Design Sprints inside a 175 year-old company

Mar 24, 2017 · 4 min read

Learn how a global publishing powerhouse that’s nearly 2 centuries old is using design sprints to power their product innovation.

Springer Nature was founded in 1842. They’re a global scientific research group and publisher. Their aim has been to advance science by publishing robust and insightful findings to help surface and distribute the most innovative scientific breakthroughs.

Springer Medizin is division within Springer Nature that focuses primarily on producing medical journals within the German healthcare industry.

The Springer Medizin team had been investigating design thinking and design sprints as tools to help them discover better ways of engaging their community of 170,000 doctors.

Sprint questions pose the threats and challenges to this new business opportunity.

Cecile Mack is the director of Digital Products & Marketing within Springer Medizin. After doing some initial research, she and her team asked for our help organizing a design sprint to test a new business idea — they were curious about leveraging their existing content to boost doctor engagement on their platform.

To do so, John Vetan (Partner, Innovation @ New Haircut and Design Sprint Academy) facilitated Springer Medizin’s design sprint.

Cecile was gracious enough to sit down with us afterward and share her experience of using design sprints to solve business challenges within Springer Medizin.

Jay: What were some of the issues at Springer that led your team to start looking for better ways to work

Cecile: In our company we have a huge team working on the platform, every one of them with a different background and ideas about the product. In the very dynamic market environment we work in it is extremely helpful to widen the perspective when creating a new product or business issue.

To have a 5-day session of a design sprint with our colleagues from different backgrounds, with the help of a facilitator, offered the possibility to focus and dive deep into the development of new issues.

The Springer Medizin sprint team in action: sketching solutions.

Jay: What other things have you tried in the past to solve these issues?

Cecile: We had tried to organize some 1-day workshops by ourselves to work on the project.

Jay: How did they work out?

Cecile: We generated some predefined ideas based on our business model. But to have just one day together and then afterwards the team becomes scattered, concentration and momentum from that sessions was quickly lost thereafter.

Jay: Did you stick with them? If not, why?

Cecile: Unfortunately, no. Everyday life and business as usual prevented us from continuing with our ideas and the tasks we appointed during the 1-day workshop.

Jay: What drew your interest to design sprints?

Cecile: Our technology team came up with new methods they had read about from within Silicon Valley. They were very enthusiastic about this focused, 5-day method for brainstorming and testing new business ideas.

Jay: How do design sprints compare with the other things you’ve tried?

Cecile: The most important thing was to have this workshop for 5 continuous days with colleagues from different departments. The design sprint gave us a clear practical focus to create and implement a prototype and test it by the 5th day.

The Springer Medizin team tests their prototype with doctors.

Jay: Can you explain the project or challenge you used a design sprint on?

Cecile: We wanted doctors to better interact with our content. Furthermore, doctors, whether clinicians or running their own practice, always have the need to exchange information with fellow colleagues. This helps them address difficult questions and scenarios they would otherwise not know how to deal with.

Jay: How did your team select this particular project?

Cecile: This is a new business field for us with lots of potential to leverage our existing content. Therefore we needed the perspective of different experts. We wanted to run some early user testing before committing to moving forward.

Jay: What have been some unexpectedly pleasant surprises of the design sprint we ran together?

Cecile: With all the different perspectives and the coaching of New Haircut’s facilitator we were able to develop, prototype, and test quite a different, innovative idea.

Jay: What are the top 3 things you’d recommend to others considering design sprints?


1. Gather a team of experts with different perspectives on the project.

2. Be sure to follow the 5 consecutive, focused days and test your prototype at the end.

3. Consider the enormous advantage of working practically on a problem together.

The design sprint we collaborated on with Springer Medizin resulted in a validated prototype to enable doctors to interact with their published content by commenting, sharing with their networks, and posting questions.

John stops to capture the Springer team capturing live validation of their prototype.

Cecile concluded…

“The tested prototype gave us more confidence that the proposed business decision is a very valuable one. We are now defining the rest of the product.”

Originally published at on March 24, 2017.

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