A Canvas Unlike The Others
John Borden | December 18, 2018
Today we’re celebrating the 3 year anniversary of Business Toybox.
Okay, so that date was actually a month ago. Maybe further back. Truth is, I can’t really remember the original date I started working on Business Toybox. All I know is that on the weekend of November 18th, 2015, Techstars and Startup Weekend had another Global Startup Battle, and I decided to enter their first (and possibly only) competition track that was open to anyone. I didn’t think I had any chance since I was from Albuquerque, a city often overlooked for it’s startup potential, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.
About a month later, I found out that I had actually won their Open Track (making today’s date pretty close to the 3 year anniversary of finding out I won, I guess). I won’t go into the details of how I think I won (a combination of luck and insignificance), but I felt pretty great for the tiny bit of fame and recognition I got for a project I had just started working on, and it gave me an extra nudge to keep working on this quirky little idea.
Fast forward, and a lot has changed. Maybe 2 years into working on Toybox I realized that the Business Model Canvas actually looked a lot like this thing I use called a Kanban board (a more complex to-do list basically). They both consisted of rectangles with post-it notes inside them, the key difference was the arrangement of rectangles, and the rules regarding post-it note placement. Otherwise, they’re basically the same. Beyond simply looking similar, I also felt that there was a lot of room for improvement when it came to Kanban boards, and as it happens the ideas I had for improvement were basically the same ideas I had for improving the Business Model Canvas.
For this reason, I’ve wanted to create a Kanban board on Business Toybox for quite some time now. This prompted me to drop what I was doing once I realized that the 3 year anniversary was approaching and work on this instead…
This is a new Canvas on Business Toybox. I couldn’t decide whether to call it a Kanban Canvas or a To-Do Canvas, so I called it the Kanban / To-do Canvas. A bit of an awkward name, but it’ll work.
The Interactive Canvas
Creating this Canvas was not easy, for the simple fact that it’s the first Canvas that’s actually dynamic.
What does this actually mean? Well, both the Business Model Canvas and the Lean Canvas in Business Toybox let you interact with them by placing Tokens within their Panels, but the Canvases themselves never change. You can’t, say, create new Panels, rename the Panels, move them around, etc. With this new Canvas, however, you can create new Panels, rename them, move them around, etc.
Well, kinda. Now would be a good time to bring up the fact that this is an early preview of Kanban canvases. You can’t actually move the panels around yet. You can definitely create new ones though.
Another introduction to Business Toybox is the List Token. Those rectangles you see inside the Panels are still Tokens. They’re just not round and they take up the full width of whatever panel they’re placed inside. Put a bunch of them together, and it looks a bit like a list of Tokens. Hence the name.
The existing Tokens on Business Toybox have their advantages. Namely, you just drag-and-drop them onto a spot, and they occupy as much space as needed. In other words, they’re very space efficient, and can even be overlapped a little to squeeze even more Tokens into a space. If you have a really large amount of space to work with, then you can cluster similar Tokens together to intuitively convey that they’re related somehow.
List Tokens were created for the new Kanban Canvas because Kanban boards and To-Do lists aren’t used to organize ideas, but rather are used to organize work, specifically tasks. Even though Normal Tokens would’ve worked fine, people are simply used to organizing tasks and work around lists. Lists are also very good at conveying priority. If something is at the top of the list, we intuitively assume that it is very important. One other thing List Tokens have over normal Tokens is that you can stack them infinitely height-wise into a Panel. Any Tokens that are outside the bounds of the Panel are simply hidden until you scroll down.
In the future, you’ll be able to decide for yourself what Tokens you want in your Canvas, and even make it so that specific Panels use specific Tokens. For now though, List Tokens are a Kanban / To-Do Canvas feature.
What Comes Next
So now there’s a grand total of 3 Canvases you can choose from, with the newest one being a Canvas that can be customized in a pretty much endless number of ways by virtue of the simple fact that you can change the Panel names, move them around, and create new ones. More Canvases will follow, including a Canvas being designed this very moment that lets you customize it even further.
The Kanban Canvas differs from the other Canvases in that it’s designed for work and productivity purposes, while the other Canvases are really used more for research purposes (namely, gathering research from potential customers on the viability of different parts of your business model). In the future, more Canvases will be introduced to satisfy more roles. At first these roles will still be tied to improving the outcomes of your startup, business, company, etc, but as time goes on more Canvases might be created to improving the outcomes of entities that don’t quite fit the mold of a startup or business. I’m looking at you, non-profits.
Finally, there’s Tokens. List Tokens represent a pretty big change simply because they’re a completely different type of Token. Expect another new Token type in the future, as well as a big change in how you create details around a Token.
One More Thing
You might have noticed that one of the List Tokens features a graphic that’s never been seen before on Business Toybox. We’ll talk about that means pretty soon.