Fill-in-the-blank exercises to help students develop their own hypotheses.
In the first step of his process, Alex introduces students to the different components of the BMC by having them match the business model hypotheses to the appropriate boxes of the canvas. In this second step, Alex helps students learn to write their hypotheses by asking students to complete partially finished BMCs.
In this exercise, you’ll give students some of the business model components for well-known companies and ask them to fill in the rest.
Alex uses fill-in-the-blank exercises intentionally. By providing students with some components of the BMC and asking them to write in the rest, students are able to start practicing using the BMC without the risk of them getting overwhelmed.
He repeats this process several times for different companies, each time providing students fewer components filled in until ultimately, students are completing the canvas entirely on their own.
Step 1: Think
Show students this Dollar Shave Club commercial:
Next, you’ll ask your students to fill in a BMC for the Dollar Shave Club, but you’ll want to give them a couple of hints first. Tell your students that Dollar Shave Club:
- Started selling online, with no physical stores
- They acquired customers through viral videos
- And that these two approaches were novel at the time and instrumental to their success
Give your students this partially filled out BMC for Dollar Shave Club’s business model (link to the worksheets are in the lesson plan below). Give students a few minutes to individually fill in their assumptions for the following boxes:
- Revenue Streams
Step 2: Pair
Next, ask students to pair up (or create breakout rooms for virtual students), and compare their answers. If there’s anything they disagree on, ask them to try to discuss and come to a consensus.
Note: this is an important part of the Think. Pair. Share. process. Talking with a peer helps them organize their thoughts better and practice vocalizing them. If your students are reluctant to speak in class, pairing students up like this before asking for a class-wide discussion can help inspire more interaction.
Step 3: Share
Finally, reconvene the class and ask students to share the assumptions they filled in. Progress around the room asking for students’ assumptions for the Channel, Revenue Streams boxes, and discuss any discrepancies or disagreements.
Start filling in the boxes:
- The first Channel you gave them – online store. The second Channel is viral videos (Youtube).
- The Revenue Stream is a customized subscription.
Step 4: Second Think-Pair-Share
This is a good opportunity to point out to students that they cannot utilize the channel that provided lots of visibility (YouTube) without incurring significant costs. In the case of Dollar Shave Club, replacing traditional marketing with viral videos requires costly activities & resources. Give students a few minutes to individually fill in their assumptions for the following boxes:
- Cost Structure
- Key Activities
- Key Resources
- Key Partners
Next, ask students to pair up and compare their answers. If there’s anything they disagree on, ask them to try to discuss and come to a consensus. Finally, reconvene the class and ask students to share the assumptions they filled in. Progress around the room asking for students’ assumptions for the Key Activities, Key Resources, and Cost Structure boxes, and discuss any discrepancies or disagreements.
Start filling in the boxes:
- Key Activities are viral videos.
- Key Resources are an e-commerce store and a brand.
- Costs are for viral videos and marketing.
- Key Partners are manufacturers and e-commerce platform providers.
Using viral videos is Dollar Shave Club’s way to keep the online store flowing with customers.
Fill-in-the-Blank Exercise: B2B
For a B2B business model canvas, we suggest using Salesforce. Provide students the following context:
Salesforce was founded with the goal of “making enterprise software as easy to use as a website like amazon.com.” They pioneered the software-as-a-service (Saas) model for customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and was visionary in predicting the potential of online software.
Step 5: Revenue & Relationships
Repeat the Think. Pair. Share. process from above, this time with a partially-completed BMC worksheet (links to worksheets are in the lesson plan below) asking students to fill in the following boxes for Salesforce:
- Revenue Streams
- Customer Relationship
Step 6: Complete the Canvas
Repeating the same process as before, ask students to complete the rest of Salesforce’s BMC:
Step 7: Design Your Own Canvas
By this point, your students will have completed several BMCs and they’ll be ready to start creating their own. Using the included BMC template in the worksheets (linked in the lesson plan), ask your students to individually start designing the business model for the company they want to create.
Step 8: Get Feedback
After filling in their canvas, ask students to share their business model’s design with one other student in the class and see if that person has any feedback (i.e., did the designer use each of the boxes appropriately?). Then switch roles so both students get a chance to present and get feedback.
Next Exercise: Prioritization
The BMC is great for helping students develop their business model hypotheses, but that’s only half the value of the tool. The other half is…
Using the Business Model Canvas to test your hypotheses.
In our next article, we will outline a lesson plan for Alex uses to demonstrate how the BMC helps entrepreneurs prioritize their business models’ riskiest assumptions.
It’s critical to teach this step because it’s one of the major benefits of teaching the BMC over traditional business plans. Once entrepreneurs have a prioritized list of riskiest assumptions, they can design experiments to test each of those assumptions and validate their business model!
Want More from Dr. Osterwalder?
Find more about Alex’s work at Strategyzer.com.
Watch Alex Teach
If you’d like to see Alex teach the Business Model Canvas himself, just enter your email below to watch his full workshop on Teaching the BMC:
Get the Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 2 Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 2” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.
In part 3 of this series, we explain how Dr. Osterwalder uses the BMC to teach students how to prioritize their business models’ riskiest assumptions.
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