Experiential learning and business development – beyond the Business Model Canvas

Charles Lovatt
School of Management, University of St andrews

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Purpose: to align teaching of some professional practices of enterprise with contemporary requirements of employers; to extend, and build upon, the Business Model Canvas framework; to reflect on experiential learning.

Process: reflections of the teaching of entrepreneurship and business development

Intended audience: University teachers, professional practitioners, corporate trainers and recruiters.

Benefits of attending this session: to hear about an innovative approach to learning within a top rated, highly academic institution and to hear reflections on the way the approach creates value.

Business Development professionals are in high demand by employers globally. At the time of writing (November 2018) there are 1000 Biz Dev vacancies on totaljobs.com in London; 1200 jobs in Berlin; 3000 in Sydney and 7000 in New York. And yet, unlike marketing for example, it is rare to find Business Development in the curriculum of Universities or as a programme at Business Schools.

In this presentation I will offer critical appreciation of the Business Model Canvas framework and show how an extension of the model has been successfully taught taking students from high level concepts to practical business development.

Based on my professional career as a business owner and manager for over 20 years, when I was Business Developer #1. During this time I recruited, trained and managed an international team of biz dev professionals in the electronics industry. And, for the past 10 years as an academic at a world class institution. In this presentation I will describe a cross-disciplinary Biz Dev module taught to Masters and Honours students. The module seeks to impart broad understanding and in-depth knowledge of the competencies of contemporary business development.

Learning & teaching style: the module is designed to foster independent learning, team problem solving and develop a capacity for strategic thinking. It is about opportunity seeking & recognition, networking, initiative taking, persuading others, leadership and taking intuitive decisions. The style is fast-paced, non-linear and completely unlike the prior learning experience of most students. The module requires no prior knowledge of any subject but the managerial tools and techniques of finance, human resources, marketing, operations, logistics and accounting are drawn upon. Students require a high degree of intellectual maturity, personal commitment, self-discipline and tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity.

As a starting point: the Business Model Canvas is a conceptual tool or template consisting of 9 building blocks which describe the logic of how a business intends to make money. The tool is widely used by professionals in industry and during teaching at colleges and in universities. It is explained in detail in the book ‘Business Model Generation: a Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers ‘by Osterwalder & Pigneur (2010) which has been a best seller across multiple markets (1.5 million people have read them in 36 languages) and enjoys a very high Scholar citation index over 8000 (as at November 2018). More recently, the tool has been disseminated widely by Strategyzer AG which provides a rich collection of resources (tools, content, forums, and databases) related to strategy and business models. Strategyzer claims a user base of over 5 million people.

Critique of the Business Model Canvas: the template diagram provides an excellent, simple representation of complex situations but, it has limitations:
• The canvas is a static representation of a dynamic situation
• Time is not considered as a resource or variable and the canvas does not accommodate change, learning or feedback
• The framework does not consider market conditions or the wider ecosystem; demand from potential customers or the activities of competitors
• Within the canvas template, there is a mix of singular and plural
• Free users and paying customers are treated equally

Moving from the Business Model Canvas to Biz Dev requires an overarching Statement of Strategic Intent. Achieving strategic intent requires attention to the competitive essence of winning with attention such things as:
• Branding and positioning of the business as a whole
• Environment for business & meso-economic business context
• Competitor analysis including analysis of substitute and complementary offerings
• The design of new products or services
• Human resources: recruitment & retention of front line customer service or sales people
• Plan for customer relationship development & management
• Pricing strategy
• Product management and a roadmap for a portfolio of products
• Accounting: profitability of trading operations: gross profit, net profit and cash flow
• Risk: identifying & monitoring risk, mitigating risk & managing risk
• Personal selling, CRM and sales pipeline
• SMART objectives, metrics and the planning cycle
In my presentation I will discuss the experiential techniques involved in enquiry based learning and provide examples of excellence from students work.