Design sprints enable teams to find solutions, innovate products and explore strategies, over the course of five days. A design sprint will deliver a user-tested prototype yielding valuable answers – but it will also provide a host of other side-benefits you may not be expecting.

Richard Rutter
Richard Rutter
2 weeks ago

Cross-company team building

Design is too important for the growth of your business to be left solely in the hands of designers. That’s why all well-run design sprints have an emphasis on a wide mix of perspectives and feature an ensemble cast of problem solvers across your organisation.

T left: A group of people in a design retrospective T right: A wall of post it notes B right: Two people reviewing a design

With no prior design skills necessary, the intensive, collaborative and above all, fun environment of a design sprint enables a team to be energised and highly engaged throughout the process. When I talk to clients after a sprint, they will often recall how a surprising camaraderie developed across team. This is particularly the case when staff and stakeholders involved the sprint have never worked together before. The egalitarian nature of the sprint inevitably results in a new-found mutual respect amongst participants, which they take into the workplace afterwards.

Demonstrating a rapid framework for innovation

Design sprints do not replace the rigours of user-centred design or an iterative, hypothesis-driven approach to product design. But what can be accomplished in five days surprises many participants. Design sprints demonstrate how quickly you can create preliminary designs that naturally bring together customers, staff, internal data and wider research. It also shows how it’s possible to test new ideas and push through changes very quickly.

Design sprints illustrate the value of treating innovation work separately from the daily business-as-usual activities. By doing so, it unblocks bottlenecks and pushes through changes that might have internally taken months – if not years – to come to formation. In the words of one senior participant, “we were able to make rapid progress on one of our biggest challenges. It really was like fast-forwarding into the future.”

Bringing underlying issues to the surface

One of the answers a design sprint may give you is “no”. By the end of the week, your team may be convinced an idea or solution simply doesn’t have legs. This is no bad thing. In fact it’s a valuable outcome, potentially saving you thousands of pounds. By having a group of people in the room to see this for themselves can provoke a timely change in direction or reformulation of priorities. In many organisations, that’s no mean feat.

A design sprint in action

Providing a wealth of ideas for the future

During the early days of a design sprint, you will take a broad view across the customer journey, generating a lot of ideas and opportunities. You’ll focus on some of these during the sprint, but you’ll also be left with many other propositions which may form the basis for future sprints or other work.

With this abundance of ideas generated by your sprint team, it’s important to socialise the work across the organisation. One option is to present a playback of the sprint, including early deviations as well as your prototype, at an open invitation Town Hall style meeting. You may be surprised by the extent of the turnout and interest from colleagues.

Ingraining design thinking

The collaborative nature of a design sprint helps designers and developers get better equipped to tackle ongoing challenges together. But if you get other stakeholders from across the company to participate in the design process, they too will play an active part in defining the future of your customer experience. During the testing day, providing exposure to customers will allow stakeholders to see the power of design-thinking and putting users first. Above all, they’ll get a sense of how much effort goes into creating good design and what makes the difference between a good and great experience.

The upshot is design sprints introduce design thinking into your organisation through a high impact approach. As one senior stakeholder put it afterwards, “we gained an energy that spread across our team and left us with a different view on how we can drive a more effective improvement in our web channels.” And that’s a far more valuable outcome than just a prototype.

Read some of our design sprint success stories or to find out how we can help you facilitate a design sprint.