Let’s play JENGA®!

  • Design Thinking
  • Tool

You can use the Business Model Canvas to help identify the riskiest assumptions of your business model. For instance, are your customers willing to spend money at all (and for what)? What key resources can we rely on to produce something people want to buy? Can our key partners ship materials on time and for the right price? Etc. etc. etc.

The challenge with this exercise often becomes one of priority and not of quantity. In other words, how might you and your team clearly (visually) stack rank your assumptions from riskiest to not-so-risky so that you understand which ones you’ll need to test first and so on? To help you have this conversation (in a fun and engaging way), we created the Riskiest Assumption Canvas (found on pages 200-201 of Design a Better Business and downloadable from www.designabetterbusiness.com).

Let’s play JENGA®!

JENGA® is a game where players, in turn, try to remove blocks from a wooden tower. Each block that’s pulled out may make the tower collapse, but the blocks on the bottom are critical to keeping the tower upright.

Think of your idea as a big Jenga tower, where all of the bricks are assumptions. When one of the assumptions on the bottom of the stack is invalidated, and the brick is removed, the entire tower may fall. When you remove one from the top, not much will happen.

We need to make sure that the base of the tower is safe. We need to start at the bottom, with what we call the riskiest assumptions. At the moment, all the other assumptions are not as important. After all, if the riskiest assumption is incorrect, it may be totally irrelevant to think about any of the others: maybe your idea needs to change completely in the light of the new knowledge!


To find your riskiest assumption, go over your business model canvas, value proposition, design criteria, and the other things you have already learned. What are your assumptions? What are the things you’re not sure about? Use this template to map them on a wall with your team as a Jenga tower. The ones that absolutely must be true for your idea to work go on the bottom of the stack. The ones that are less important or depend on other assumptions go higher up.

And, of course, the more you do this, the better it gets. The key (as always) is to do this with your team. Sure, you can try this out yourself. But, without having the people in the room to have right strategic conversations about the assumptions that have been made, you’ll likely end up with something that doesn’t address the heart of the matter.

So what are your riskiest assumptions?

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