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Design Sprint 101

In case you have never heard of Design Sprint before, then I have good news for you: you are at the perfect place, reading just the right blog post about it.

As Google Venture says: “The sprint gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.”

Is it really true?

Well, spoiler alert! Yes.

Imagine you are a start-up, and you have absolutely no clue what your product is going to look like, how your future customers will react, or which are the necessary features to start with. Then Design Sprint is for you.

In a nutshell, Design Sprint is a 5-day time-boxed event, developed at Google Ventures, where your team can focus on critical business problems, then design, build, and test their solution ideas with customers all at once. The biggest upside of running a Design Sprint is that you will save months of questionable product discovery and development.

I get it, but I’m not a startup, I’m a rather large organization, what then?

Even better! I myself facilitated multiple Design Sprints at large enterprises and I can say one thing: it opens the door to a whole new world for your organization about how to address innovation challenges. Moreover, unlike many startups, you actually have the resources (clients, capacity, etc …) to walk through that door.

So where is this door leading us?

I apologize, I tricked you a bit. Because Design Sprint opens the RIGHT door for you in the world of doors. What I mean is, when you have dozens of opportunities with your product, project, division, or even strategy, it is paramount that you start focusing on the right problem. As I always say, solving the wrong problem perfectly is still wrong. Solving the right one at an okay level is great!

Imagine you are Starbucks, and you are struggling how should you grow? Should you expand, should you raise prices, should you develop a new Latte Macchiato Deluxe Frappuccino, should you relocate stores, or just make your toilets free? I’m pretty sure all of us have some (and different) ideas about which way to go, and how to execute them. But is your idea and way of execution the right one?

On day #1 we map out the problem about growth (as per the example above), and we pick a focus area, let’s say addressing high churn rate.

On day #2 we ideate about possible solutions, such as wider product offering, cleaner toilets, loyalty programs, etc. We draw sketches, come up with toilet cleaning methods, or loyalty system ideas. Sometimes, we realize during this process that our basic assumption wasn’t true. It’s not even churn, but a complete lack of new subscribers. So we start over … (yeah, I know ..., and sometimes we start over twice)

On day #3 we choose a solution and fine-tune it. Let’s say we go with developing the new Latte Macchiato Deluxe Frappuccino, at last!

Finally, in just 2 days, we build and test a prototype with actual customers to learn, if we were right about a new frappuccino being the solution to lure in new subscribers. This prototype won’t be the perfect frappuccino, and definitely not the one you will end up with as part of your offering. It might be only a placard on the door advertising your new product. Yet, the experiment will give you a great answer on how to address your core problem, or if the problem was real at all.

Probably the most exciting (and many times just as painful) part of these Design Sprints is the problem identification itself. So instead of spending weeks/months on developing the new Latte Macchiato Deluxe Frappuccino, we focus on understanding if developing the new product solved our problem in the first place. And if the answer is yes, we just found our door to walk in!

Behind the door

What you get is a focused team. Your team members will have the same understanding of what problem they are solving, how they are solving it, and why that’s the right problem in the first place. Having such an alignment in your organization is invaluable. By you taking the painful yet rewarding path to spend time on choosing the right door forward, and equally importantly walking in together, you will get the necessary edge over your competition.

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