What would you learn if you read the Google Design Sprint Book ?

Benjamin Richy
Sep 30, 2016 · 9 min read
The Book !

Have you heard about Design Sprint? A five day design method initiated by Google Ventures (GV) staff a few years ago? Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz finally wrote a book, the sprint book, a How-To book to share their experience and give anyone (almost anyone) the ability to become an expert in this empirical but proven design method.

DESIGN AND SPRINT STICKS TOGETHER, WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

The Sprint is GV’s unique five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers.

First of all you need a big challenge to work on, a great team to identify problems and bake solutions, a dedicated sprint room or space to be comfortable, a solid schedule and a Facilitator or Sprint Master. The book also provides some checklists, including a supply checklist.

5 days — 5 steps

Monday’s structured discussions create a path for the sprint week: “start at the end and set the long term goal”. Next, you make a map of the challenge. Then ask the experts to share what they know. Finally pick a target: an ambitious but manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week.

On Tuesday, you come up with solutions. A review of existing ideas to remix and improve. Then, each person produces sketches following a four-step process that emphasizes critical thinking over artistry. Later in the week, the best sketches will form the plan for your prototype.

By Wednesday morning, you and your team have a stack of solutions. You need to critique each solution and decide which have the best chance to achieve your long term goal. In the afternoon, you take the winning scenes from your sketches and convert them into a storyboard (a step by step plan for your prototype).

On Thursday, you adopt a “fake it” philosophy to turn that storyboard into a realistic prototype.

On Friday you take it one step further as you interview customers and learn by observing their reactions to your prototype. The test makes the entire sprint worthwhile. By the end of the day, you will know how far you have to go, and what to do next.

When our new idea fails, it’s usually because we were overconfident about how well customers would understand and how much they would care

Some companies (Ideo, Invision, NewHairCut, A&J Smart…) already use a lot Design Sprints for their clients and sometimes they change some labels and steps, but they keep the mindset, at least they try…

  • Day 1: UNDERSTAND
  • Day 2: DIVERGE
  • Day 3: CONVERGE
  • Day 4: BUILD
  • Day 5: TEST…AND LEARN

IT IS NOT ABOUT METHOD, BUT MINDSET AND FOCUS

How to summarize the book content for someone who does not have the time to read it? With its clear structure and step-by-step process, it would be easy to summarize the book in a series of bullet point. So I could have just copy out into this article to have the work done!

BUT (yes there is often a “but”) you would miss the essential…the mindset. A sprint design is not a recipe; it is close to alchemy because the problem, the context, and the team come together to show up as a single result in a very short period of time, 5 days.

To prototype your solution, you’ll need a temporary change of philosophy from perfect to just enough, from long-term quality to temporary simulation

THE DESIGN SPRINT IS NOT A SPEED UP USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN PROCESS!

There are 3 main reasons to run a Design Sprint:

  • High Stakes: you are facing a big problem and the solution will require a lot of time, effort and money.
  • Not Enough Time: you are up against a deadline and you need a good solution, fast.
  • Just Plain Stuck: some important projects are hard to start. Others lose momentum along the way. In these situations, a sprint could be a rocket booster.

Without doubt, design sprint is inspired from DESIGN THINKING, AGILE, LEAN UX and SCRUM and…but maybe not in the usual way. Hey, remember me the usual UX Design process? ;)

The Design Sprint (very short) loop

So, what makes Design Sprint different?

  • there is no User Research phase, but it won’t hurt if you do this work before offering insights on thefirst day.
  • there is no time to build personas or experience map.
  • it is a one shot, just a sprint with strong team work.
  • the focus is on customer experience, rather than user experience.

Keep in mind that we are trying to solve a problem through a real user test, not building an entire product or service.

While there is no need to perfection it should be detailed enough to produce a prototype that feels real. It sounds weird but it is explained well into the book.

LET ME BE YOUR SPRINT MASTER!

The book audience is what the authors call The Facilitator, generally someone from outside who leads and animates the team without judgment or predefined ideas.

