Enlisting the Inner Child to Learn About the “Lean Startup Model:” Gabriele Garofalo

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Most people would baulk at the idea of spending several hours of their free time learning about yet another “business tool,” right? Yet, on Friday, 19 October, at John Cabot University, students attended a Lean Startup workshop run by Gabriele Garofalo, that turned this notion on its head.

Gabriele Garofalo

Gabriele Garofalo (center)

The workshop was hosted by the JCU Institute for Entrepreneurship in the leadup to the JCU Weekend of Startups 9-10-11 November. Garofalo, Functional Analyst at Everis, Co-Organizer at TEDx Verona and Ambassador at Impactscool, used an interesting approach to engage the audience and teach us a tool that can be applied in a variety of settings.

Armed with paper, scissors, and mounting excitement, participating students organized in groups set to the task of producing paper snowflakes and offering them for sale in the “market”, played by Garofalo himself. The “market” reacted to the proposed snowflakes, validating them or rejecting them, following criteria that were hidden to the players. Based on the outcome, students had to make hypotheses about what the market liked or disliked, and test them by modifying products accordingly. An added twist: as time went by, the market evolved, and the snowflake that had been eagerly received up to a point might get suddenly rejected!

This is what student Valerie Kozak had to say about the event: “It was an effective mixture of playful art activities (we felt we were back in kindergarten) and serious business sense rooted in the Lean Startup model. It vividly conveyed the turbulent journey of research, validation, and growth. We learned about the characteristics of the market by trial and error. When our team found a right combination of accepted shapes, colors, or patterns we would quickly capitalize on it producing three or four of the same type. Rejection of our prototypes was just as significant as their acceptance; when we failed, we were only learning more.”

Valerie added: “It was very serious play: our inner child came alive during this exercise, fueling us with enthusiasm as we learned the value of hypothesizing, testing, and validating data to optimize sales, customer satisfaction, and customer retention. The playfulness released our creativity, made us more open to experimentation, and much more receptive the lessons being conveyed. I will certainly never forget this workshop!”