THE INTRAPRENEUR'S CANVAS STORY

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It all started when...

Throughout my career I have used different tools and frameworks to help me focus and break big wicked challenges into more workable parts and pieces.  When it came to building new business models, I learned the different core components through my experience but still struggled to get organized around a simple yet effective method.  Then the book "Business Model Generation" was released and it immediately solved my problem.  This is the book that first introduced the Business Model Canvas (BMC).  I jumped right into using and applying the BMC.  It was a refreshing experience to have such an adaptable and flexible framework to model new growth ideas.  Through this experience, I found new ways of using this tool and also stressed it to the point of breaking it.

While the basic BMC is helpful, it is not, in my experience, complete when used to design new business models inside incumbents or within the legal markets, particularly inside a law firm. Through my consulting and teaching over the last several years, I tested the weaknesses and strengths of the BMC. I learned how to translate the language it uses into more accessible language for the legal markets. I adapted the BMC to better address the needs of intrapreneurship inside the legal markets. The result is the Intrapreneur’s Canvas.

Accounting for Reality

While I’ve made several changes to the original BMC, those most pertinent to this discussion appear in the rightmost column — Environmental and Legacy/Culture.

Environmental components take into account the specific, particular reality with which the new business model will come into contact upon launch. Businesses do not exist in vacuums, and so a business model must contemplate the habitability or hostility of its eventual “home.” This is why organizations often develop “skunk works” and other “off grid” development teams.

Most incumbent models will seek to kill off any competing model — competing in terms of resources and attention. Understanding the environment will help shape the strategy for how to and where to design new models. As I have experienced, it is possible to do it inside an incumbent but certain conditions must exist.

Legacy/Culture components map the existing or historical events still resonating inside the incumbent that the new model must consider. For instance, it would be an extreme challenge to launch a new model that sought to engage the existing customer base of the incumbent in a manner fundamentally different from, and thus wholly inconsistent with, current practice. If a new business model depends on compensating an incumbent stakeholder group in a less generous manner, you can bet that it will inspire a strong reaction from that group and that those sentiments will reverberate through all activities undertaken by the new business. These types of things must be addressed early on to avoid rejection and failure.

The Intrapreneur’s canvas, like the original BMC, is not a planning tool, but a tool for design, testing, iteration, and validation. This tool has power to unlock unseen or overlooked value, risk, investment and focus. It is not a silver bullet or an “easy button” for business design, but it does provide a shot of adrenaline to organizations trying to create new models that will not just survive but thrive inside incumbents.