A great morning spent @Google London, focussing on ‘Design Sprints for Change’. 400 applications for the event, 100 in the room – it is a movement. It was fascinating to see how other big and small businesses are employing the same approach as RGAX to help their business grow by helping others. It was also nice to reconnect with John Vetan and Dana Vetan @designsprintacademy who showed us the way to identify real problems worth solving and create solutions you can test – all in 5 days!
You only need the full Sprint team for two days instead of five. Anyone who has ever dealt with senior stakeholders knows this is a major, major win. Clearing your calendar for five days is a massive sacrifice at any level, so getting the same Sprint results with committing just two days of time is huge when you’re trying to convince someone to authorize a Sprint.
The Sprint method allowed the team to start prototyping quickly, collect immediate user feedback, and make small mistakes early. We conducted multiple design sprints in quick loops—folding the learning from week one into the structure of week two, and so on. We learned a lot in the process. Here are a few quick tips we picked up for running successful and energizing design sprints.
It’s often difficult for us humans to challenge our assumptions and everyday knowledge, because we rely on building patterns of thinking in order to not have to learn everything from scratch every time. We rely on doing everyday processes more or less unconsciously — for example, when we get up in the morning, eat, walk, and read — but also when we assess challenges at work and in our private lives. In particular, experts and specialists rely on their solid thought patterns, and it can be very challenging and difficult for experts to start questioning their knowledge. https://www.tatvasoft.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/dynamic_systems_development_model_methodology.jpg
Other trainers are experienced consultants and trainers in the area of UX, Scrum, Agile and Lean, who stay market-oriented by adding Design Sprints to their curriculum. For example, the German Trendig offers Design Sprint courses next to certified Agile and software training. The UXER school (Spain) offers Design Sprint workshops next to other user-centered and Design Thinking courses, just as UX-republic (France). The trainers behind Lǿpe (Norway) are experienced workshop facilitators and then decided to focus on Design Sprints only.
The great beauty of design thinking is that the essential elements combine to form an iterative approach. It may not always proceed linearly, but there’s a roadmap to help move you toward your solution. It starts with identifying a driving question that inspires you and your team to think about who you’re really designing for, and what they actually need. Next, you gather inspiration—what other solutions out in the world can help you rethink the way you’re working? Use that to push past obvious solutions, and arrive at breakthrough ideas. Build rough prototypes to make those ideas tangible, and find what’s working and what’s not. Gather feedback, go back to the drawing board, and keep going. And once you’ve arrived at the right solution, craft a story to introduce it to your colleagues, clients, and its users. Some of those steps may happen several times, and you may even jump back and forth between them. But that roadmap can take you from a blank slate to a new, innovative idea.
In many cases, a design sprint will lead you to something that gets initial user validation, where the next steps are defined. You’ll have reduced risk by doing some validation early, and developed next steps faster than would have otherwise been possible. Character Lab³ had a design sprint like this with thoughtbot. In a week, a large group of diverse stakeholders from an educational nonprofit got on the same page about what would be built, and remarked upon how quickly they reached agreement. Teachers and students were excited about the prototype they saw and couldn’t wait to use it. What we needed to build was clear and could proceed unimpeded at a good clip, which was very much needed given the size of the app and its shoestring, nonprofit budget.
A design sprint can also be used to test a single feature or subcomponent of a product. This allows you to focus on a particular aspect of the design. For example, your team might need to know what improvements can be made to the onboarding process. Using the design sprint to discover the pros and cons of a new onboarding channel could give you granular insights into a high-return part of the product experience.
Google could learn a lesson from REALM Charter School in Berkeley, California, where students put the principles of good design thinking into practice. Emily Pilloton, teacher and Studio H founder, wrote that design should be “an active response to a context . . . a social act that builds citizenship in the next generation.” Students in her program have built a school library, a farmers’ market, and an outdoor classroom. But before diving into the projects, they conduct ethnographic research to identify their community’s (or, in the case of the library and classroom, their own) needs.
Tim references the importance of subtle behavior shifts, especially from leaders. One recipe for unsuccessful teams is having unrealistic time constraints. Teams miss deadlines, take a long time to iterate, and leaders get impatient. The way to flip this is to find ways to get to fast iterations and fast learning. The notion of what is failure changes dramatically along the time axis. The antidote of not being allowed to fail is to learn faster. It doesn’t feel like a failure if you learn in a week.
The faculty at EMERITUS comprises professors who have been recognised for their contribution to thought leadership in management. They include Steve Eppinger (Design Thinking), Jared Curhan (Negotiation and Influence) and John Van Maanen (Leading Organisations) from MIT Sloan, Kathy Phillips & Adam Galinsky (Leading People & Teams) from Columbia Business School and Vijay Govindarajan (Leading Innovation Using the 3 Box Solution) and Marshall Goldsmith from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. https://www.tatvasoft.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/prototype_methodology.jpg
Once we have an understanding of the foundation we all need to run a successful design sprint, we kick off by working through the sprint’s Monday exercises — setting a proper long term goal based on our sprint challenge, determining our sprint questions, creating a map, interviewing experts, connecting our personas to the map, and selecting a target.
But probably the most valuable benefit of design sprints is that they introduce stakeholders to the importance of validating ideas with real users. Google has orientated the whole week around building a prototype that users find easy to use. That is a valuable lesson for colleagues who can often be more focused on their own agenda, rather than that of the user. https://www.tatvasoft.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/joint_application_development_methodology.jpg
is one of the pioneers of Design Sprint methodology in Europe. Based in Switzerland, he works with startups and big companies in the regions of Lausanne (EPFL), Geneva and France. Passionate about digital, he has more than 15 years of experience in agencies, crafting website and designing apps. He will accompany you throughout the process: from idea to prototype.