The book gives very accurate guidelines to help people leading a sprint by their own. The authors clearly explain how the process itself has been narrowed down. All the key points are described and supported by several examples that make it concrete and usable.

Does it mean you will be able to lead a Design Sprint on your own tomorrow? Definitely not! Because it requires some practice to gather puzzle pieces. Even if you are already a gifted UX designer, an agile coach, or an awesome product manager, it won’t be that easy.

YOUR TIMER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

I use it all the time to keep tabs on my children when they are playing on the tablet or PC. Just to avoid endless game session! It is perfect to visualize the time remaining, and be willing to stop when the bell rings! It should be a flowing work on grown-ups too! Time and pace are some of the keys points, therefore the Timer is your best tool as Facilitator, so let the team play the game!

IT’S A KIND OF MAGIC…

Actually the sprint is not about achieving something into a very short of time, but building the right thing (product) in just enough time to make it real.

Five days in all and only one day to build a prototype sounds crazy, but it seems to work. The beginning of the third day you make the team decide, choose the storyboard with the best potential. It is really about narrowing down and focusing on a bunch of promising ideas. It is time to take risk and explore new paths.

Prototyping in one day becomes possible when you really put the puzzle pieces together on the storyboard, before you start building the proto. You just need to focus on building — no new ideas please!

Also be sure to pick the right tool, choose one that is easy to handle: for instance a clickable slide set tool to simulate software or web site. 3D printing is advised if you design a physical product. For Service Design you could write a script and play it like a theater. Also the proto could be the material that sells the physical product or device: a brochure, website, video, slide deck.

CATCH THE BEST PRACTISES, TIPS & TRICKS

I was a bit surprised the authors explained that brainstorming and focus group workshops won’t suit the Design Sprint. Here are few things that really caught my eye, just to give you an idea. Obviously it is not a revolution and you might know some of these items, but they are cleverly used in this case:

  • the how Might We sticky notes to fulfill and enrich the problem map (day 1 — make a map and choose a target).
  • the work Alone Together and use Crazy 8s to sketch individually to be more efficient (day 2 — sketch competing solution).
  • the dot votes and supervote to make honest decisions and avoid endless discussions (day 3 — decide on the best).
  • the divide and conquer to split the tasks to the team and stitch it together on time (day 4- build realistic prototype).
  • the five magic numbers from Nielsen who “claims” that 85% of usability problems were observed after just five tests (day5 — test with target customers).

If the Decider(s) — CEO, founder, product manager, head of design — is/are not enough involved you can be sure that the sprint is in danger. It makes me think to the HIPPO syndrome (turn your HIPPO into a HERO).

When the Highest Paid Person (Opinion) — HIPPO — in the organization shows up at the end and just makes a comment like : “hum…I don’t really like this blue color…”

FINAL THOUGHTS

They have done a great job devising the sprint process and explaining with client stories what works well or not, and why. Of course they borrowed a lot of all things from methods and UX Design, picking widely into design tool boxes to finally achieve a real accurate and relevant process for building smart solutions to the problem.

It is all about solving the (big) problem, but the Design Sprint can be extended to the physical product, IoT, service design, store/space design and so on.

By the way, I guess that leading a design sprint into established organization will be a bit more difficult when you have to block five full days on the calendar with 5 to 7 persons within the company. But fortunately the schedule is arranged to have real breaks between short blocks of intensive but more productive work.

The book is really a pleasure to read with a massive dose of storytelling. It is built like a How-To, heavily structured around basics but important rules, easy to customize if needed. But be careful, don’t go too far in customization and stay on rails.

Some freelance Designers use also with success this design package trying to run “pure” Design Sprint and remain faithfull to the genuine Design Sprint. It helps a lot to be a external Faciliator to perform a great Sprint like Stéphane Cruchon in Switzerland, Fabrice Liut or Benjamin Richy in France…and many over all around the world.

Have a nice reading!

I am Benjamin Richy, I do my best to write good stories as a freelance UX Facilitator. If you want to give a try, feel free to contact me for a Design Sprint.


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Benjamin Richy

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Design stories around your digital products = bring users throught an intuitive + engaging experience ! #ux4ever #UXDesign

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