Hi Jake. We included a UX researcher in one of our recent design sprints to assist the facilitator…
Chris Adkins
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Hey Chris! Good (and tough) questions. My best answers:

  1. No, it’s a good idea to include the researcher. I think there’s an opportunity here—though it may not be super easy—to figure out where the gap is between what the researchers believe is appropriate and what you want to get out of the design sprint, and try to close that gap. If you can, then it’s a win all around. (I know that’s a bit hand-wavey, but since I don’t know anything about your project or how y’all normally work, I hope it’ll make sense.)
  2. Okay, so the research team would prefer to conduct the test in a lab, but you don’t want the customers to think they’re looking at a close-to-final idea. Actually, when I’m running a sprint, I do want the customer to think the prototype is close-to-final. I want them to believe they’re looking at something real, so they’ll react in an honest way. If your researchers (who I’m sure are excellent) think they can get closer to that result in the lab, I would defer to their judgment. The main reason I don’t advocate for labs in the Sprint book is most startups (and bigger companies) don’t have ’em, and they’re not (in my opinion) necessary. But again, I’d defer to your team.
  3. It’s important to get five people who match your target customer profile, whatever that is. So it’s usually not a good idea to just go into Starbucks and grab random people (unless you are Starbucks). But you also don’t need to get the absolute perfect sample. In a sprint, the goal is to learn fast. Bias towards speed, but don’t ignore your research team’s concerns. If you have to run your test the following week instead of the same week in order to get way better participants, be flexible and do it. But I never want to wait long, and I wouldn’t test with more than 5 at first… otherwise you’ll lose the team’s attention and your momentum, for diminishing returns.
  4. Sounds like you need more time to prototype. So you should either a) narrow the scope of your prototype or b) give yourself more time. An easy way to do b) is to compress Map/Sketch/Decide into two days, then give yourself two days to prototype, and test on Friday as usual.

Hope that helps! And if not, say so, I’ll try again. :)