The Gist of It for Busy Execs:

  • The Strategic Innovation Canvas is a simple, easy-to-use tool to collaborate on, communicate and develop future-oriented strategy.
  • The Strategic Innovation Canvas is built upon the theories of Clayton Christensen (three types of innovation) and Rita McGrath (discovery-driven growth and short-term competitive advantages).
  • Companies that use the canvas like Statoil, Reckitt Benckiser, and Biotage find that it allows them to shape a very different future for their organization.

Christian Rangen — co-founder of Strategy Tools


It’s now been 5 years since the early development of the Strategic Innovation Canvas. The strategy tool has since been put to use in hundreds of companies.

We decided to take a look back at history and sat down with the original strategy tool designer Christian Rangen with a few questions.

1. What can the Strategic Innovation Canvas do for my company?


The single biggest impact the Strategic Innovation Canvas has is helping management teams and strategists to create a more future-oriented strategy.

Most companies are incredibly focused on operations and the status quo. As the pace of innovation and disruption is picking up worldwide, we believe companies need better tools for their future.

This has been the driving idea behind Strategy Tools since our early research days back in 2011. We simply must build better strategy tools and the Strategic Innovation Canvas is but one small contribution to this global challenge.

The Strategic Innovation Canvas gives you a strategic framework for developing an options-driven innovation portfolio. This builds heavily on one of our advisory board members Rita McGrath’s long-time work on discovery-driven growth and short-term competitive advantages.

Companies that use the tool like Statoil, Reckitt Benckiser, and Biotage, realize that they’re able to shape a very different future for their company simply by using a different strategy tool.  


The Strategic Innovation Canvas – a great tool to engage everyone in shaping strategy | Reckitt Benckiser workshop, Italy


2. Where did the canvas originate from?


Early during our research, we found a repetitive pattern of thinking in threes.

Again and again we saw this becoming very apparent in the field of strategy.

One example is the old McKinsey research — The Three Horizons of Growth, where companies need to think about the short term, medium term and the long term at the same time.

Equally Clayton Christensen talks about three in terms of sustaining innovation, improving innovation, and market-creating innovations. But we realized that we didn’t really have any good future-oriented tools that brought this level of “three” into practical use.

Working with a number of companies including our good friends at Statoil, we started sketching out and prototyping the first designs of the Strategic Innovation Canvas. Using highly innovative companies like Amazon as case studies, we were able to communicate and articulate what this meant in practice.

Our goal in the early days was really to build a simple, easy-to-use visual tool that came out of fairly advanced research and understanding of how to shape strategy for the future. And i hope we have achieved that fairly well.


With the Strategic Innovation Canvas, it’s easy to collaborate on shaping the strategy of your company | RB using the SIC in a workshop


3. How was the early development work?


The early development work built on a lot of design workshops with the executives from many industries.

The tool was largely built through workshops and testing with executives responsible for designing and shaping strategy across many different industries.

This has not been a primarily academic research, but really a genuine co-creation with executives around the world.

Following the very early design phase, we quickly took our work on the road and presented the early designs at various innovation conferences, including Copenhagen, Cannes, and Vienna. Again the feedback that we got from the larger innovation community helped confirm our earlier experiences and helped shape this tool further.


The Strategic Innovation Canvas works seamlessly with other visual strategy tools | Tenaga Nasional workshop, Malaysia


4. What’s been your biggest learning?


One of the effects of working with the tool is that management teams, strategy teams quickly realize that most of their energy and intellect goes into core business and operational issues.

Simply working with the tool forces you and enables you to design a different strategy for the future.

Again and again we see management teams surprise themselves when they realized how operationally focused they have become, and they simply do not have a proper strategy and innovation portfolio in place.

My biggest learning has been that simply by visualizing on this and starting work on it, companies quickly adapt and start developing better strategic thinking for themselves.


With the right facilitation, 300 people can work on shaping company strategy at the same time. | Biotage workshop, Spain.

5. How do you see companies using the tool? What is the best practice when using the Strategic Innovation Canvas?


Best practice is really when the tool becomes internalized by leaders and strategists at all levels.

This might take time, this might require some training sessions, but once leadership starts using the tool for their own progress, once the strategy team starts using the tool in internal sessions, once mid-level managers pull it out to start to discussing a more ambitious strategy, that’s when the tool really comes to effect.

The Strategic Innovation Canvas is not meant for a one-time, one-session use, but really it is a deep strategic tool that should be embedded into the organizational DNA.


[Case Study: How Statoil used the Strategic Innovation Canvas to get from idea to prototype in only weeks]

One of the teams from Biotage working on the Strategic Innovation Canvas


6. What do you see next for the Strategic Innovation Canvas?


Moving forward, we see three things.

One, we see an increasing number of companies putting it to use.

Two, we see more and more strategy and innovation teams internalizing it and using it in their everyday work.

Three, we’re looking at ways to bring this into a software solution.

We are working on our book and our writing in general, to publish more content, insights, and case studies on how our strategy tools are being put to use. This has been work in progress since 2012, and we’re still trying to find time to make more of that happen.


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