Last November I had the pleasure of attending a Strategyzer workshop in San Francisco. Over the course of 2017, I’ve often reflected on and utilized the lessons from that experience. Strategyzer – the brainchild of speaker, thought leader and entrepreneurship expert Alex Osterwalder – is best known for its widely adopted Business Model Canvas, a tool that has been used by more than five million people across the world, cited in best-selling business books as an indispensable resource for executives, and helped users learn about innovation, strategy, business model design and value propositions.

For business strategists and design thinkers, a Strategyzer workshop is equivalent to the Superbowl. And since I fancy myself a visual thinker, I was over the moon to snag a coveted spot at the event. The experience did not disappoint.

This two-day workshop, a mixture of lectures and strictly timed individual and group exercises, gave me a deeper understanding of the methodologies and tools used to stimulate productive discussion about business strategy, and it sparked many ideas that apply to my own work in public relations.

Here are three takeaways from the event that changed how I approach my work as a strategic communicator:

Don’t Marry Your First Idea: In our fast-paced world where time is money, it’s tempting to fall in love with your first idea. Yet, without doing the necessary work to understand if your idea is the right solution, it might be doomed to fail. Osterwalder offers a better way to pressure test your ideas: rapid prototyping. A common practice in the design profession, rapid prototyping helps you explore possible alternatives quickly and cheaply to assess their feasibility, desirability and viability. This critical step helps you avoid the temptation of going too deep and wasting time and resources on ideas that may not be a business “fit.”

Develop a Shared Language for Your Team: Osterwalder emphasized that when your team is working on a specific challenge, whether it be for a client or your own business, it’s important you are all speaking the same language. With your company culture as the foundation, he suggested combining the “languages” of images and words to describe business issues. Since our brains process images quicker than words, using a blend of these languages not only facilitates the interaction of large groups, but it helps participants grasp big picture concepts and come to a consensus much quicker.

Focus on Collaboration: Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is the need to bring more creative and collaborative processes to the workplace. Osterwalder’s interactive workshop is proof that – when designed well – an action-oriented experience forces people to stay in-the-moment, contribute their best thinking, and fully own the outcomes.

If you’re a business leader looking to activate the best thinking in your team, better understand your customers, leverage existing assets and, ultimately, grow your business, follow these tips and I guarantee it will spur productive conversations that lead to value creation.

In 2018, it’s your turn to experiment, communicate and collaborate. For a hands-on experience with Alex Osterwalder within your organization, contact us.

Tara Baumgarten is a Senior Vice President at Stern Strategy Group. Tara’s curiosity and creativity consistently drive clients and colleagues toward their goals in ways never before imagined. Whether she is making powerful connections on the conference circuit or translating narrative into compelling visual form, Tara is counted on for her sharp ability to make communications concepts come to life.