Startups are notoriously fast-moving environments that value speed to market over almost everything else. This commitment to speed gives them an advantage but also risks leaving out a lot of the essential thinking and testing required to build a truly useful product. Too many products go to market without customer validation. How do you maintain the speed while including the necessary research and design thinking? Many startups in the Constant Contact InnoLoft Program cite a design sprint as one of the most valuable parts of their participation.
The big idea with the Design Sprint is to build and test a prototype in just five days. You'll take a small team, clear the schedule for a week, and rapidly progress from problem to tested solution using a proven step-by-step checklist. It's like fast-forwarding into the future so you can see how customers react before you invest all the time and expense of building a real product.
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.
This page is a DIY guide for running your own sprint. On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a high-fidelity prototype. And on Friday, you’ll test it with real live humans.
We can connect you to organizations who can run a full 5 day design sprint with you. We can also train you and introduce you to the key activities of the design sprint in our training workshops so you can get started on your own. We can also focus on shorter approaches to generating and developing ideas for and with your customers using the philosophy behind design sprints as well as design thinking, lean startup, agile, scrum, and the front end of innovation.
Monday’s structured discussions create a path for the sprint week. In the morning, you’ll start at the end and agree to a long-term goal. Next, you’ll make a map of the challenge. In the afternoon, you’ll ask the experts at your company to share what they know. Finally, you’ll pick a target: an ambitious but manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week.
The second principle is that of the well known "Short Cycled PDCA". For every action you take, use assumptions to you state the desired output of that action, the path you want to follow (process) and the required input of that action in time, money and other resources. Than you take that action, after which you reflect of the actual input, output and process. Were our assumptions right? Are the results as expected? Can the results be improved? Was the process effective? In short: Learn, adjust, plan again, do again and check again. These cycles can vary from a day to a week each. Do not plan to far ahead, because the assumptions and insights on which your planning is based will probably change several times.
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.