What is a Deisn Sprint? Who should run one, and why? If you want to run a Design Sprint but are not a designer, that isn’t a problem.
The Design Sprint is a staple structure in the business world for solving big challenges through innovation and whole-team incorporation. The design sprint is a five-day process, initially developed at Google Ventures, used for validating ideas and tackling a business problem. The process guides teams through a design-based thinking process to uncover insights, prototype an idea, and test it with users.
Understanding the ins and outs of the Design Sprint is important when preparing to run your own. This process will bring new ideas to life, open collaboration between teams, and unleash everyone in your organization.
What is a Design Sprint
Design Sprints have multiple functions and benefits. They are broken down into five days to develop innovative and actionable solutions for your organization effectively. The five days include:
The map phase is dedicated to exploration. It will jumpstart creativity and encourage multiple solutions throughout the next Design Sprint phases. At this point, participants will identify the long-term goal and map out the plan of action to tackle the challenge.
The sketch phase is to develop different action plans that will result in viable and creative solutions. It is critical to take as many variations as the team comes up with to ensure the best and most sustainable solution.
In the decision phase, your team will have many solutions to consider. This is the time to decide on a solid plan of action and select the ideas that will be prototyped. In this phase, the team will no longer be generating ideas. They will be deciding which solution is sustainable and effective.
The prototype in this phase is essentially an experiment used to test a hypothesis. In this phase, the team decides what they will build to receive feedback and validate the hypothesis.
The final phase is likely the most crucial one. Team members will test their prototype with live users. Prototyping will demonstrate to the team that the solution is, in fact, a viable one and will allow the team to move forward with confidence.
Who Should Run a Design Sprint?
The Design Sprint is especially useful for leaders looking to accelerate innovation. Product managers, designers, and founders looking to optimize product-market fit. Marketers looking to enhance product positioning. Consultants and facilitators looking to boost their impact. Regardless of role, people find the Design Sprint an unrivaled tool to validate ideas and business problems. Many organizations have benefitted from running a Design Sprint, and consumer packaged goods companies have used the process to improve their product design. Technology companies have created better products and gotten to market faster than they would using their standard approaches. Likewise, leaders in healthcare have designed new patient experiences. The Design Sprint is extremely effective and can be put to use by leaders and teams across various industries.
Why Run a Design Sprint?
When teams and organizations have an opportunity or challenge that has great business potential, it can be difficult and time-consuming to build and sustain momentum toward change. Design Sprints offer a rapid and effective alternative to the status quo. For example, when kicking off a new initiative, a Design Sprint can help focus your team and resolve debates or conflicting opinions the team may have on where to start, what the process will be, or what the final result should look like. Or, if your team is looking for breakthrough features on a product, a Design Sprint can help generate new ideas and, through prototyping, uncover what your customers will react positively to. It is an excellent way to get months of work accomplished in a week. These are just a couple of examples of the benefits of the Design Sprint. Your team may also be in need of switching gears or iterating on a new product or when you need a way to talk to your users to untangle what is working and what is not. Design Sprints help you avoid rework and save you money by spotting opportunities and gaps in one week rather than waiting months. Design Sprints offer customer insights that will transcend egos and opinions by prioritizing prototypes & roadmaps rather than lengthy specification documents and assumptions.
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When to Run a Design Sprint
Design Sprints are beneficial at various project or product life cycle stages. The following are some excellent times to turn to a sprint:
- When kicking off a new initiative.
- When looking for new breakthrough features for a product.
- When you need to switch gears or iterate on a current product.
- When you haven’t talked to your users enough.
How to Find the Magic
Design Sprints help organizations find the magic and deep value for their end-user before committing to a solution that may not hold the most value. The sprint helps teams identify each individual responsibility and discover what’s most important to focus on within the project and how to achieve the best possible solution effectively.
The Design Sprint helps us make sure we are building the right thing rather than obsessing about getting the thing exactly right.
Focus on Desire
The Design Sprint is targeted at testing desirability–keep this at the forefront of your mind. When you create a simulation of your concept and use it to test your ideal vision, you gain deeper insights into the ideal state and desirability from the end-user. You can then take those insights to the table when you build out the final solution. While it is efficient and a big win when your prototype becomes the initial spec for what you end up building, its primary goal is to answer your questions and gain insights.
While the main focus of a Design Sprint is testing desirability, we certainly don’t want to waste time testing completely infeasible things. At Voltage Control, we recommend including someone in the Design Sprint who understands the logistics (ex: engineer, operations, hardware, software, materials, etc.). A person with relevant insight into logistics can lend a perspective that might inspire others with the confidence they need to explore certain ideas they may have been afraid to approach. This person also serves as a built-in filter to keep the group from wasting time on outlandish, impractical ideas. That said, the facilitator must ensure that the logistics and status quo aren’t stifling innovation but rather informing and directing it.
Where to Run a Design Sprint
The five-day sprint was originally developed as an in-person workshop. People come together for an engaging, interactive experience and participate in hands-on, visual, and deep work collaboration.
Sticky notes are aplenty, and whiteboards are used to write and sketch out ideas. However, you don’t need to wait to be IRL to undergo a sprint. Remote Design Sprints are also incredibly effective and can be run with your remote team asynchronously. There are many tools in the virtual landscape to help your team experience effective and productive remote collaboration. Tools like virtual whiteboards can be used to promote visual collaboration just as you would in person.
Design Sprints Aren’t Just for Designers
If you want to run a Design Sprint but are not a designer, that isn’t a problem. Any qualified facilitator can run a Design Sprint, and these sessions benefit companies of every industry. The best Design Sprint facilitators bring the necessary knowledge and skills to share with their teams.