The 4 Reasons Why Design Sprints Work
Everyone talks about the importance of collaboration, building the right things (products, services, experiences, brands, etc) customer’s want, and moving faster. There may be a lot of reasons why projects and initiatives never move beyond the powerpoint and get stuck in the pipeline. There are a few tricks to prevent this.
We were first introduced to the Google Design Sprint process while completing our Design MBA program at the California College of the Arts - the first program in the world that brought together the worlds of business and design. In our business models class, our professor invited Braden Kowitz, a former design partner at Google Ventures and co-producer of the Google Design Sprint Book. Braden’s work ranges from helping startups ‘listen’ to their customer to building the processes to support innovation within organizations. In spirit of prototyping, Braden put our class through the Design Sprint during the time they were refining their process. Our first project was sprinting through different packaging designs for an infant supplement company in California.
A traditional design sprint is a five-day process where teams come together to solve complex challenges as quickly as possible to push a project forward - I think about it as Design Thinking on steroids. Over the years we have tweaked the design sprint process to meet startups and organizations where they are at. Different teams may need more guidance and time to build up the their creative chops, while other teams can ‘run’ right away. We have facilitate sprints ranging from 2 days to 5 days as part of ‘our’ process in running projects. We have facilitated sprints with a single team all the way to having 10 teams ‘designing’ simultaneously. The largest one was with 50+ people from Allianz where the challenge was to “simplify” the complexities of day to day work.
Here is why we recommend design sprints for teams and organizations that need a boost of creativity, innovation, speed, and/or collaboration to move a project forward:
Having all team members or stakeholders in the room
The biggest challenge we’ve found with design sprints is finding the dates and schedules where all the relevant stakeholders and/or team members can be in a room together for a days in order to collaborate, design, test, and most importantly make decisions. By having everyone in the room, design sprints allow all perspectives and expertise to inform the end output. It’s not uncommon that team members are flying in from around the world to kick projects forward.
A client once said that the design sprint had saved her 6 months of time because everyone was in the room.
Generating creative ideas through visual communication
Our design sprints are meant to unlock the creative capabilities in individuals and teams. From the beginning, sprint participants are shown the importance of visualization in the creative process. Participants quickly learn visualization is also an important tool for collaboration, problem solving, and most importantly communication. In our experience, if someone is unable to ‘really’ communicate their ideas, team members will feel confused and unsure about the impact of the idea, and it usually ends up in the trash. You don’t need to be Picasso or Disney: a stick figure or a simple cube can do more to explain your idea than a thousand words.
Rapid Prototyping and Testing
Recently we ran a design sprint with a group of seasoned ‘creatives’ and in one day we made 4 rounds of iterations to a prototype. Design sprints can be a powerful process when customers or users are scheduled within the days. It forces teams to move fast and produce something to show to the user, allowing them to be comfortable showing ‘works in progress’. Gaining feedback right away from users will save time and resources.
Action (Raise Awareness that after the sprint comes the marathon)
At the end of a design sprint, we always create an action step with names attached to the roles and responsibilities of moving the project forward. This is critical to motivate and continue making progress.
In our experience these are the reasons why design sprints help at moving projects forward and why we recommend them to teams to accelerate creativity and innovation.
If you’d like to learn more please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org