3 min read

The Solution Canvas: helping you kick-start and align at the same time

Imagine you’re about to start a brand new initiative, you’ve never really done anything like it before but it requires support from others to make it happen. You’re not quite sure where to start and perhaps you don’t know how to get everyone collaborating together – so what do you do?

Well, recently we were asked to support our client KraftHeinz with quite a similar scenario and so we thought we’d share a bit about how we helped them and what we learnt doing it! 

To start with, a bit of context. We were asked to help facilitate a collaborative experience with the aim of achieving the following goals:

  1. To align on the why behind starting this new initiative 
  2. To set a North Star and begin forming an aligned vision for the future

With goals agreed we got to work designing a workshop to help them achieve their goals. We’ll use the remainder of this blogpost to focus on one particular tool we used.

Why a canvas?

When you’re attempting to align a diverse group of people over something that is entirely new, you’ll need an approach or a technique that will be effective. 

Tools like canvases are great at being able to do this. When facilitated correctly, you will be forced to rapidly go from silent brainstorming to synthesising and agreeing on key themes.

Yes there are many Canvases that exist, such as the Business Model Canvas or Jeff Patton’s Opportunity Canvas. Both are great and have their uses, but if you’re looking for something easy to use, primarily to brainstorm and align small groups of people then it can get complex.

The Solution Canvas is designed to be good enough for brainstorming and alignment purposes rather than for creating a new product or for designing a new service.

Getting the most out of a canvas

One of the reasons we chose to use this Canvas for our client’s challenge was due to the nature of the initiative they were keen to align on. An initiative that nobody had ever completed before with zero experience. This meant the diverse group of individuals taking part in the workshop were bringing with them plenty of assumptions, questions and perhaps opinions

So here are 3 tips you can follow to get the most of this canvas…

1. Assumptions are ok

Given that the goal of using a canvas is to align diverse perspectives, it is natural for many of these perspectives to be assumptions and opinions. That’s exactly what you want to capture using a canvas. By surfacing what you think you know, the group can then make decisions on how to prove whether it is true or not. 

In summary, encourage the recording of all assumptions and opinions – it is an important starting point for creating alignment.

2. Work in small groups

For 1. to be possible, it’s imperative that a grouping of people will be needed in order to capture individual perspectives. Once these are captured these groups can then review, discuss and then make decisions on how to synthesise and make sense of what they now know.

Collaborative exploration is a key tool to creating alignment when there are a high degree of unknowns. It works even better if you can gather a diverse group of individuals to help with the brainstorming process. 

3. Don’t spend too long

In our experience a canvas like this shouldn’t take longer than 1 hour to complete. Why is that? Well it links back to point 1 above.

Remember that what you capture on the canvas may not all be true or clearly known, therefore spending more time than necessary documenting ideas and thoughts will not prove to be beneficial. The key is to capture the most important thoughts so that you  can decide what you want to do next.

By the way, sticky notes are a great way to keep thoughts concise and to the point 😉

A walkthrough

You’ll notice there are six sections on the canvas. Imagine that the canvas is split into two halves. Sections 1-3 on the left hand side with sections 4-6 on the right hand side.

Sections 1-3 are focused on the current situation and challenges being faced. Section 1 starts with the people or beneficiaries who will benefit from any solution you’re considering and group them accordingly.

Section 2 then asks you also need to think about the problems, pain points and challenges those particular beneficiaries face day to day. Think about why they may need a solution to their problems.

Section 3 then asks you to think about the current landscape. What solutions already exist and how do your competitors (if any) solve these pain points today.

Section 4 is focused on the support you require to bring a solution to life. While Section 5 is all about quantifying success, i.e. how will you measure it? What qualitative and quantitative measures would inform you that your proposed solution is providing a benefit.

Finally Section 6 allows you to align on what a potential solution could look like. Consider the individual elements that would make up the solution. And importantly, focus on the pain points in Section 2 so that you are directly addressing these in your solution ideas.

Download the canvas