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'Strategic Perspective for Innovation' canvas


Through the course of my work with several start-ups, I’ve developed a one-page canvas which helps build the case for applying the service design perspective and tools, within a single short workshop: The 'Strategic Perspective for Innovation' canvas.

SPI Canvas

A start-up team at CHINACCELERATOR in Shanghai fills in the SPI canvas.

Canvases are a familiar format for start-ups – they are created collaboratively (ideally lead by a facilitator), trigger valuable discussions and decision-making, and remain visible on the wall as a shared reference.


And because start-ups can benefit from a truly holistic, customer-centred design perspective as they set out, this canvas reinforces the importance and potential of service design early on. By building awareness of the many aspects that service design touches upon, it can effectively lay the groundwork for it to be applied systematically, going forward.


Hover over the canvas above to see a description of what information is captured in each section. Click here to open full-size.

A description of the canvas elements

Organisational vision
The overarching vision for what the organisation wants to achieve for the future.
This should already exist, as a vision statement or mission statement, and can be copied here.


Service vision
The desired experience the organisation wants to deliver when its customers interact with its products and services. This is often not yet articulated, but should represent a powerful, differentiating factor. It should be a short statement, articulated in aspirational and experiential terms, and informed by any existing insights.


These are internal and external factors that are potential barriers to achieving the Service Vision. They may include regulations, legal issues, complex processes, technical limitations, etc. Despite a start-up’s small size, organisational issues impacting the service could also go here.


Service delivery context
This area is used to capture factors which concern how the service will be provided to customers. These include touchpoints and channels (eventually) utilised, timescale and chronological flow of service, third-party service providers and touchpoints, etc. If research-based insights already exist concerning known or expected pain points or ‘a-ha’ moments, they can be placed here.


This is where expected developments which will impact the service delivery are collected. They may include predicted changes in customer expectation, competitor advancements, new technologies, regulations or legal issues, etc.


Customer context
This contains high-level insights about target customers, such as pains and gains, demographics, JTDs, existing solutions/workarounds and their current alternatives to start-up's service offering. Questions to guide customer research may be captured, or current assumptions, but these should be validated/replaced by future findings.

My service design work with start-ups

In the past several years I've specialized in applying service design to the unique challenges of innovation environments and start-ups. Learn more about what I offer here:

When to create it

When to create the SPI canvas

Because the purpose of the canvas is to introduce the service (design) perspective into a start-up, and to lay the ground for the service design mind-set and techniques to be applied structurally and consistently, it is best to introduce the canvas earlier rather than later.


The start-up should already have its vision and mission defined (although, of course, it's subject to change). And the proposition that the start-up plans to bring to the market should already be well-defined, but not yet developed. That is, there's an understanding of the target customer(s), the context they'll use the product or service in, what they're trying to accomplish, and what the service delivery will look like (what channels and touchpoints will be used).

By creating it before development begins in earnest, the issues that are triggered and discussed due to the canvas - such as the importance of having a holistic perspective on service delivery, and the importance of the service experience - can hopefully influence the way the start-up organizes itself and operates going forward. 

How can this awareness translate into positive outcomes? For instance, the interaction or product designer can identify knowledge gaps and unknowns about target customers, and build-in additional research activities. Or the app product owner can better co-ordinate the development of the app with the person responsible for the website, having been made aware of the fact that customers are likely to move frequently between both once the service launches.

So the best moment to introduce the canvas comes once a value proposition is established and the idea is taking shape. At that point the canvas can be based on research, insights and a feel of the product taking shape. However if development teams are already at work, the canvas will still deliver value, but it may be too late to effectively build the importance of the service vision (and therefore of service design) into the DNA and way-of-working of the start-up. 

Ideally, the SPI canvas is created early on, before a start-up's proposition is defined, and development begins. This allows the aware of the 'service perspective' - triggered by the canvas - to create a mandate for service design activities.


Creating the canvas is easy, and requires only a workshop of around an hour. As with many deliverables created in a workshop setting, the discussions triggered during the creation are at least as valuable - if not more so - than the end deliverable itself. Therefore ensure that you seize this opportunity to link the issues raised to the perspectives and value of service design.


Gather data and insights about target customers.


Gather what is already known about the market context and the proposition itself.


Ensure some kind of organizational vision for the start-up exists.


Review how complete the information is that you gathered during steps 1-3. If things are missing or incomplete, address them first before moving on to create the canvas. While some aspects of the canvas can be based to to-be-validated assumptions, it's best to have the canvas built on real data, insights and strategic decisions.


Plan a workshop of about an hour.


Invite the team - start-ups are typically small, and it's crucial to have not just the founders on board, but those whose responsibilities touch upon the service experience.


Draw the canvas on a whiteboard, leaving plenty of space for Post-its in each section.


Start with the 'Organizational Vision', which should already exist.


Move clockwise around the canvas, filling in 'Challenges', 'Trends', 'Customer context' and 'Service delivery context'. In this way, the team will move from areas where they have more knowledge and confidence, to ones where they perhaps do not. Refer to the guide above, and the example SPI canvas, if you feel you need assistance. There's not really a right or wrong way of capturing things, nor a required level of detail. 


Culminate the workshop with formulating the 'Service vision', based on what has been already discussed.


After the completion of the canvas, ensure you share it with the team and that it remains visible - ideally on a wall.


Don't forget to revisit the canvas as the start-up grows. Many start-ups pivot and make both minor and radical changes to their value proposition. Keep the canvas up-to-date!



Blank 'Service Perspective for Innovation' canvas
Elements and instructions

The Service Perspective for Innovation Canvas (SPI) is made available under a Creative Commons "Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International" license.

I write frequently about service design. Interested? Visit Writing


Jesse Grimes

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