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Mapping Business Models

Business Model Workshop Netherlands

Globalization and the emergence of digital business have changed the playing field for everyone. New business models can now rapidly disrupt an entire industry by changing the way value is delivered to customers (Look how Apple’s iTunes strategy disrupted the music industry, for example). The Business Model Canvas, developed by Alex Osterwalder, is a tool that you can use to examine and rethink your company’s business model. We are very pleased to announce a knowledge game for examining your business model and exploring alternatives, developed by Alex himself, and shared here for the first time. Thanks Alex!

Objective of Play: Visualize a business model idea or an organization’s current and/or future business model in order to create a shared understanding and highlight key drivers.

Number of Players: 1-6 (depending on the objective). Works well individually to quickly sketch out and think through a business model idea or an interesting business portrayed in the press. To map an organization’s existing and/or future business model you should work in groups. The more diverse the group of players (marketing, operations, finance, IT, etc.), the more accurate the picture of the business model will be.

Duration of Play: Anywhere between 15 minutes for individual play (napkin sketch of a business model idea), half a day (to map an organization’s existing business model), and two days (to develop a future business model or start-up business model, including business case).

Material required: Mapping business models works best when players work on a poster on the wall. To run a good session you will need:

How to Play: There are several games and variations you can play with the Business Model Canvas Poster. Here we describe the most basic game, which is the mapping of an organization’s existing business model (steps 1-3), it’s assessment (step 4), and the formulation of improved or potential new business models (step 5). The game can easily be adapted to the objectives of the players.

  1. A good way to start mapping your business model is by letting players begin to describe the different customer segments your organization serves. Players should put up different color sticky notes on the Canvas Poster for each type of segment. A group of customers represents a distinct segment if they have distinct needs and you offer them distinct value propositions (e.g. a newspapers serves readers and advertisers), or if they require different channels, customer relationships, or revenue streams.
  2. Subsequently, players should map out the value propositions your organization offers each customer segment. Players should use same color sticky notes for value propositions and customer segments that go together. If a value proposition targets two very different customer segments, the sticky note colors of both segments should be used.
  3. Then players should map out all the remaining building blocks of your organization’s business model with sticky notes. They should always try to use the colors of the related customer segment.
  4. When the players mapped out the whole business model they can start assessing its strength and weaknesses by putting up green (strength) and red (weakness) sticky notes alongside the strong and weak elements of the mapped business model. Alternatively, sticky notes marked with a “+” and “-” can be used rather than colors.
  5. Based on the visualization of your organization’s business model, which players mapped out in steps 1-4, they can now either try to improve the existing business model or generate totally new alternative business models. Ideally players use one or several additional Business Model Canvas Posters to map out improved business models or new alternatives.

Strategy: This is a very powerful game to start discussing an organization’s or a department’s business model. Because the players visualize the business model together they develop a very strong shared understanding of what their business model really is about. One would think the business model is clear to most people in an organization. Yet, it is not uncommon that mapping out an organization’s business model leads to very intense and deep discussions among the players to arrive at a consensus on what an organization’s business model really is.

The mapping of an organization’s existing business model, including its strengths and weaknesses, is an essential starting point to improve the current business model and/or develop new future business models. At the very least the game leads to a refined and shared understanding of an organization’s business model. At its best it helps players develop strategic directions for the future by outlining new and/or improved business models for the organization.

Variations: The Business Model Canvas Tool can be the basis of several other games, such as games to:

  • generate a business model for a start-up organization
  • develop a business model for a new product and/or service
  • map out the business models of competitors, particularly insurgents with new business models
  • map out and understand innovative business models in other industries as a source of inspiration
  • communicate business models across an organization or to investors (e.g. for start-ups)

9 thoughts on “Mapping Business Models

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by osterwalder, Giorgio Pauletto and rettema, Matthew Lehman. Matthew Lehman said: Oh my, this rocks – and I am such a dweeb, but my friends already know that. (via @business_design) […]

  2. Thank you very much for sharing this, and also the pdf booklet.
    I have posted an article on my blog to draw their attention to the business model canvas technique/method. You can see it :

  3. No. But now i will. Thanks for that.

  4. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. For years sticky notes were the foundation upon which I conducted my life both professional and personal. I was dragged kicking and screaming into the electronic age and my sticky notes became a fond memory of a simpler time. And now here we are….
    “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that
    which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
    from Ecclesiastes/1-9

  5. […] (You can read more about Empathy Maps and Business Model Canvas at and in Dave’s forthcoming […]

  6. дравствуйте. До не давнего времени я создавал обычный сайт а теперь увидел у вас блог. Какая разница между ними ?

  7. Loved the book! An errata on this entry in the book – the link to the downloadable version (of this template) doesn’t include the www in the address. The site it links to doesn’t work without the full www. address. Although on second thoughts, perhaps this is something that they should fix and not you 🙂

  8. Thanks for the note!

  9. […] de creatividad. Cova, me ha llamado mucho la atención la técnica Mapping Business Models (, que es un ANPAI mejorado y más comprensible para divergencia y una creatividad con restricciones […]

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