It Takes Being Lean to Play Lean

“We’ve only just tapped into the beginning of the potential.” – Tore Rasmussen on teaching Lean Startup.
Test playing in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Photo Credit: Playing Lean
Test playing in Rotterdam, Netherlands with Co-Founders Tore and Simen.
Photo Credit: Playing Lean

Taking an idea and turning it into a business is risky and the likelihood that you will be successful by copying and pasting someone else’s business model will only seal your fate as another failed startup.But how can an innovative millennial founder-to-be get over this potentially idea killing situation?

Meet the masterminds behind the incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign for Playing Lean, the board game, Simen Fure Jørgensen and Tore Rasmussen. Based on the Lean Startup Method, Simen and Tore built a teaching tool that simulates the process of rapidly building a successful business. Made famous by Eric Ries in 2011 by his book, The Lean Startup, the Lean Startup Method is centered on building the simplest prototype, testing it and gaining customer feedback, and then applying those lessons to improve the product. Today, the framework is deemed an essential piece to building a successful startup.

How I found them

I discovered Playing Lean by participating in the Lean Startup Academy’s Meetup, “Playing Lean.” At the time, I had heard of Lean and understood the basic principles, of “build, measure, learn” but, wanted to learn more. As luck would have it, I was able to join a testing group for a board game, Playing Lean. After 2 to 3 hours of maneuvering the prototype and relentlessly trying to push the boundaries of the game, I gained a greater appreciation and understanding of the importance of Lean.

Photo Credit: http://blog.necomputersolutions.com/
Photo Credit: http://blog.necomputersolutions.com/

This experience was not unique. For the past 18 months, Tore and Simen have been traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe testing low level prototypes. Organizing a variety of groups tests of the game and carefully documenting the interactions with the product led the duo to gaining 500% more than their goal on Kickstarter within a year and a half of the first prototype.

How They Started

But how did these two meet and create a game as well as an educational tool? Simen worked as an IT consultant and often had to teach the Lean Startup Method to groups within these larger groups. Simen searched for tools and teaching aides to help his clients grasp the concept beyond just reading the book. One night, while playing board games at home the idea came to Simen to create a board game version of the Lean Startup Method. Within months he had created tons of prototypes and gained some feedback, but it wasn’t until an inquisitive grad student, Tore, was able to join Simen did the team begin to assemble.

Bringing his programming expertise, Tore was able to help Simen address the technical aspects of the game. They wanted to build a game that would take 90 minutes to play while still allowing players the ability to firmly understand Lean.

More test play. Photo Credit: Playing Lean
Using Lean to build the game, get customer feedback often.
Photo Credit: Playing Lean

Lean Challenges

Through their first iteration they faced many challenges. First, they failed to raise capital through their first Kickstarter campaign. Second, they struggled to get the scenarios just right. To properly address it, they had to be willing to toss out good work, 200+ of it, all in the hope of building the right product. But through each challenge, Tore and Simen continued the process to build, test, learn.

By taking the game out into the U.S. and European markets to their ideal consumer, not only were they able to build a better game but they were also able to build a massive following. That following, paired with new team members and the guidance of Lean Startup evangelist, Ash Maurya, Playing Lean was fully funded in 10 hours and is now available here.

Lean Successes

Ash Maurya, Lean Celebrity Advocate Photo Credit: Playing Lean
Ash Maurya, Lean Celebrity Advocate
Photo Credit: Playing Lean

Although laden with challenges, Tore points to seeing people playing the game and have moments where they clearly see how their last project went astray. “It’s not like reading a book. You have the euphoria from winning and the pain of losing,” says the millennial co-founder. Seeing those moments, Tore hopes that Playing Lean will save entrepreneurs tons of money and time in their business’s future.

Lean Advice

Looking back, Tore’s greatest piece of advice is:
Really challenge yourself. For example, if in the testing stage ask if what you are doing is the absolute MVP (Minimally Viable Product) or is there a way you can make it cheaper and faster to get that learning.
For more information on Lean Startup visit Eric Ries or Ash Maurya or buy the game from Playing Lean here.

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