There is an emerging school of thought which advocates that startups should ‘pitch’ their business models rather than business plans. Accordingly, startups should present their business model using a one-page business model map such as the Business Model Canvas. Prominent proponents of this school of thought include Steve Blank, Alex Osterwalder, and Nathan Furr. This “Business Model-School of Thought” has an ongoing battle with the “Business Plan-School of Thought.” The war cry of the Business Model-School of Thought is “Burn your business plan.”
But, should the traditional business plan be completely burnt? Should the Business Model Canvas (or derivatives such as the Lean Canvas) be the only document presented such as in Startup Competitions, which are increasingly called “Business Model Competitions”? What about a founder/startup’s Goals, Vision, Mission, and Aspirations which are usually available in a traditional business plan but not directly catered for in the 9 blocks of the Business Model Canvas? How can we have the best of both worlds: obtain the comprehensive view and depth of a business plan while maintaining the relevance and efficiency of one-page business model maps such as the Business Model Canvas (or Lean Canvas)?
The answer may lie in the use of a zoomable but adaptive story canvas – the “Zoomable Project Canvas” - a rudimentary form of which I used in 2007 to obtain venture financing for my visual search engine startup. Over the years, I’ve refined the layout and logic of the zoomable page of the Zoomable Project Canvas, which I consider as a “living organism.” As I read the history of extraordinarily successful startups such as Google, Netflix, and Cirque du Soleil, I cannot help but observe that their story of birth and growth neatly maps into the 4 Improvement/Disruption (I/D) Questions of the Universal Project Canvas.
The 4 Improvement/Disruption Questions are as follows:
#1: What BUSINESS MODEL to improve/disrupt? Present Business Model
#2: How best to improve/disrupt BUSINESS MODEL? Process/Strategy
#3: What BUSINESS MODEL to improve/disrupt TO? Future Business Model
#4: Why improve/disrupt BUSINESS MODEL? Goal/Vision/Result/Aspirations
The Zoomable Project Canvas is the one tool that can be used as a visual platform for facilitating tools and methodologies such as Brainstorming, Customer Development, Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, Business DNA Map, Agile Development, Lean Startup, Six Sigma, TRIZ, and Theory of Constraints.