The Design Sprint promises fast problem solving and effective product development in just five days, but what is behind all this? At ondeso, we are working with this method and have already been able to bring several innovations to life. In this article, we summarize theory and experience for you and explain why it is worthwhile to integrate the Design Sprint into your design and development process.
While Design Thinking as a philosophy describes the foundation and mindset for creative problem solving, the Design Sprint is a specific one-week process with a perfect selection of methods and tools. In just five days, challenges are analyzed, new solution ideas are developed and immediately tested with users.
The Design Sprint is a recipe for shortening long product development cycles to successfully develop or optimize new products or services. It starts with a great challenge and ends with a tested high-fidelity prototype.
Just like ondeso GmbH, Design Sprint 2020 celebrated its tenth anniversary. Jake Knapp, creator of the process and author of the bestseller “Sprint”, developed the methodology to move forward faster and more efficiently in his projects. The key is to restructure the daily work routine for one week.
Lengthy meetings and discussions are replaced by clearly structured workshops with a hands-on mentality. With this method, it is determined at an early stage whether you are on the right track, because efficient results are achieved quickly.
Maximum efficiency is achieved when real customer feedback can be incorporated already at a very early stage of product development. So instead of launching a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to find out whether an idea is good, important insights are gained in advance from a realistic prototype.
The Design Sprint is therefore the optimal way to develop a product ahead of time without going through an entire and expensive implementation process.
1. User centered design
Throughout product development, the user is the pivot of development. Since the user interface is the first thing the user encounters, it is particularly important to start here. If the ideas and implementations are accepted by the testers, it is possible to work in depth from there and develop associated functionalities with modern technologies.
Sprints are particularly successful when working in interdisciplinary teams. Different expertise from different areas makes it possible to consider diverse perspectives and therefore increase the solution space. The Design Sprint facilitator guides through the process and supports the participants.
3. Minimize distractions
In the Design Sprint, high concentration is required from everyone involved, which is why it is necessary to stay on topic for the entire week and not schedule any other appointments. Focus is the most important thing here and means fast and real progress.
Basically, the Design Thinking philosophy applies in the Design Sprint.
Other principles enable the necessary dynamics to move forward quickly.
1. Together alone
Ideas and solution approaches of an individual are almost always superior to group ideas. In order to develop consistent and meaningful approaches, each participant works on the tasks alone, step by step.
2. Show, not tell
By noting or drawing every idea, tangible work results are available at any time, which can be recalled again and again. By categorizing the notes and drawing in dependencies, diagrams that depict even complex issues simply are quickly created. In this way, misunderstandings can be prevented.
3. Note and vote
To agree on a common denominator, showing and voting at regular intervals is helpful for the group to proceed. The decision maker has the final say in this.
4. Getting started is more important than being right
It is about just getting started and approaching the goal step by step. Every task, every decision and every test run are part of a learning process that keeps optimizing the result.
5. Do not rely on creativity
The Design Sprint does not require a high degree of creativity. The tasks are methodically designed in such a way that creative approaches to solutions emerge all by themselves through a step-by-step approach to the challenge.
Day 1: Map
On the first sprint day, the goal of the week is defined, and the focus is set on a specific problem area. Expert interviews ensure that everyone involved has the same level of knowledge and that all the necessary information is available to the team. The result of the day is three major guiding questions, an objective, and a route plan that acts as a guide for the coming week.
Day 2: Sketch
The day starts with research and a collection of already existing ideas. On this day, each participant anonymously prepares a concrete solution sketch which, considering the expert interviews, aims to answer the Sprint questions. At the end of the day, several coherent solution concepts are available.
Day 3: Decide
Wednesday is the day of decisions. The solution sketches from the previous day are reviewed and particularly good ideas are highlighted. The decision is made on an outstanding concept with the best chance of achieving the long-term goal. The elaboration of a storyboard and a user test flow is the first preparation for the prototype as well as a successful test phase on Friday.
Day 4: Prototype
With the storyboard as a guide, prototyping begins on the fourth day. Here, the entire team is called upon, as a realistic prototype is developed within one day, which is to be tested in the final phase on Friday. Meanwhile, an interview script is created based on the user test flows, which is used to structure the test run.
Day 5: Test
The last day is probably the most important, because here the question is answered whether the developed prototype and the created concept can be successful on the market. For this purpose, feedback is obtained from five interviews. Here, the test persons try out the prototype directly, so that problems and inconsistencies are noticed immediately. The sprint team pays careful attention to the progress and writes down both positive and negative conspicuities.
What happens after the Design Sprint?
It is useful to do an Iteration Sprint after most projects. This one is more compact than the classic Sprint and aims specially to optimize the already arranged prototype. Based on the test results new leading questions are framed which should be answered in the end of the Iteration. Other test persons will be taken for this test. In conclusion, an effort-impact-scale is used to prioritise the functions and to plan further steps.
The product design agency AJ&Smart optimized the original process in collaboration with Jake Knapp: With the help of smart tricks, the sequence of tasks was shifted and, in some cases, shortened by merging them, saving an entire workshop day. In addition, resources are distributed so that all participants, including experts, only must meet on two days.
In this way, the method also becomes interesting for more complex company structures that cannot invest a whole week for the entire process. The day gained can then be used for a retrospective or for creating and sending a report.
In addition, AJ&Smart provides a best practice for conducting remote design sprints through its collaboration with international global corporations. For remote workshops, it is advisable to extend the week and, for example, conduct interviews in advance. This makes the workshop units shorter.
We, ondeso GmbH, have already been able to conduct several successful Design Sprints. The results achieved are outstanding! The concentrated work on one topic significantly accelerates product development or product optimization. The teamwork has an additional positive effect on the results.
The entire process is particularly suitable for complex challenges and important issues with many dependencies. However, daily business also benefits from the procedure. Individual work steps and methods can be used in every meeting, depending on the issue, thus increasing the efficiency of results. By involving colleagues from different areas during the solution-finding process, inspiration is generated through a change of perspective, thus equally increasing solution competence. “Together Alone” and “Note and Vote” can also be excellently integrated into everyday life. Good preparation is everything and saves time.
Try it and develop innovative product ideas in just one week!
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