Like surgeons, entrepreneurs and innovators need tools to assist them in their daily tasks and challenges. Unlike surgeons, entrepreneurs are glorifying the tool at the expense of the actual task. This is a problem on so many levels.
The purpose of a tool is to help and assist you in completing a challenge. Further yet, it constrains your thinking one way or another. For example, The infamous Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder from Strategyzer was designed to be a one page tool. It was intentionally done that way to force you to skip the unnecessary depth of a business plan (at least early on). It is also designed to bring all elements that make for a successful business into bird’s eye view. That is all well and great, and there is no issue in the way the tool is designed. However, I see that many teams are interested in completing the canvas itself as opposed to completing the task it was intended to assist: testing or modelling a business. The purpose of The Business Model Canvas is to show you where your business is weakest. Is it in your value proposition? Key Partners? Where did you hesitate on the canvas? Were you unsure of your costs? Where did you make your biggest assumptions? That’s the reason you complete a Business Model Canvas. Upon completion (or lack thereof), you’re supposed to look into the aspects that you didn’t complete. For example, if you’re unsure of your customer segment, you are to get out of the office and talk to potential customers to try and figure out who you should design the product for.
I shudder every time I see a team staring at a wall filled with sticky notes. Besides teams misusing tools or approaching their utility incorrectly, more and more tools are being designed with the wrong intention. I blame facilitators for this. They try to account for everything that could possibly impact or affect the product they’re designin. They include all arrows in their quiver into a framework or tool they’re using to facilitate their team’s brainstorming sessions. I understand that many businesses and systems are complex, and you never know where an improvement could come from. However, try incorporating elimination and prioritization into your process. For example, let’s say you’re looking for opportunities to improve traffic in Kuwait. Your team starts out posting each and every problem around the experience of driving in traffic. Before moving on to an ideation phase, consider prioritization, ranking and eliminating problem clusters according to predetermined criteria. This will allow for a more efficient and controlled process, and your team will be thankful for it.
Choose simplicity over complexity when picking the framework or tool to deploy in order to complete a challenge or task. Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, and start with outlining the desired outcome you want to gain out of using a tool. Reassess your tool every now and then. Make sure your tool is not getting in the way of actually progressing with your project, and always remember that your goal is to ship a product and not to complete a canvas.