How to Create a DIY Innovation Workshop

A free kit for creating a DIY innovation workshop based on the ideas of our popular Unicorn game

Twelve months ago, we launched The Unicorn, a game on startup innovation and storytelling. It has since become widely popular in multinational corporations, corporate and startup accelerators and business school programs alike.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the game, I’ll take a look at some of the key ideas behind the game and give a guideline and template to create your very own innovation workshop.

Turning disruption into a business strategy

Digital transformation and innovation have been high on the corporate agenda for some time. Fast-moving startups are coming up with industry-changing business models and new, user centric approaches to solving traditional product- and service delivery.

Large companies are understandably trying to keep their competitive advantage, and in most cases, are in a pretty good place to do so. They often have the resources to do what small startups can’t, and they can also buy out incumbents and other interesting additions to their business portfolio.

One thing that is harder to buy, is a startup innovation mindset and culture. Companies are struggling to push employees to innovate, while the risks of failing are higher than in a “all-or-nothing” startup. While recent research advocates for the development of generalists over specialists, corporates are not always great at supporting lateral thinking.

The Unicorn learning process

The Unicorn Game is designed to reach learning objectives which need to be experienced rather than lectured. The startup mindset requires a simulation-style approach, which allows participants to live a similar structure, where the entrepreneurs innovate.

The game taps into the power of team learning, using a creative challenge while allowing individual decision-making to affect the end result of the game.

Team Learning

The players are set out to work in small teams (like startups often are). Small groups of 3-6 players allow for an intimate participation, while providing enough diversity and group learning which one or two individuals would have a hard time offering.

Creative Challenge

The players battle for an epic challenge – how to create a billion-dollar company that many startups dream of. The challenge is nearly impossible, but given the right conditions, players come up with completely credible, and often really amazing business concepts. The teams draw random Megatrend cards and Business Models of existing Unicorn companies which they have to combine with a random Offering.

How about giving your team an assignment to build the next Brewdog of Cosmetics, driven by the megatrend of Virtual Reality?

An element that makes the challenge real and drives the push for creative output is that teams have to pitch at the end of the challenge. Nobody gets to hide, just like in startup life.

Individual Decision Making

In the end of the game, players get to enact Investor Personas based on a real-life model. When players are given $10M to invest in the participating teams, they get to understand what it feels like to stand on the other side of the aisle (from startup to investor), and have individual reflection and power over the outcomes of the game result.

A Workshop template for a DIY Innovation Workshop

How to create a disruptive innovation workshop? Here are some sample materials to create a DIY Unicorn innovation workshop, if you don’t happen to have your own copy of our Unicorn Game.

Before the workshop, download and print the cards template here (1 set per team of 3 to 5 players). Cut out the cards.

Suggested agenda / flow for a 30min quick game:


Welcome the participants to The Unicorn Innovation Game

Form groups of 3 to 5 players. Explain the objective of the workshop and the goal of the game: Teams will battle to create incredible business innovations with the given variables. A Unicorn is a $1bn valued company, so players will have to think big. The team that comes up with the best Unicorn idea, wins the game.


Let each team draw a Megatrend card, A Business Model card and an Offering card.

Ask teams to combine the cards: “We are the _(business model)_ of _(offering)_, and our innovation is driven by the megatrend of _(megatrend)_.

These are the given variables, and the rest you will have to come up with yourselves. You have 15min to develop your business idea and prepare a 1min pitch to the other teams.


Time is out! Invite each team to pitch their Unicorn idea in 1min. Ask players to pay attention to each other’s pitches and think which idea would they invest €10M in, if they were an investor.


Ask each player to write down (eg on a post-it) the name of the team they would invest in. Players are not allowed to invest in their own team. Collect post-its and calculate which team collected most investments.


Declare the winner and thank the players for joining the game!

After the game, ask players to reflect on ideas and insights they gained. Suggested questions for further exploration:

  • What megatrends are affecting your business landscape?
  • What business models could act as an inspiration for new opportunities?
  • How can you cultivate an innovation mindset? What habits and incentives drive startup innovation?

The Unicorn Journey continues

We were recently exhibiting the Unicorn game at the Wired Smarter conference in London and are running Unicorn sessions at two Slush side events: SAIS BOOST UP Bootcamp on Nov 16th and XcitED edtech event on Nov 20th. Hope to see you around! If you have tips on which events we should be demoing the game or would like to run a Unicorn workshop in your company, let us know!

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