By @SimonCocking.

Describe the company – the elevator pitch …

The objective of Playing Lean is to learn the dynamics of innovation and Lean Startup in a risk free environment. Players are forced to make difficult choices without risking their life savings or the future of their workplaces. A class on methodology can be pretty dry. However, we saw that workshops using games and game like exercises had the potential of engaging everyone, from the most skeptical to the most resistant.

The inception of Playing Lean happened some two and a half years ago with after a failed workshop with a client of my cofounder Simen Fure Jørgensen. He wanted to buy the “Lean Startup game” to improve the workshop for next time around. A quick search revealed that there was no such thing. So he proceeded to do the only responsible thing: he started making one.
After two Kickstarters, a lot of hard of work and even more fun Playing Lean is now a favorite introductory tool for companies and coaches all over the world.

How are you different?

We would like to differ between the short run, and the long run. In the short run there are no other serious games aimed at conveying the Lean Startup method as we are aware of, this makes Playing Lean unique.

In the long run we need to iterate and improve on the game and the workshop experience. Another way to differentiate us from potential new Lean Startup teaching tools is the Facilitator Club. Focusing on growing and achieving a vibrant cocreation environment of Lean Startup practitioners will provide us with a lasting unfair advantage.

Why will the company / product do well?

We have had some moderate success already. Playing Lean is the most upvoted board game on Product Hunt and the most funded board game from Scandinavia on Kickstarter. That being said, I believe that it will be our facilitators that will make Playing Lean a really great workshop and learning experience.

Sharing experiences and cocreating new workshop formats the members of the Facilitator Club has already improved the way we facilitate the game and I think the knowledge sharing and co-creation has only just begun. Our goal is to grow together with our facilitators, partners, our illustrator Holger Nils Pohl and our advisor Ash Maurya.

Where are you based?

We are quite an international team. Simen and I are based in Oslo, Norway, our designer Holger Nils Pohl are based in Cologne, Germany and our advisor Ash Maurya works out of Austin, Texas in the USA. Members of the Facilitator club Playing Lean are also represented in the Netherlands, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Russia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and France.

When was the company launched?

My business partner Simen developed a concept for a board game to teach Lean Startup in 2013. He put in a lot of work into it, and tested it on a few different local conferences. His prototype was received well, but he did not really have the time to work more on it. I stumbled upon it, met Simen and ran with it. Over the course of 2014, we played, tested, changed everything back and forth.

Actually we did not incorporate before we needed a organizational number in order to launch a Kickstarter campaign, so you might say that we launched the company when we started the first Kickstarter campaign the 15th of January 2014.

What have been your biggest wins to date?

Throughout the campaign of our first Kickstarter campaign, I was living life on the road, visiting 16 cities in 7 states across the USA. On the agenda were meetups, morning meetings, feedback sessions and more playtesting than you can imagine. Being able to incorporate the feedback we got into the game help us improve the game and making it much more enjoyable. Not giving up, and not starting playing the blame game after the failure of our first Kickstarter is another thing I look back at with pride.

Winning the confidence and being able to recruit our designer, advisor and our initial facilitators to our growing team has been crucial for the overall success.

What type of people (market segment) are you trying to attract to your product?

We quickly saw that we needed to address two types of users. Those who would be buying the game, and those who would be playing it. There is an overlap, since buyers would also want to play. After a lot of discussions and interviews, our line of thinking was to distinguish between buyers and players.

Buyers – enthusiasts that might know Lean Startup well, but who want some smart way to make others enthusiastic too (without forcing them to read a book or take a class).

Players – people working in innovation, but who are not actively seeking new knowledge about better ways to do it.

Segmenting users this way was important. It made our choice easier later on, when we were articulating our unique value proposition. We gained a lot of early attention from universities and business schools, who are very eager to use the game in a formal education setting. Initially we thought they would be our early adopters, however after the failure of our first Kickstarter campaign it turned out that consultants were our early adopters.

Tell us about your team?

Playing Lean is created by a team of passionate entrepreneurs from around the world. Simen is the original founder of the game and is also the cofounder of Otovo, a Solar company in Oslo, Norway. Holger Nils Pohl, the game’s illustrator, is known for his unique style. He is a Visual Strategy Facilitator who makes any kind of complexity tangible, visual and understandable. He is also
a trained woodworker and have a diploma in communications design. For three years he has worked as a professional graphic facilitator for both national and international companies all over the world. Ash Maurya is our special Lean Startup advisor. His inputs have been crucial for the development of the game. He has been a major influence when it comes to the learning
potential of the game.

I (Tore Rasmussen) based my Master Thesis on the learning outcome of the game and are currently busy giving Playing Lean workshops all over Europe and scaling the Facilitator Club.

What are you long term plans for your product / company?

Keeping up with demand, we are making new scenarios, also adding more language packages and working on communicating the rules of the game better. In the long term we plan to iterate on the game itself and make a new version. Making the Facilitator Club a vibrant community for Lean Startup practitioners all over the world is also an important goal for us.

What are your favourite tech gadgets?

I am often working from venues that are quite noisy like cafes and airports, so if I have to name one favorite tech gadget it would have to be my Bose noise cancelling headphones. The battery runs out fast, but it is pure magic.

What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?

I would love to be able to use virtual reality goggles like Oculus Rift for meetings and working out.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?

“ How can I become a Facilitator ” is one question that is missing. The answer is that we have scheduled Facilitator trainings all over Europe and the Americas the coming months so there are many opportunities to participate at the training.

How do people get in touch with you?

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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