Winning the startup phase the Jenga way

Playing Jenga, where you take a wooden block from any part of the tower and stack it on top, takes a lot of patience, concentration and control to win over your opponents. The objective of Jenga, which is a Swahili word that means “to build”, is to make a taller tower but stable enough not to topple during your turn.


It’s survival of the fittest. The way to win is not to lose. You have to do your best so that the tower will not fall on your watch. The aim is not having the tallest tower but building one that cannot collapse easily. Like in a startup stage, the way to get past that is to endeavour your business to survive the hardships that come with establishing it. It may be the most challenging phase in entrepreneurship, and you might get a pointer or two from Jenga on how to win this chapter of your business.

Maintain a stable foundation

Blocks may vary with slight differences in size and thickness. Take out first the lighter and thinner ones and pile them on top. A strong base is crucial in preventing the blocks to crash instantaneously.

If you apply this to running a business, a strong vision, mission and corporate values are necessary to keep yourself focused on your purpose. A good core team and core products or service offerings will also strengthen your enterprise. Don’t be distracted by things that may be disparate to your main business. Always keep your priorities in check and devote time and effort to more important points of your venture.

Build a structure with good balance

Watch out for every move, and concentrate on your turn and those of your opponents. A good way to keep the balance is to take out the middle blocks first because the risk of getting a block from the side is higher than that from the centre. However, if you need to remove a block from the sides, stack it on top at the opposite side from where you took it. Eliminate loose parts first rather than those that are tightly connected.

In business, you have to check the loose parts and eradicate those that may cause your enterprise to tip over. Retain things, such as people, products, equipment or process, which help hold your company together. Identify your strong points and use it as your “centre of gravity” that will keep your venture on balance even when changes or challenges come your way.

Take risks with care

To add another layer on top, you have to move blocks from the bottom. It’s a must to get the game going. During your turn, take your time and do not rush things. Tap and move a block gently. If you do it well, your turn will go successfully, while it may put your rival at the edge, as there’s a possibility of the other to lose the game.

Calculated risks are not uncommon in the business world. Entrepreneurs make a plan and also listen to their gut-feel. Review possible scenarios of the outcome of your actions. Create alternatives in an event when things do not go as expected. Be wise in your decisions. Also, experience and added knowledge can help you pull some tricks up your sleeve.

Expose yourself to various situations as much as you can. If you think you don’t have enough experience yet to bring you to your goal, you can always listen to stories of other entrepreneurs and learn from them. That’s how EO members support each other. Then work towards winning the startup phase the Jenga way.