The Canvas Revolution – Is it really that magical?

If you were hoping to find undifferentiated praise or scathing hatred of canvases, you’re wrong here ;-) If you’re just looking for the list of all canvases, scroll down.

When working with canvases first started to catch on, after Alex Osterwalder and his many collaborators published Business Model Generation, it felt like a natural extension of all other ways of information becoming more visual. At the time, we lovingly called it “Canvanizing”, hence the name Canvanizer.

The brilliant insight that seems to be the basis for the Business Model Canvas and many other great canvases: Make complex things easy to visualize in a way that helps people recognize patterns.


Image by ©sugarraybanister

This insight is the beauty of using canvases. Teams and organizations have a much easier time getting their collective ideas on paper, understand their implications, talk about them visually and test them against reality.

What’s missing to create magic?

Whenever teams manage to do this, canvases work great and create a lot of value! Unfortunately very often teams don’t dive deep enough and don’t create real understanding. As with most things in life, there is no shortcut, so teams that think it takes a few post-its and 60 minutes to understand their business model, customer journey or corporate culture, fail miserably. Even though canvases make visualization easier, you still need to do the work, iterate and question your results constantly, until they are simple and smart, not simple and stupid.

At the same time, when we create these great models we are still missing something. We are missing a connection between these different canvases. Little islands of insight are formed, but they are still missing their connections to create a big picture of the business.

So there is still some work to do, until we can claim that all these great canvases are saving the (business) world. But we are well on our way to get there!

All the (magical) canvases we could find

Since we were talking about all these canvases, we thought, why not list them all? Since we’re pretty obsessed with the topic, I think we can provide a good list. But should we have missed one, please comment underneath and we will add it.


Canvases for understanding business & innovation

Canvases for Service Design

Canvases for the work with organizations

Canvases from (Nesta)

Other canvases


Edit: March 5th 2016, additional canvas


Edit: March 8th 2016, additional canvas


Edit: April 22nd 2016, additional canvas


Edit: May 5th 2016, additional canvas


Edit: May 6th 2016, additional canvas

4 replies
  1. Catus Lee
    Catus Lee says:

    Very true. The simplicity of a canvas sometimes creates the illusion that completing a canvas is a big milestone. At best, that would just be a stepping stone.
    I’ve seen so many teams seeing that canvas as “the” ends rather than the means to facilitate deeper thinking, dialogue, and action planning.
    60 minutes to complete a canvas is nice only if this is part of a cycle of going out into the real world validating and then back to the drawing board and revising the canvas.
    The “magic” is to awaken the crowd and lead them see that the “magic” requires hard thinking and hard work.

    • Tim Schikora
      Tim Schikora says:

      I totally agree Catus! We have to help people dive deeper and make sure to challenge them, when they’re not thinking hard enough. Canvases can help your thinking, they can’t replace it.


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