I have noticed quite an increase over the past few months of students involved in MBA programs signing up to the Hub community and identifying business models understanding as part of their program or studies. I am curious, in what capacity are you learning and discussing business models, business model innovation or business design in the MBA programs.

Hopefully some of our MBA participants will share their experience with us.

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Hello Mike, 

The BMC is a requirement to fulfill our final MBA paper or "Capstone"at Marylhust University. It is primarily being used to help us think about how to move our ideas regarding sustainable business models into real world applications. I think the BMC helps open the mind to new ways of thinking, such as having to focus on key activities actually helps you focus on what you really want to achieve in the value propositions segment. The BMC is quite organic in its simplicity. 

Thank you 

Barry Gentry

For my MBA program at Marylhurst we have been using the Business Canvas as a guide to build a more cohesive business plan and or feasibility study to visually see the the interconnection between all the parts of a plan. In my case I have been building a plan for a small organic farm and vineyard that emphasizes not only the environmental benefits but also the social benefits of small farms and vineyards.

Business Model Generation (2010) is a text book being used as part of my MBA course studies.  I too am learning about using the business model canvas as a tool to establish a sustainable business by integrating sustainable business practices into the business model canvas.

I am using the business model canvas in my capacity as an MBA student at Marylhurst University. Specifically, I am using it to explore / generate a viable business model for a nonprofit organization that has a social mission to preserve its cultural heritage and natural environment.   

Thank you all for your contributions.

@Barry and Bridget - on the subject of sustainability, are you using a separate models for the sustainability concept, or integrating the conversation directly into the canvas?

@Serena, how are you tracking environmental benefits?

@Marvin - one of the challenges in non-profit business models is the 3rd party funded models. Many businesses forget to treat their funding bodies as customer segments and document the value propositions for that group, as well as building into their model the capture of data to provide confirmation to funding bodies. Have you considered these issues.

Good morning Mike, 

Thank you for your question. Although my focus is sustainable business, my Capstone is a feasibility study regarding the creation of a freelance consulting agency that focuses on obtaining or creating the emotional connection between leadership and employees that is necessary for all change initiatives to be successful, including sustainability initiatives. It matters not the strength, greatness or validity of any required change, if the people who are expected to carryout the marching orders are not committed with their hearts and minds, the initiative will fail. 

My BMC, in its basic form, has a focus on the creation of the consulting agency as each sustainability change initiative will vary greatly depending on the industry of the client and the desired goals. However, I feel that with each new client a new BMC specific to their desired goals is a must. The organic nature of the BMC is perfect for projects that involve helping people develop emotional connections as it may be highly individualized but broad enough to meet the needs of a larger  goal. 

Thank you, 



Good mention of the 3rd party funded models.  I did stumble into this issue in the Osterwalder (n.d.) "Business Models Beyond Profit" charts.  I also found additional discussion on the matter by Grant Smith (2012), "The Nonprofit Business Model Canvas." Both were excellent sources in developing my nonprofit business model and identifying key factors regarding proposition value and customer segments.

As you alluded, non-profits must take into consideration that there are actually two separate customer segments (beneficiaries and donors). 



Thanks for your interest in the use of the Hub and the business model canvas by students in MBA programs. All of the students who've responded to your question so far happen to be in the online MBA in Sustainable Business program at Marylhurst University in Oregon (though our students are all over the U.S. -- and Guam).  I'm the chair of the program and one of the faculty for the capstone courses which use the canvas as a frame for their projects.

Our students are working professionals and, as they've shared, their projects range from feasibility studies and business plans to strategic sustainability plans and sustainability reports. I've even had students who used the canvas effectively for policy plans. This is the 12th cohort in the program -- set to finish at the end of this month -- and we've been using the business model canvas and this Hub for all but the first one.

One of the reasons we ask them to join the Hub is to take advantage of the networking and collaborative opportunities that exist in this online community of practice. So I very much appreciate your initiating this conversation!


Hello Paul;

It is great to hear the program was, apparently, a very early adopter of the canvas and the BMG approach. My congratulations on a very successful integration of the thinking into an MBA program.

