We ran a sprint over three days, with each day dedicated to a different “it”. This led to two issues. First, ideas spilled over from one day to the next. Ideas that had been discarded on day one, would be “frankensteined” alive again, on days two and three. People get attached to their ideas, and it showed! Second, there was a lack of clarity about the purpose of the sprint, which led to a lack of focus and slow momentum.
As a Sprint facilitator, it is very easy to focus too much on the “How” while planning a Sprint: When is the date? What is the room situation? What are the activities and agenda for each day? Those are questions that are important but not critical. Before getting into the logistics, there are two important things to focus on to ensure the success of a Design Sprint.
Today’s product designers face a question their predecessors—or even their younger selves—never had to ponder: Will artificial intelligence solve this problem in a unique way? More and more, the answer is yes, with the caveat that AI isn’t a universal solution but something that in the right instance can improve an experience, by offering people new kinds of predictive information, personalized services, or even a deeper understanding of their own needs. For designers, this technology glimmers with opportunity while raising a whole host of new questions: Is AI a material, a tool, or both? How can we become AI-fluent, to ensure that algorithmic decision-making translates into a meaningful experience for everyone? New guidance may help pave the way: PAIR’s People + AI Guidebook and Material Design patterns for the ML Kit API each offer tactics and advice for creating products with AI. “We’re setting up the scaffolding so our users can understand this new technology,” says Material Design creative director Rachel Been. Yet building that framework requires a thoughtful, nuanced approach that’s deeply rooted in human needs. We sat down with Been, Öznur Özkurt, a design manager at DeepMind Health, and Jess Holbrook, a PAIR lead and one of the creators of the People + AI Guidebook, to better understand how designers can harness and humanize AI’s vast potential.
Choose the format that best expresses the idea. It’s impressive to build a digital prototype in a week, but remember: You can learn a lot from paper prototypes! Make a conscious decision about the areas that you design in high fidelity (like screens) and places where a paper prototype will do the trick. Being scrappy will pay off in the end. We created a combination of digital and paper prototypes for Swell. Digital prototypes were reserved for value proposition and user flow testing, whereas paper prototypes were a great way to test new and emergent thinking.
The Sprint facilitator’s job is to talk to all those people, gather information, refine the problem statement and make sure everyone is clear and onboard with the problem you are solving before entering the Sprint. After the pre-work, a better version of the previous problem statement might be “How can we create a digital solution to help small individual Delis in New York City to manage food waste and increase revenue.”
“The ‘Design Thinking’ label is not a myth. It is a description of the application of well-tried design process to new challenges and opportunities, used by people from both design and non-design backgrounds. I welcome the recognition of the term and hope that its use continues to expand and be more universally understood, so that eventually every leader knows how to use design and design thinking for innovation and better results.”
While we assume you’re familiar with the original Design Sprint, here’s a quick recap: the Design Sprint is a five-day process to solve big problems and test ideas. A dedicated team discusses a challenge, designs potential solutions, and tests them with real users. You start with something vague, and finish with real feedback and something extremely tangible in just five days.
Enterprises that have well-established processes may also look to a design sprint as a way to accelerate their product design and development so that they can work more like a fast-moving startup. The accelerated learning can give the enterprise an advantage and also reduce the amount of resource investments for exploration of product ideas and concepts. Spending three to five days on a project idea to see if it makes sense to move forward is better than working three to five months, only to discover it would have been better to not have proceeded at all.

This is a relatively new practice in the business world, and there are different definitions of what exactly constitutes ‘Design Thinking’. While some call it a ‘problem-solving protocol that helps you achieve big results by focusing on the solution’, others say it is a ‘core strategy that creates an organisational culture focused on solving problems for the end user.’ There are also those who talk about design thinking as a factor that can impact the greater good and change life for the better.

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