The Learning Model Canvas

| Comments

For the past several weeks in the Saltbox Savvy blog series, I’ve outlined the most prevalent corporate learning models, including the challenges and benefits businesses face implementing them. Organizations can always pick and choose components of different models that work for them, and individual divisions and business units may pursue different learning goals. But the most successful learning organizations align around a primary model.


The point is not that one model is better than any another; every business has different training needs. What is important is that the chosen model is planned, realistic, and achieves the desired business outcome. The increasing ubiquity of technology in the workplace has changed user expectations for faster and deeper learning experiences. Businesses have responded by exploring and adapting to new learning models. But that begs the question: How does an organization choose a model, and how do they get there once they’ve chosen?

Visualizing Change

This is where I’ve come in as an L&D consultant. I help businesses crystallize their goals and leverage their strengths to achieve them. Transforming an organization’s learning system, even for a small business, is a complex task. At Saltbox, we’ve developed a consulting tool that clarifies the transition process for L&D, which we call the Learning Model Canvas.

The Learning Model Canvas (LMC) is a visual representation of the key elements that contribute to the success of an organization’s learning model. It’s based on the canvas developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur in their book Business Model Generation. The LMC provides a holistic view of corporate learning to ideate, plan, and iterate until an organization finds itself in an effective, sustainable learning model that meets desired business outcomes.

Anatomy of the Learning Model Canvas

Using the canvas is not a linear, step-by-step process, but a dynamic one. It involves aligning nine key elements of learning models, as you can see in the image above:

  • Customer Segments
  • Business Outcomes
  • Customer Relationship
  • Value Proposition
  • Design
  • Delivery
  • Resources
  • Partners
  • Cost Structure

Though businesses often start by establishing their desired Customer Segment or Business Outcome, no single element is necessarily the correct starting point. And circumstances will often dictate the approach to a section; if L&D’s budget is fixed and restricted, for instance, Cost Structure may be the deciding feature to start with, regardless of what the other factors suggest. Invariably, compromises will need to be made, but in the end, each section needs to be aligned behind a single direction.

I’ll be covering each of the above sections in greater detail in the coming weeks. For the moment, it’s enough to understand that any one of these sections can kickstart organizational change by posing difficult questions about L&D: Who is the real customer? What is the true value proposition? What kind of budget is necessary to deliver maximum value? It’s easy enough to say your business operates in one learning model or another, but the answers to these questions are what actually bear that model out.

This highlights the real value of the LMC: Every business needs to have tough conversations addressing these questions before executing an effective L&D program. The Learning Model Canvas provides an easy-to-understand visual tool to open the dialogue in a way that is accessible to executives and managers. Gaining buy-in from learning stakeholders early in the planning process can make or break a transition.

Putting the Learning Model Canvas to work

I hope this brief introduction to the LMC already has you excited to give it a try, and I’d encourage you to download a copy and follow along as I describe the process in more detail. Whether L&D’s approach is assertive—actively defining and shaping an organization’s learning model—or passive—accepting and working within the restrictions placed on it—the LMC is an ideal tool to clarify what a business needs and expects of its learning programs.

Management teams can complete the LMC as a short exercise, but it can also be used at the tactical level as the learning model becomes fully realized. As the nitty gritty details of tradeoffs, costs, and compromises become more tangible, it may be helpful to bring in a third-party to work through the LMC with you. As I mentioned, the Learning Model Canvas is about opening up tough conversations, which may be a delicate matter in-house, but an easier prospect for an outside consultant.

However you decide to use the LMC, keep reading Saltbox Savvy as I explore how it can help you transform L&D. If you’re ready to start the process or have any questions, contact us at Saltbox or leave a comment below.