I would hazard a guess this is not the norm in MBA programs in the US and Canada (I am located in Ottawa, Canada). As important and comprehensive an MBA education to executing business may be, we have come to realize the need for a shift in thinking away from plan-based entrepreneurship to discovery-based thinking. This applies to both contexts of startups and innovation in existing companies. Core to this shift is an understanding, analysis and innovation of business models.

The integration of business model thinking (language and mechanics) with design thinking principles (deep customer understanding, prototyping and iterative development) and testing of models is the business design approach that is the essence of Business Model Generation.

From a personal perspective, recently I have been looking at the concept of sustainability. Judging by your comments and that of the students who have responded here, this is something that has a strong presence in your program. I would be very interested in hearing more about how you integrate the concept into the business models, and whether there are any particular models you use as an adjunct to look at sustainable businesses.


Thanks, Mike.

Yes, we're an early adopter of the business model canvas and the concepts behind and in front of it. And I suspect that few MBA programs in North America incorporate the canvas in their curriculum -- at least to the extent that we do at Marylhurst. We're relatively unconventional in many respects. For one thing, our students are mostly working professionals with an average age of 38 or 39. For another, many of them have backgrounds in design, architecture, planning and engineering -- in other words, they're visual thinkers. So the canvas is a natural choice for our program. It's not only used by our MBA in Sustainable Business but by our online general MBA ; as a result more than 300 of our students become familiar with the canvas each year.

There are at least two ways that our students have integrated sustainability into their canvases. The most common way has been to add two building blocks: social & environmental benefits and social & environmental costs, following the example in the Business Model Generation book on page 265 for Grameen Phone (by the way, the Grameen Bank is featured in our courses to illustrate a model of social business).

The other way students have brought sustainability into the canvas has been to insert it into each of the building blocks, especially those of the Values Proposition, Channels, Key Activities and Key Resources.

Note: I spent eight years living in upstate New York and traveled often to Ottawa and beyond to Algonquin Provincial Park -- a wondrous place).



I am part of the Marylhurst contingent led by Professor Paul Ventura. As has been pointed out by my colleagues, we are incorporating the BMC into our capstone projects. My particular project entails a feasibility study of converting an idle manufacturing plant to sustainable manufacturing of components for the photovoltaic array tracking / racking systems. I have been favorable impressed with the BMC as a tool to collectively gather input and gain insight into others thought process.

Mike, I now have a question for you and others regarding an opportunity to make some changes to an organization and injecting sustainability into our business metrics, I will be stepping into a new job in a few weeks (or so I have been told) which is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. As the new business leader from the new company, I have an opportunity to leverage the employee expectation for change with an opportunity to affect changes. I have been considering using the BMC method to first clearly establish what the current business plan is based on what we have been doing followed a few weeks later by a 'clean sheet BMC' to construct what we want our business model to look like. 

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Hi Mark, interesting challenge.

I certainly support your thinking about starting with building a common understanding of the business in its current state. My experience has been most companies, that have been around for a length of time, have built an intuitive knowledge of the business. The problem with this situation, as Dan Roam puts it, is the different mental models each person has developed often based on their own limited exposure of what the business does (financial, marketing, sales, production). It is very important to externalize and come to a consensus on what the business actually is. Thus the first important value of the canvas an the BMG approach is building a common understanding.

The next step should probably be an assessment of that model. The internal assessment looking at things that are strengths and weaknesses within your existing model. By also doing an environment assessment, you can look at where there are opportunities to change and what trends or influences may be constraints or threats to your existing business. This is a form of the classic SWOT analysis.

In looking at the future state, it doesn't necessarily require a 'clean sheet' business model. There may be many drivers that can stir change in the business. IN BMG there is the discussion of epicentres of change. For example, Blackberry is trying to create a new direction for innovation by leveraging its key resource of the QNX operating system. QNX had been around quite a while when it was acquired by Blackberry, and it is a major operating system of automobile computers. So Blackberry is creating innovation by leveraging that resource to create new mobile services for already installed operating systems in cars.

The process of innovation relies on design principles. Beginning with generating many possibilities on paper, one can then walk through the effect of each of these potential changes on the business model, identify the key assumptions, and design tests to resolve those assumptions before major investments are made in operations. These prototype innovations can be about leveraging from within the business model, or trying something new based on the environmental possibilities. This allows a company to keep the early burn rate low and test the viability and sanity of potential innovations.



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