Back in 2014, I got the opportunity to speak at the UX London conference. At the time, I was trying to spread the word about an idea I called a “design sprint”—a five day process where a team goes from a big challenge with open questions on Monday to a tested prototype by Friday.
So my buddy Daniel Burka and I were planning our talk, and the folks at Clearleft—who organized the conference—asked if we would teach a workshop as well. A workshop for up to 80 people. 80! We normally ran sprints with no more than six or eight.
Obviously, the fine folks at Clearleft were nuts. But they’re really polite, so in the end we said yes.
Still, it did sound crazy. We honestly weren’t sure if such a large workshop was possible. We planned it out, minute by minute, hour by hour. Revised and re-revised. But how could we fit days of activities into just a few hours?
It worked. In fact, it not only worked, but for months afterward, we heard from people who had attended the workshop, gone back to their teams, and run successful sprints.
Thinking back, I realized why the workshop format was so effective. With a talk, you can tell people about an idea, or if you do an amazing job, show the idea and get them to feel it. But in a workshop, people live the idea. They get muscle memory. I guess it’s obvious, but for me, this came as a surprise.
When I tried to teach the design sprint method (first through blogs, then talks, then videos, and finally a book) I was asking people to do something really hard: to go back to their team and convince them to clear their calendars for a week, shut their laptops, put away their phones, and then follow this step-by-step checklist—all on faith. I was saying “I’m telling you this will work, please trust me.”
But with a workshop, I realized, I could compress time and take people through the actual experience of being on a team going through a design sprint. I could say “Here, let’s do a sprint together, right now.” This way, when they went back to work, they’d already have a sprint under their belt.
Now, three years later, the roles are reversed: I got in touch with Clearleft to ask if they would help me put on a big workshop. They said yes—as I mentioned, they’re really polite. We decided to make the workshop accessible for as many folk as possible, opting for an even 100. As I write there are only 11 tickets left, so I invite you to snap one up and come and join the craziness at our Design Sprint Workshop, part of the Clearleft Presents series, on Thursday, September 7.
P.S. The Clearleft folks found an amazing venue for the workshop, but it’s a secret… you can only find out where it is (somewhere on the South Bank) and why it’s so cool (they have, how should I put this… a really nice collection of wall decorations) if you go to this page and click “Tickets on sale now”.
I hope to see you there!