesting to see that they added adaptability risk to the  IDEO’s desirability, feasibility, and viability. Most of Strategyzer’s  experiment library is focused on desirability testing. Most of it was  quite basic. We also got to hear about Strategyzer’s Innovation Sprint  and Innovation Spark, their two products aimed at corporates.

Greg Bernarda shared his experiences as a Strategyzer coach. Bayer  shared how they cooperated with Strategyzer to improve their innovation  efforts. It was interesting.

Alexander Osterwalder explains Strategyzer innovation sprint.

Day 4: Evolution

The day I’ve been looking forward to the most – finally hearing more about innovation portfolio management.

Elmar Mock, a serial inventor and entrepreneur, kicked off the day with a quite entertaining presentation. Innovation by kama sutra is my new favourite metaphor on how to do innovation. After his talk I wrote down two books to check out: The Innovation Factory and Innovation is no Accident. Martin Tinu Anders, one of his employees, shared a bit more on how they work with others on creating innovative solutions.

When it came to the business portfolio map, we haven’t heard or seen  more than what was already shown by Alex at his recent speaker  engagements, or written at the Strategyzer’s blog.

Elmar Mock explains the creative process.

Day 5: Management

Stefano Mastrogiacomo was the star of the last day. He put forward a  strong case of how big is the opportunity cost of misaligned teams. With  simple alignment of the team it is possible to improve the joint  performance by up to twelve times (median was by four times). We spent  most of the time working with the team alignment toolkit,  which he developed and refined over the last decade. I have seen this  toolkit before, but haven’t thought much of it. After playing around  with it, I definitely see a potentially strong use case as a supplement  to our agile practices.

Stefano also spent some time explaining different concepts and tools  related to the psychological safety. I liked his explanation of looking  at language as an indicator for psychological safety.

We wrapped up the day with presentation of the visual inquiry tools we had to design during the week.

Stefano Mastrogiacomo explains relationship between psychological safety and innovation.

Concluding remarks

It was a fun five days, and they flew by quickly. I came there with specific learning goals, which were:

  • understand how the current application of the Strategyzer tools can be improved,
  • understand how can we teach these tools more efficiently at DNB, and
  • understand the development of new Strategyzer tools (e.g. business model portfolio management).

I’m satisfied with my lessons learned related to the first two goals.  There were not a lot of lessons learned for the last goal. Bonus was  learning more about how Strategyzer approaches tool design.

Networking and knowledge exchange with peers coming from all parts of  the world wasn’t part of the learning goals, but was definitely a part  of the overall experience.  I’ve met some interesting people who have  similar problems, and I look forward to continuing my conversation with  them.