The Circular Experimentation Workbench - a Lean and Effectual Process

Nancy Bocken*, Matthew Coffay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


UNLABELLED: Circular economy has become an important goal for companies to address climate change and pressing resource issues. Yet, the process of circular business experimentation is highly uncertain. While the lean startup has been applied to the circular experimentation process, the concept of effectuation has only been used to a limited extent, despite its potential. We investigate the following question: To what extent can lean startup and effectual thinking be combined to support the circular business model innovation process? We conducted 10 workshops where we combined these concepts with circular economy thinking. A novel process - the Circular Experimentation Workbench - was developed and evaluated to inspire participants to start experimenting with the circular economy. We found that lean startup and effectuation principles are highly complementary. Effectual questions can support the development of successful circular experiments. Our results were potentially limited by constraints related to the workshop format and action research method. Future research could build on the complementary perspectives of lean startup and effectuation to help accelerate the circular economy transition.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s43615-022-00239-w.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1361–1383
Number of pages23
JournalCircular Economy and Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2022


  • circular business models
  • circular economy
  • sustainability
  • Effectuation
  • Lean startup
  • business experimentation

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