Design Sprint Introduction

Design Sprint is a method developed by Jake Knapp, of Google Ventures and author of the book “Sprint”. By means of a Design Sprint, complex business questions are made transparent in five steps, where each step represents a day. A five-day Design Sprint is seen as a process in which questions (or at least one big challenge) are answered in a relatively short period of time and in which feedback is obtained from users.

The goal of a Design Sprint is to eventually arrive at a prototype after five days that is presented to the target group. By testing this prototype, the team knows whether the idea fits the target group. The Design Sprint is therefore an efficient method for problem solving and can be applied to many kinds of business and design problem.

A big advantage of the design sprint is that it can tackle important assumptions in just over a week, and thereby identify if new business initiatives or new products may be succesful. Challenges may greatly vary, as some examples of challenges solved by the design sprint indicate:

  • Will hotel guests apppreciate a robot butler?
  • What is the best direction for the new landing page on our website?

It is very important to properly prepare a Design Sprint. To start a Design Sprint, a team of up to seven people must be put together. Such a team includes a business owner, facilitator, designer, product designer, marketer and stakeholder. By working together on an issue from one team, support is created among everyone.

The design sprint: provide insight into and solve complex business questions
The design sprint: provide insight into and solve complex business questions

To organize a five-day Design Sprint, it is often decided to do this within one working week. The first day and step stand for understanding the issue, day two for devising solutions, day three for assessing and adapting solutions and ideas, day four for making a prototype, which is tested on day five at the target group and on this day the team takes the next steps.

The authors (and inventors) of the design sprint book have a great resource online on thesprintbook.com, including checklists and tips.

Executing the Method

  • Prepare

    Make sure you are well prepared to start a Design Sprint.

  • Monday

    After all the preparations have been made, a start can be made on the Design Sprint. On day one, understanding the issue is central.

  • Tuesday

    On day two, all insights from day one are used to come up with solutions for the issue.

  • Wednesday

    All ideas from day two are assessed on day three, resulting in up to three solutions that have the most impact.

  • Thursday

    The goal of day four is to make a prototype: An example of the solution that is as realistic as possible but produced with as little effort as possible.

  • Friday

    Day five is devoted to the prototype testing. Interview all five invited testers one by one about the issue. Then present the prototype to the invitees and have them tested. Then all testers report their findings. Write down all improvements and make an action plan for the next steps.

Necessities

Detailed Explanation

Step 0: Prepare
Make sure you are well prepared to start a Design Sprint.
  • The most important thing is a correct and clear formulation of the question (the big challenge).
  • You need to block five complete days for the sprint.
  • Arrange a decider, someone who can make the decisions (and has the authority to).
  • It is also important to put together a team of seven or fewer with diverse skills, including a facilitator who facilitates the process during the entire week.
  • Schedule extra experts for the interviews Monday afternoon.
  • A war room is needed with enough whiteboards, flip-overs, post-its, writing/drawing materials, and a space to move around with furniture. Make sure that each day/step with associated findings is given a separate place in the room. This creates an overview.
Day 1: Start Design Sprint (Monday)
After all the preparations have been made, a start can be made on the Design Sprint. On day one, understanding the issue is central.
 
Morning:
  • Start with team introductions and explaining the sprint
  • Set a long-term goal for the project on the whiteboard. Why are we doing this project?
  • List your sprint questions. Ask how we could fail? Subsequently, turn these into questions.
  • Make a map with all customer and key player interactions on the left, and your end goal on the right. What steps do they need to take? Make it as simple as possible.
Afternoon:
  • Ask the experts: interview experts (from your team or guest experts) to get their stance on the issue. Update your long-term goal, questions, and map based on what they say.
  • Create How-Might-We notes, by reframing your problems and questions as How might we?
  • Organize the How-Might-We notes by moving similar ones close to each other, and let every person vote for the best ones (each person has two votes)
  • In the end, pick a target: who is the most important customer and what is the most important moment? The decider makes the final call.
Day 2: Come up with solutions (Tuesday)
On day two, all insights from day one are used to come up with solutions for the issue.
 
Morning:
  • Start with looking for existing great solutions (a lightning demo) from your own company or other companies. Everyone has 3 minutes to explain his lightning demo; write down the good ideas.
  • Decide what parts of the map (made on Monday) everyone will sketch solutions for.
Afternoon:
  • Do the four-step sketch: walk around the room for 20 minutes (in silence) and gather notes, note down some rough ideas for 20 minutes, sketch 8 variations of your best idea (with one minute per idea) and finally create a 3-panel storyboard with your solution sketch (30-90 minutes).
  • Appoint someone to recruit customers for Friday’s test. Make sure that the customers match the target group of your challenge. Make sure you also prepare a good reward for their participation.
Day 3: Assess solutions (Wednesday)
All ideas from day two are assessed on day three, resulting in up to three solutions that have the most impact.
 
Morning:
  • Do a sticky decision, by following these five steps:
    • Tape all solutions to one wall.
    • Make each person review the solutions and place up to 3 dot stickers on the parts that are liked.
    • Discuss each solution within 3 minutes per sketch. Capture standout ideas.
    • Each member silently chooses a favorite idea. At the same time, everyone places a large dot sticker at the solution of preference.
    • The decider gets three large dot stickers and can make the final decision.
  • Separate the winners from maybes.
  • Decide to go for one prototype by combining the winning solutions, or test 2-3 conflicting ideas (give each idea a fake brand name).
Afternoon:
  • Make a storyboard of a maximum of 15 squares, pick an opening scene of how your user or customer would encounter the product or service. Keep it simple.
  • Fill this storyboard, by moving existing sketches in there or making new drawings (don’t make abstract new ideas slip in!).
Day 4: Making a prototype (Thursday)
The goal of day four is to make a prototype: An example of a solution that is as realistic as possible but produced with as little effort as possible.
 
Morning:
  • Pick the right tools for rapid prototyping
  • Assign roles: a maker (creating stuff), stitcher (combines stuff that is made tho a whole), writer (writing necessary text), asset collector (collecting stuff that is needed for the prototype), and interviewer (will prepare for interviews on Friday)
  • Prototype!
Afternoon:
  • Prototype
  • Combine the whole together; ensure the quality of the prototype.
  • Do a trial run with the prototype, including the interviewer and decider in this trial.
  • Complete the prototype
Day 5: Testing (Friday)
Day five is devoted to the prototype testing. Interview all five invited testers one by one about the issue. Then present the prototype to the invitees and have them tested. Then all testers report their findings. Write down all improvements and make an action plan for the next steps.
  • Have two rooms, one room where the interview is taking place and another room where the rest of the team can watch the interviews and make notes (use video equipment and a large whiteboard with a column for each customer).
  • Remember to friendly welcome interviewees and explain the purpose of the interview.
  • Start with small talk, moving up to context-related questions, and introduce the prototype for testing.
  • Debrief and give a gift after the interview.
  • Remember to ask open-ended questions.
  • In the end, look for patterns in your notes and label each pattern with positive, negative, or neutral.
  • Review your long-term goal and sprint questions and compare them to your interview findings.

Additions

  • No distractions are allowed, so no laptops, phones, or iPads unless you use them on days 4 and 5 for prototyping.
  • Each day, write the checklist on the whiteboard so you know what to do (it’s a good idea to write everything down you are discussing and doing).
  • Each day, you start at 10:00, lunch at around 13:00, and take a break each 60-90 minutes.
  • If the decider can’t be at the whole sprint, only invite this person to the moments he needs to make a decision.